Use technology as a differentiator

Issue 7 2020 Editor's Choice

As the Coronavirus pandemic began to hit the headlines, countries around the world went into lockdown. Businesses scrambled to move entire workforces to homeworking, non-essential retailers closed and basic goods such as hand sanitiser, pasta and toilet rolls became hard to get items. During all of this, one sector became critical to millions of people around the world – logistics.

Being able to move goods locally, nationally or internationally has been the lifeblood of humanity for countless years. But never has the business of logistics − from delivering food to supermarkets, to making sure health services received medicine and essential personal protective equipment (PPE), to helping online retailers keep operating – been so important than the last few months.

Logistics firms operate complex delivery models for freight transportation and order fulfilment. They’re the ultimate edge computing use case – relying heavily on real-time data and connectivity to be able to track people, vehicles and freight.

Adapting in times of flux

Big data, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented and virtual reality are all happening at break-neck speed. How can logistics firms use technology to be a differentiator whilst at the same time maintain and protect their supply chains? They also need to contend with the constant demand that e-commerce places on them – faster delivery requests, ever-increasing SKUs (stock keeping units), less order lines and growing demands from brand manufacturers, retailers, marketplaces, business-to-consumer fulfilment, etc. End-to-end visibility of supply chains, aggregating data, and centralised platforms to manage the Internet of Things (IoT) are all issues they need to address.

In the short-term, logistics firms need to focus on two main objectives. Firstly, making working environments safe for their workforce as lockdown restrictions flex. Secondly, helping supply chains by maximising their real-time data usage and forecasting to help customers plan, estimate lead times and accurately work out stock levels.

The Coronavirus pandemic had a dramatic impact on international trade and supply routes – particularly globalisation versus localisation. No one really knows if it’s temporary or something more permanent. Adding to this, logistics firms need to consider how they’ll support customers and suppliers and keep their workforce safe in the event of future outbreaks. This could mean developing resilient, localised hubs capable of serving customers in a particular country or region.

Scalability of these hubs will be key and will require data and connectivity – so investment in network infrastructure, collaboration tools and security will be required. This will enable cost saving, an improved customer and employee experience and increased resilience.

Flexibility and choice, without disruption and risk

For best practice an integrated approach to migration means that multiple technologies, legacy systems, and varied infrastructure can be easily managed to create a single, seamless, secure global structure that optimises your operations.

With this, a chosen ICT partner should be able to help the company connect smoothly and securely to the collaboration applications, data and third-party cloud providers needed to support continued operations – and across the national/regional/multinational business footprint. Additionally, a logistics company should look to partner with a provider that has a wealth of knowledge and expertise from defending its own network and corporate assets – and thereby be better placed to help the company secure theirs.

Juni Yan.

It’s only as good as the people think it is

One of the major keys to success is actively helping the company’s people make the most of collaboration and digital services. By using an adoption management approach that focuses on a persona methodology, each member of the workforce gets the tools they need to be as productive as possible, and the support they need to use them effectively.

Another key component is keeping the user experience consistent across the entire platform, with a choice of vendors as part of the ecosystem. This means the company can tailor the experience for each user − and by using standard APIs, the company won’t have to waste time on integration.

Creating a compelling business case

Unified communications should help teams work smarter, not harder, and should cut costs, not increase them. So, logistics companies should look to partner with an ICT provider that is able to offer innovative commercial models, which means the company can manage its costs as users migrate to new platforms. For example, a single global price per user allows the company to predict costs that can also be flexed up and down as required – and the company only pays for what is used.

The real value comes from the end user experience

Being able to offer teams digital tools that promote ease-of-use, collaboration and opportunities for improved work efficiency will bode well in supporting flawless migration to a digital workplace – and rapid uptake by users. This also means the company can realise and demonstrate return on investment more quickly, allowing a clearer view of the value and a stronger business case for future transformation.

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