The digitization of businesses is bringing new opportunities and challenges, with both winners and losers across every industry and market segment.
A recent report published by McKinsey exposed how digital capabilities are evolving at a supercharged pace, and how digitalization “is a major factor shaping competition at all levels of the economy.” This was reinforced at Microsoft’s 2015 Global CIO Summit in October, where digitization and digital disruption was a hot topic.
With this in mind, we wanted to share some of the technologies that small and mid-sized logistics companies should be considering as part of their plan to keep up with the digital economy.
These five technologies have the potential of providing logistic businesses with a competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace where profit margins are continuously eroding. By implementing these technologies, you create a unique value proposition for your customers, and avoid competing solely on price.
In an industry like logistics, where the ability to conduct operations on the go has always been a challenge, mobile technologies are providing businesses with the opportunity to remain connected, increasing business efficiency.
A recent research study conducted by Zebra showed that 54% of the respondents attributed mobility with an increase in profitability. In a similar white paper published by Zebra, titled “2020 VISION: How mobile technologies are transforming field operations," 70% of the respondents expressed that they are planning to increase their IT budget for mobility.
Warehouses have been able to increase operational efficiency through the implementation of mobile solutions like rugged tablets & computers, wearable technologies, handheld and hands-free barcode scanners, mobile printers, and voice picking.
On the transportation side, smartphones, rugged tablets, handheld scanners, mobile printers, and GPS tracking have eliminated operation and tracking barriers. For the business professional on the road, collaboration platforms, mobile devices, faster and more reliable networks, and cloud computing have provided the perfect environment to collaborate in real-time from anywhere in the world.
Leading the digitalization of business are platforms that facilitate collaboration between internal and/or external resources, partners, and even customers. In the same Zebra’s white paper, responders expressed that “collaboration and knowledge” sharing is among the 3 growing pressures.
The solutions available from collaboration platforms range from web-conferencing, document sharing and collaboration, instant messaging, private social networks, project management, online meetings, company intranets, and more.
To make things even more interesting, many of these platforms have been adapted to the mobile landscape thus providing everyone in the organization with the ability to collaborate from anywhere, anytime. Imagine the possibilities when geographical boundaries are no longer a concern, and you and your employees can effectively and efficiently collaborate with customers anytime, anywhere. Think outside the box and imagine what this could mean for your company.
Cloud solutions including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS) have forever changed the technological landscape. They have significantly lowered technology acquisition costs by giving your business access to enterprise solutions that once were price prohibitive.
A recent press release from IDC shows that cloud IT infrastructure spending is expected to grow at “a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.1% and will reach $53.1 billion by 2019 accounting for 46% of the total spending on enterprise IT infrastructure”.
These numbers give us a very clear idea of cloud adoption rates and how business are continuing to leverage the cloud and it benefits. Some of the cloud solutions that will benefit small and mid-sized logistic organizations include Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps. These SaaS solutions provide enterprise email, collaboration and office tools at a low cost point.
Another aspect where logistic companies will be able to leverage cloud is computing power (servers or computers) and/or storage (IaaS). These solutions allow businesses to use cloud servers without having to make large investments in physical servers or software licensing.
Also, infrastructure solutions like Microsoft Azure, AWS, and Rackspace allow businesses to save thousands of dollars on the implementation of disaster recovery and business continuity solutions to guarantee business operations.
Big Data and Predictive Analytics
Big data and predictive analytics are opening new windows of opportunities to logistic organizations and the supply chain in general. It offer companies the ability to predict and forecast with certain level of certainty cargo volumes, labor utilization, customer behavior, warehouse capacity utilization, and more. Additionally, big data also plays an important role in inventory management, risk management, route optimization, network resource planning, and business demand planning.
A recent forecast by International Data Corporation (IDC) suggested that big data technologies will grow at a 26.4 compound annual growth rate through 2016, and six times the growth rate of overall the information technology market. This is supported by a Zebra survey which found that 31% of respondents believed that big data and analytics are the best ROI technologies.
As the IoT (Internet of Things) becomes mainstream, the amount of data collected is going to increase exponentially. This will create even larger opportunities for those companies that have implemented some level of predictive analytics and/or big data strategies and solutions.
In an industry focused on moving goods through multiple parties with the highest efficiency level possible and the lowest number of errors, system integration is more than a good practice, it is a sound strategy to increase operational efficiency.
The ability to integrate with other internal systems will limit data double entries and help to ensure a reduction in errors while simultaneously increasing the company’s ability to capture information across the organization and use it to support data driven decision making.
The benefits of integrating systems have proven to be an effective competitive advantage and differentiator when negotiating contracts with large and strategic partners. Once contracts/strategic partnerships have been established and systems properly integrated, the increased efficiency and transparency yielded by the integration will serve as a catalyst to strengthen the business relationship.
With time, the levels of trust and loyalty will increase and the relationship will continue to grow. By integrating your systems, you increase efficiency, are able to have a more comprehensive view of business operations and reduce errors. But it is much more than this – it is also a business development strategy which will build long lasting and healthy business relations with third parties.
The digital economy is changing the way we do business, creating both opportunities and challenges for logistics and transportation businesses. There is no doubt that the digitalization of business will have its winners and losers.
Companies that embrace these changes will flourish in this new digital and globalized economy, while those that resist will struggle. The success of your company lies in your ability to rethink your operation model and strategically invest, reaping the benefits of emerging technologies. Are you ready?
To learn more about the technologies that will transform warehouse operations, click "Get the Guide" below.
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