Will digitisation revolutionise supply chain management and the haulage industry?

Will digitisation revolutionise supply chain management and the haulage industry?

From Google Maps navigation to Netflix film streaming, we’ve seen tremendous leaps forward in technology over the past decade. But now, it’s time to apply similar technologies to your working environment, as many businesses are predicted to overhaul their infrastructure systems to match the modern age.

One company has been a pioneer on that front — Amazon. Its distribution centres have long been the (secretive) pinnacle of algorithms, automation and ‘Industry 4.0’.

The opportunity is ripe for other businesses to evolve with the times, or get left behind.

What is Industry 4.0?

Put simply, it’s the joining together of multiple departments and systems into one fully integrated system that offers complete transparency for all involved. Suppliers, drivers, managers and customers can use one system to track the progress of production, deliveries and fulfilment. It utilises cloud technologies, real-time data and the Internet of Things to make sure industries are moving with the times and expectations of their customers.

How does this affect the supply chain?

The traditional supply chain is set to evolve. Previously, a part supplier would receive an order and create a plan. Production then received the items and worked to what arrived. Once production had neared completion, distribution was planned. Clearly, the ideal solution would be to have one central system that creates one plan that incorporates all departments and processes.

The resulting transparency throughout the process means other stages can be quicker to respond should something change earlier in the production planning. Information and statistics are available instantly and execution can be much quicker and smoother.

What advantages does that have for a business?

The aim is to provide the quickest service, and thus beat the competition. Digitisation also provides the ability to be more agile and reactive, changing quickly to meet market demands or unforeseen circumstances. Such responsiveness benefits both the business and consumer.

In theory, key decision makers have access to more data and more information, in real time. A sudden uplift in customer demand can be spotted, a flat tyre can be reported and a plant shut-down can be monitored, all using one system. It allows for better crisis management and enhanced process efficiencies.

Industry 4.0 TTS

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How does this work around hauliers?

Real-time information is key here. In a fully digitised system, the progress of any deliveries from a supplier or to a customer can be seen by all involved parties. This keeps everyone in the loop, and should anything occur during transportation such as an adverse weather event, preventative or reactive measures can be taken.

Keeping the flow of parts for products is essential to the long-term success of a business, especially if they use just-in-time manufacturing methods. One example of such connected services is the ability to optimise your fleet using integrated telematics, which is used in Total’s AS 24 with Passango Pilot.

Secondly, improved picking and packing systems (such as those being trialled by DHL) can lead to reduced waiting times at depots. Even though orders should be ready when your commercial vehicle arrives for collection, this can sometimes not be the case, resulting in time wasted and expense for the haulage business. A fully digitised picking system aims to reduce errors and waiting times.

A recent example could be OnTruck, a Total partner. They provide same-day shipments for short distance pallet deliveries, which can be requested via an app featuring real-time tracking. This enables quick route changes, in-app invoicing and photo confirmation that the order has arrived. Convenience for the customer is key.

Lastly, we could mention the use of fully autonomous commercial vehicles, but perhaps that’s a blog for another time …

When will this take place?

Be in no doubt, the digitisation of the supply chain and industry 4.0 will be a gradual roll-out over a great number of years. Some companies are already working on it, but a recent survey surmised that 95% of responding businesses were not fully capitalising on the potential benefits of real-time analytics and big data. In addition, many newer software and systems are still being developed and are not market-ready yet.

Clearly then, the change won’t happen overnight, but, we see the ever-increasing use of technology in the supply chain as an opportunity for the haulage industry. If your business can benefit from reduced mistakes, quicker loading times and better forward planning, you will likely find yourself with a competitive advantage.

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