If technology investments aren’t yielding the results you expected, chances are you’re not enabling your teams
Picture the office of 1993, a mere 30 years ago. A logistics manager just sat down to their day at a desk with a landline phone, a carrier rolodex, a map and a list of loads to tender and track for the day.
To fast forward to today, we have to cross one of the most revolutionary periods in business history: computerization. With the advent of digitization, connectivity and artificial intelligence, things are a lot different and easier — right?
This revolution has caused an unintended consequence: tech sprawl, the rapid investment in technology that creates more of a burden to manage than it takes away. It happens due to the following:
So that begs the question: are your teams enabled or hindered by technology? How can you tell the difference?
Despite the sprawl, overwhelming evidence says that the digital revolution has created exponential returns for those who have embraced it. In fact, a pre-COVID research report conducted by McKinsey suggests companies that aggressively pursue supply chain digitization stand to gain 3.2% in before-tax earnings. It’s gone from a luxury to the universal standard of doing business. And for a good reason — computers are way better at bulk analytics than we are.
But it can also create an overstimulating series of signals your teams have to detect, qualify and act on in a given day. Whether it’s transit-related, finance-driven or merchandise-focused, there’s usually a fire drill that sucks the attention and mental capacity away from teams responsible for managing your supply chain. Too often, despite investing millions of dollars in technology platforms, your tech sprawl means that teams still struggle to prioritize tasks and communicate. Worse, too many signals are competing for their attention.
So how do you reconcile the signal overload and the valuable nuggets of information within them? How do you coordinate and optimize teams without creating a bottleneck? How do you change the way they do business?
The answer is prioritizing tools and investments that actually help you achieve business objectives and create context from within your operating platform, with personalized experiences for each user persona.
Maybe you’re guilty of overwhelming your teams with information. You’re frustrated that the ROI metrics thrown up on the pitch deck seem fantastical. And you want to know what to do about it.
It boils down to the types of companies you do business with — are you working with a company that is built by people who have first-hand experience with the challenges facing your teams and understand what is needed to make meaningful progress towards your objectives?
Here are a couple examples:
It might seem logical that if a shipment is running late, teams will be proactive and let customer-facing teams know. But as previously mentioned, the constant deluge of signals, alerts and fire drills your teams are handling means that closing the gap can be missed easily.
On top of this, giving access to your tracking platform may not be a fruitful venture for customer-focused teams. While most of your commerce is conducted at an order level, executing your logistics network at the load or shipment level is more efficient — a completely different language for most customer-facing teams.
The problem is that orders can have hundreds of line items and be split across multiple loads, creating a lot of work to manage exceptions for a specific part of an order. On the other hand, loads often come with multiple full or partial orders on them. It’s a sticky, complex tracking environment that does little to give teams answers.
However, new systems are starting to emerge in the market that can take internal order information and marry it with real-time transportation insights. It helps teams quickly see order status across multiple units of capacity, detect potential inventory and customer fulfillment issues due to an order exception and, most importantly, prioritize exceptions based on your business impact, not based on whichever signal is loudest.
The beauty of these systems is that they use bulk analytics and have access to contextual information to not only assign risk scores to shipments in your network but to help teams detect potential issues days before they could even occur. That means teams aren’t just aligned to the highest impact exceptions; they’re reducing the number of exceptions they even need to worry about.
To keep site calendars current for loading and unloading, most companies are using some sort of system that relies on each component to do its job.
It requires some combination of:
This brings a myriad of issues, including missed handoffs, inaccurate information and late notifications. By the time the news makes it through two or three layers of communication, hours could have elapsed and the opportunity to act on anything is missed.
By using a system that both tracks capacity operating in your network and how your facilities handle that capacity, you can eliminate all handoffs of communication by putting the insight directly into the facility manager’s hands.
This means you can reschedule loads quicker, shift deliveries forward if possible and, most importantly, avoid the productivity-draining possibility of a group of associates waiting for a truck that is still hours away.
The industry is starting to move past the “throw every shred of data you can at a problem” phase and enter a new era of insight enablement. If you’re not helping your teams act on information, you’re doing them a disservice. By rapidly investing in technology without a single source of truth — a platform that enables execution — you’ve effectively overwhelmed those you depend on to drive real change and strategy forward.
Technology providers that focus on the user experience, like FourKites, understand that data floating on a screen isn’t enough, it needs to come with explicit information on the impact and potential solutions to generate real value.