17 May 2021Comments are off for this post.

Voice-Directed Warehousing: what are the benefits and how does it work?

The race for increasing turnover, customer satisfaction, and efficiency has never been as heated as it is now, with companies vying for any piece of technology that will give them that extra “push” to achieve even higher targets. One of the innovations that has contributed to improving results in all of these aforementioned factors is Voice-Directed Warehousing.

What is Voice-Directed Warehousing? 

Voice-directed warehousing is a technology that employs voice direction in conjunction with voice recognition software to relay commands to workers tasked with a wide range of activities performed in a warehouse or distribution center, including picking, receiving, replenishment and shipping. The technology dates back to the 1990s, but since then it has flourished and innovated in numerous ways, making it the industry standard with the data to prove its effectiveness. 

How does it work?

To put it simply, voice-directed warehousing equips each employee with a small computer, more or less the size of a walkman and a headset with a microphone. Through the headset, commands are relayed to the employee by an operator that gives him/her all of the relevant information regarding the task at hand. 

The operator receives information regarding the orders from the warehouse management system (WMS), or alternatively enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. For example, an employee tasked with picking will be directed to the location of the required product and told how much of the product is required. 

Once the worker arrives at the designated location he/she takes advantage of the attached microphone to “speak” to the software and confirms the location by reciting a checkstring. Depending on the software being used, the employee will then validate the product by informing the voice recognition software of the product's code and of the quantity picked. 

If the employee makes an error while relaying information the software will correct the picker and demand the correct information. Once the task is complete the software will send the employee to the next assignment. 

More advanced software will even further optimize the employees' performance by suggesting more efficient routes around the warehouse. Besides maximizing the performance of the individual worker, the information collected by the software is accessible to managers, who can track results, making the system even more efficient. This information can be used to manage workflow and to mitigate the fallout from problems in real-time, should they arise.

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What are the benefits of Voice-Directed Warehousing?

As a civilization, we are living in unprecedented times, with the drive towards automatization and voice-directed technologies becoming more and more apparent in every single aspect of our lives. All of us have come into contact with some form of voice-directed technology, whether it be talking to our smartphones or using some form of virtual assistant AI technology that has made managing our lives simpler, more effective, and as a result more satisfactory. 

As mentioned before, voice-directed warehousing dates back to the 1990s and since then the technology has advanced in leaps and bounds becoming the most effective method of optimizing workflow in the warehouse environment. Competing technologies such as “pick to light” systems are generally more costly and require the installation of extensive components in the warehouse and also limit operator mobility, as the operator relaying orders must be at all times managing staff through the “pick to light” system. So what does voice-directed warehousing give us?

  • Increased picking accuracy - research has shown that transferring from a paper-based system to a voice-directed system has resulted in an 80 to 90% reduction in errors committed by workers. This is ensured by employees confirming their picks with the software before committing to an order.
  • Increased employee productivity - the use of voice recognition software in warehouses and distribution centers has resulted in employees being burdened with a smaller amount of responsibilities. Before the advent of voice direction, employees had to fill out an inordinate amount of paperwork, carry handheld devices to read information from barcodes, and regularly fetch pick lists. All of these tasks were time-consuming and took away from the most important one which was moving the correct product as efficiently as possible to the next step of the distribution cycle. Voice direction does away with these obstacles and optimizes the workflow.
  • Improved safety - one of the greatest threats to employee safety is a lack of concentration due to the need to “juggle” various tasks at the same time. Voice direction cuts back on the need for dangerous multi-tasking. Try to imagine which one would be safer; a workplace where the employee has to operate a box cutter while simultaneously filling out forms, his thoughts clouded by the need to micromanage numerous steps of the process or an environment where the employees' eyes, arms and mind are concentrated only on one task? The answer of course is the second scenario and experience has shown that adopting voice direction systems allowed warehouses to dramatically minimize the probability of workplace accidents.
  • Reduced training time - adopting voice direction systems has the added benefit of reducing training time for new employees. Instead of grappling with obtuse paperwork and data entry, employees can instead follow instructions delivered in a simple language that is easy to grasp for most anyone. Transport and logistics businesses that have introduced voice directed warehousing have noted that training now only lasts one day, with workers becoming proficient with the system within two weeks. Traditional warehouse management techniques require many days of training and an even longer period before employees can be considered competent.
  • Increased employee satisfaction - a worker that delivers better results, experiences less stress, performs less redundant tasks, and has a safer workplace is by definition a happier employee. Many companies have noted increased worker satisfaction upon the introduction of voice-directed systems. Simplifying situations that in the past were at the root of many workplace problems has also resulted in reduced employee turnover which is beneficial towards growing a work environment that functions more cohesively.
  • Happier customers - the final destination of every supply chain is of course the customer, for whom countless companies are competing. To ensure that the hard-earned dollar of the “average Joe” makes its way to you, ensuring customer satisfaction is of the highest importance. A well-organized supply chain and warehouse are paramount in achieving this goal. Limiting mistakes, workplace accidents, errors in delivery, and streamlining processes ensure that your customer will receive their purchase at a rate that will surely make them want to continue pursuing business with your company.
  • Increased Saving - when taking into consideration all of the above-listed arguments that show the benefits of voice-directed warehousing it becomes obvious that the bottom line of all these advantages are savings. By cutting back on time and money wasted on administration costs and ineffective labor it has been found that an initial ROI is attained after 3 months of employing the system, with productivity increasing anywhere from 10% - 80%.

How others do it

Countless companies have adopted voice-directed warehousing and have praised the benefits that go along with the technology. Let’s take a look at two examples that showcase the power of this technology.

Parmalat - this Australian company is one of the largest dairy producers in the country. After introducing warehouse management systems (WMS) in conjunction with the Honeywell Vocollect technology, the company's largest warehouse in Lidcombe achieved a 15% increase in productivity.

Dorfman Pacific - this company specializes in selling headwear to clothing retailers. In the past, the company employed traditional paperwork in fulfilling orders. This resulted in slower order fulfillment and lost paperwork. After introducing voice direction, accuracy and speed increased considerably, allowing orders to be fulfilled within 24 hours and increased accuracy has resulted in fewer mistakes, improving in turn customer satisfaction.

It's not "nice to have" anymore

Voice-directing has become the industry standard for managing warehouses and distribution centers; and since its introduction has grown along with the advent of new technologies. The future is looking bright for this field as new technological advancements, such as smart glasses, the internet of things, machine learning, robotics and continuously improving voice recognition software, are going to make voice direction an even more potent tool for streamlining workflow. 

This, in turn, will result in increased profits. As we witness the creation of a new, turbulent economic paradigm, the adoption of the newest technologies dictates competitiveness, flexibility, and adaptability; features that no business hoping to ride out these choppy waters can do without. The multi-modal approach offered by voice direction and the other technologies that cooperate alongside it have the potential to elevate your business's performance and ensure that your business is one of the “ships” that makes it through the stormy night.

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22 March 2021Comments are off for this post.

The importance of fleet telematics systems

A supply chain is only as efficient and responsive as the data that powers it. Luckily, the number of data sources for supply chain management is constantly increasing. And one technology that truly provides an enormous amount of information to transport and logistics companies is telematics. It is then not surprising that supply chain companies are heavily investing in telematics technologies. But what exactly is telematics?

What is telematics?

First coined by French scientists in 1978, telematics is a combination of two words, “telecommunications” and “informatics”. In a broad sense, it is the technology of sending, receiving and storing information using telecommunication devices to control remote objects. However, in this article we will focus on a narrower meaning of telematics, the most commonly associated with the term today - we are going to talk about telematics solutions utilized in commercial fleet vehicles.

The core of the telematics system includes a vehicle tracking device installed in the vehicle, which allows transmitting, receiving and storage of telemetry data. It is connected through the vehicle's own on-board diagnostics (ODBII) or a CAN-BUS port with a SIM card, while the on-board modem can communicate through a wireless network.

Crucial elements of telematics systems

While different telematics systems provide different kinds of features, powered by different technologies, some of them are used in most solutions. Let’s take a look at them:

Engine Control Unit (ECU) - is an electronic control unit that controls a series of actuators on an internal combustion engine to ensure optimal engine performance. It does this by reading values from a multitude of sensors within the engine bay. Some types of data that we can get from ECU includes speed of the vehicle, how the brakes were used, engine’s temperature and oil pressure, as well as distance travelled and diagnostic trouble codes.

GPS tracking - a satellite-based radionavigation is a major component of a telematics system, providing crucial data such as the location of a vehicle at any given time, as well as its speed and location in reference to geo-fence.

Video cameras - a relatively young addition to telematics systems, video cameras allow us to track drivers actions before, during and after an incident. It can also be helpful in providing information about road conditions, behavior of other vehicles, as well as the status of cargo.

Electronic logging devices - long gone are the days when drivers had to fill in multiple forms to log the time of their work. Today, electronic logging devices take care of it, providing all the required features in an efficient and secure way.

Other sensors - while we already mentioned Engine Control Unit, it’s not the only part of the vehicle that is monitored. The possibilities are limitless - from sensors measuring the state of the in-truck refrigerator to sensors in tires and other wheel-end components. Functioning of every single part of the vehicle can be tracked, with the data acquired helping to improve the processes.

As we already know what telematics is and what are the crucial elements that compose it, it’s time to get to know the reasons why telematics systems are such important factors for transport and logistics companies to succeed. 

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The value of vehicle telematics

While it is important to mention that the benefits of using telematics systems vary between different branches of the transport and logistics industry, some of them are universal and apply to almost all companies. 

Here’s a look at 15 major ways of how telematics systems can benefit supply chain companies:

Increased Resource Utilization - real-time overview of the entire fleet gives the unique opportunity to use the company's assets in the most efficient way possible. By knowing the status of every vehicle, its delay time, estimated time of arrival, as well as road conditions, the company can proactively adjust its actions to reduce waste of resources. 

Higher Service Levels - one of the major benefits gained through telematics systems is the transparency of the entire supply chain. Customers can finally track their orders and multiple sensors inside of the vehicles allow them to even monitor and control the conditions that their goods are being transported in. 

Reduced operating costs - telematics systems help to save money in several different ways. Think about how much money can be saved on fuel by reducing even a few minutes of idling time across the entire fleet. Better resource utilization means that drivers are not wasting their time, reducing operating costs as well.

Monitoring of habits - telematics tracks the behavior of drivers, whether they follow the regulations and company’s promoted practices. The data gathered on drivers’ behavior is an extremely valuable input for further training. It can highlight issues that might’ve been unnoticed otherwise. 

Better Operator Performance - data produced by telematics systems is used to create visual reports and dashboards for operators and dispatchers. This way, with more information on hand, they can be much more helpful to drivers, guiding them on the easiest and fastest routes, the status of the order, situation at the borders etc.

Sustainability - as sustainability has become one of the major goals for transport and logistics companies, telematics systems are the tools that can truly help them go greener. Transport generates 14% of the world’s greenhouse gases, but minor changes using telematics can make a big difference. It can be achieved through lower fuel wastage and distances driven.

Increased safety - constant monitoring of truck components can signal defects and technical issues way before they can become a threat to driver’s safety. Monitoring of drivers undesirable behavior - whether it’s speeding, not wearing seat belts or driving too close to other vehicles - can also be done by telematics systems. Even the sole awareness of being monitored leads to a better behavior on the road.

Bigger picture - while telematics systems prove to be extremely helpful to individual drivers and operators, they also produce incredibly important data for company’s decision-makers, which allows them to allocate resources better and create more realistic strategies.

Increased job satisfaction - electronic logs make drivers’ work much easier, which leads to their increased job satisfaction. It is an especially important factor on markets with labour shortages, where employee retention is crucial.

Integration of different modes of transport - when a telematics system is applied to different types of transport, it can be a great tool to increase intermodality. The data provided by different transport units can be used to align them, making the transfer of orders between different transport modes smooth and efficient.

Proactive maintenance of vehicles - while the regular maintenance is based on recommended checking periods, telematics systems provide information on the real condition of different parts of the vehicle, which can be used to proactively fix issues. 

Enhanced security - telematics systems help to store both company and personal data in a safe way. Mobile technology has rendered paper records obsolete, making acquired data safer. 

Promotion of good practices through gamification - some telematics systems allow drivers to get points or rewards when they apply their company’s guidelines in their way of driving. This element of gamification helps to promote good practices among drivers, which leads to increased safety. 

As we went through major benefits of telematics systems, it’s time for a few real world examples of telematics systems that are proving to be some the best on the market.

Great examples of telematics systems

Webfleet

Webfleet Solutions, known as TomTom Telematics until October 1st 2019, is one of the world’s leading telematics solution providers, dedicated to fleet management, vehicle telematics and connected car services. Its main Software-as-a-Service solution WEBFLEET is used by businesses of all sizes to improve vehicle performance, save fuel, support drivers and increase overall fleet efficiency.

Webfleet enables its customers to share shipment information across different means of transport via open APIs. In this way, their complete delivery process can be seamlessly traced - in compliance with legal and data protection regulations. 

Fleetboard

Daimler FleetBoard GmbH is one of the leading European-wide suppliers of telematics supported Internet services for trucks, vans and buses. The modular FleetBoard services support logistics companies in the optimal handling of inter-city, distribution and construction site transport and in reducing fleet operating costs.

Dynafleet

Dynafleet is Volvo Trucks’ online fleet management system for improved profitability. Dynafleet helps haulage companies to take full control over their transport operations and vehicle fleet. Through the Dynafleet web application, you can check the current location of your trucks, monitor how much fuel they are consuming, check their driven routes, driver times and much more.

Scania Fleet Management

Scania Fleet Management helps you identify and use the key details needed to increase the productivity of your fleet. The system is already installed in all new Scania trucks. Scania Fleet Management consists of three different service packages: Monitoring, Control and Data Access.

Conclusions

As no one can already imagine the transport and logistics industry without telematics, we can only expect its importance to grow even more. Big amounts of data gathered and analyzed by telematics systems help transport companies to utilize their resources more efficiently, save money, reduce CO2 emissions, increase safety and make drivers work easier.

The advancements in technology allow us to begin measuring more and more things, increasing the amount of data we gather. Soon, only those transport and logistics companies that are able to effectively analyze and use this data will have a future on this incredibly competitive market. 


15 March 2021Comments are off for this post.

AI and Big Data in Logistics and Warehousing

Businesses are growing along with the advancement in technologies, especially AI and Big data; Logistics and Warehouses are one of the aspects of the more significant section of the businesses that are increasingly using these technologies to improve management and development. 

Automating the process has always been one of the highest priorities of businesses but gone are those days of old machines that did not involve such hi-tech support from the software point of view. 

In this post, we will be discussing two of the most exciting and hooked concepts, 

  1. AI and Big Data Playing a Major Role in Logistics
  2. Smart Warehouse - AI in Management 

Artificial Intelligence is often misrepresented or thought of when it comes to emerging technologies; When the term AI pops, people think it is the Tesla or the robotics, but AI is much more than the hardware. The ultimate goal of AI is to improve the outdated technology, cut-off the additional efforts, automate the processes, and make machines capable of doing the job. The best part is people accept such technology in business and test new ways to improve the management and development of the business models, production methods, and whatnot. 

However, does AI have a good hand in logistics? It is a brain-teasing question; it has a significant role to play and let me break down the uses and put the correct information. 

AI and Big Data Playing a Major Role in Logistics

What is logistics? Logistics is the flow of management from the origin till the consumer receives the goods. Managing such a flow is a tedious task, and outdated systems need an upgrade to improve this. 

Big Data in Management

In logistics, businesses have to keep even the smallest data from the head to the toes, and this is done for every product businesses manufacture. 

The R&D department uses this data to analyze how they can improve and bring more profits to the company and the consumer, but handling such huge data is complex, and many businesses still use the manual mode to analyze such huge data, also called the big data. 

A well-designed software allows such data to be handled and analyzed quickly without any upfront cost. Logistics is a careful task, and you do not want to mess the process, or there you are making losses in millions. 

Artificial Intelligence for Product Analysis

When you are a huge business that manufactures several products, how do you analyze which product is well-accepted and consumed by the users that are willing to pay? The traditional method involves the R&D team analyzing the market position and the number of sales that, in the end, leave an approximate estimation.

However, what if there was a software that did the complete analysis with numbers and graphs without having to spend any more money on the product analysis. The machine learning algorithms such as KNN can help the businesses to pick the correct numbers from a chart and number analysis and work on products that are not bringing profits to the company. This algorithmic approach helps the businesses remove the products that no longer interest the user but the units are still manufacturing. We create solutions that can help you analyze the products and predict if they still hold the value that customers are looking for in the current market. They can also collect information from multiple channels and predict the product value before you start the next manufacturing process. 

Managing Inventory using AI and Big Data

The head task in a manufacturing business is controlling the Inventory. If the products are produced more than what is required, it will ultimately be a loss if that product is no longer working, and on the other hand, if the number of products is less, the company would not be able to fulfill the user needs. 

Managing Inventory using the traditional method is outdated and time-consuming. The best way to reduce the time and improve efficiency is by using a dedicated inventory management software that analyses the product manufacturing quantity by using the previous data. Suppose you have the data for the past five years in numbers; AI can use these numbers and predict the manufacturing quantity for the current period. 

Besides, handling such data in a computer database is not an easy job, and the physical servers are a no good option as they consume a lot of resources and need heavy maintenance. Using the techniques of Big data and utilizing cloud storage can help you minimize the efforts you add in handling the inventory data. 

AI helping substitute the workforce in Logistics

Robotics are a great option to replace the maximum efforts humans put in handling the manufacturing processes. They can improve the efficiency and the speed in sorting the products, moving them from one environment to another, track the Inventory and other manufacturing. 

Besides, it minimizes the risk of life that workers face while the robots can do the same job much faster and safer. 

Most of the companies in the world, from the manufacturing of mobile phones to the assembling of cars, use AI in their units, and they are working great on the speed and efficiency metrics. 

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Big Data managing various types of data

Companies track every data that the manufacturing units produce in the whole process. This data is not the same at each development stage and analyzing such different data is a task.

The data collected is both structured and unstructured; consider it as a data lake. To separate this data and then take out a piece of meaningful information requires advanced technologies such as Big data. The first step in this process is to collect all the data and then separate them according to their type. Doing this process traditionally is time-consuming and is prone to errors on a larger scale. 

However, Big data has proved to help with the process by using Apache Hadoop's software medium. Such software is scaling for improvement, and Big data management is now becoming more effective and efficient in logistics and warehousing. 

AI and Big Data in improving Customer Experience

When a customer orders through an online service, they expect a few things such as 

  • On-time delivery 
  • Quality
  • Ease in returning the products or canceling them

AI and Big Data can help in this process by extracting the particular user data from the data lake and then using it to perform the following operations. Now, we already know the data is unstructured, and in this scenario, only AI can boost the process of locating the user information and then track the order to address the customer needs. 

Big data also helps in segregating the order type based on different metrics such as location, product ID, stock, and more. AI and Big Data can boost this process to bring more valuable customer experiences by taking customer feedback and then analyzing the performance more visually using the charts and the numbers. The best part about the Big data is, it eases the data handling and operating process. Our customized AI software helps in managing and providing a great customer experience that users are looking for. 

AI in logistics reduce the error

Humans are prone to errors, we make mistakes quite often, but sometimes, it may directly or indirectly affect the manufacturing industry or lead to a risk. Artificial intelligence takes the correct measurements and performs the right job as it is programmed to do so. Besides, Machine learning algorithms that are a part of AI help predict the performance of the tools, units, and the manual force used in the whole manufacturing process. We can create AI software that can help you manage the logistics process and predict the improvements for minimal errors. 

Best Examples

Let’s take a look at few examples of companies successfully using AI in warehousing and logistics:

Amazon, the world's most valuable brand, uses AI technology and robots in its warehouses to increase efficiency, create platforms for the warehouse and online store and anticipate and prevent issues in the customer journey.

Lineage Logistics, a company focusing on keeping food cold for stores and restaurants, uses AI to analyze the path of its orders. The AI algorithms can anticipate when orders will arrive and leave a warehouse, so that employees can put the pallets in the right position. Items that will stay at the warehouse longer are put further in the back, and items that move more quickly and won’t stay in the warehouse as long as placed towards the front. Since implementing smart placement through AI, Lineage has increased its efficiency by 20%.

Online retailer Zappos, which specializes in clothes and shoes, uses KIVA Systems in its center in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, to create a fully automated warehouse that helps them maintain free shipping, a 365-day return policy, and a full-time call center.

British online supermarket Ocado uses highly automated warehouses with robots that unpack inventory, plan and stack shelves, and move goods around the warehouses.

Smart Warehouses 

When we speak about smart, how can we miss the automation processes and interconnected technologies? Smart warehouses are the Zenith of automation that improves warehouse and inventory management. The interconnected technologies work together to reduce the error, increase productivity and efficiency, and minimize the human effort. 

Nevertheless, how does AI and Big Data fuel Smart Warehouses?

Smart Warehouses create an automated environment where goods are received, identified, sorted, organized, and pulled for shipment automatically with minimal human efforts. The result? Cost is saved, the risk of human life is reduced, productivity and efficiency at a peak, and the whole process is automatic. 

Smart Warehouses have three significant characteristics:

  • Agility
  • Scalability
  • Data Visibility

Agility

If you are a manufacturing company, you must be knowing how complex it is to manage an inventory and the interconnected systems. Smart warehouses help in creating a more efficient environment. Besides, there are a few solutions that help connect and automate different systems and improve the efficiency of the work. Your Smarthouse system should be able to understand the human needs and minimize them as the automation improves. 

Scalability

Humans can do limited operations on a per-day basis that restricts the speed of the whole process. AI components such as Robotics and Automation machines can improve the speed and work more efficiently, fastening the whole process and upbringing the business. 

Data Visibility

Warehouse data are not structured; when you analyze the data, you can find anomalies and confusion. This is because the data is not correctly collected and stored; the whole process is unprogrammed that can mess the whole process. However, using Big data, you can extract the need of the hour data without having to run through several files manually and then plotting a graph. Hadoop systems are extensively being used in manufacturing industries to facilitate the big data process and make the data visible when required. 

Smart Warehouse Elements 

Smart warehouses have many interconnected technologies that work along to complete the task. Let me break down a few for you. 

AI Robots

Robots are efficient in most of the warehouse working. They can help to relocate the products to other positions, and they can sort the products based on weight, category, and locations. Besides, the best usage is fastpacking of products that saves time and is an efficient method to improve productivity. 

Security and IoT

Warehouses have a lot of expensive items that can be stolen or tampered with. Traditional guards can be bribed to breach the security, but the modern-day RFID security systems that are made of IoT can solve this problem. You can use RFID cards to only allow an authorized person to enter the warehouse or use RFID to allow only authorized personnel to use certain machines and features of the Smart Warehouse. 

The IoT systems can also be used to improve smaller neglected conditions of work. They can be used to measure the machines' temperature or the working environment or used to show relevant information about the products received from the WMS. 

Warehouse Management System

When you have a smart warehouse, you also need to have efficient software that works along. The Warehouse Management System (WMS) allows you to keep track of how efficient your warehouse's day-to-day operations are and if you can improve on anything specific.

Our digital solutions help create such customizable software for smart warehouses and use the AI algorithms to improve the workflow of these processes. The AI algorithms will help you predict the areas where you can improve the automation or human processes. Additionally, the AI programs are self-learnable, and you can rely on them to analyze the stocks, returned items, and check for productivity on its own. 

Final Words

AI and Big data have a huge space in the Logistics and Smart Warehouses that improve productivity and efficiency in managing the whole process. The right time to invest in such technologies is right now, and we can create the customized software for you based on your needs. AI can help you predict the improvement sections and also do the right product analysis while the Big data tackles the data lake issue and gives you a more uniform and structured data that is meaningful. 


11 February 2021Comments are off for this post.

How to develop a sustainable supply chain?

We are all familiar with the stereotype of large corporations ruthlessly seeking to increase their profits. Although this problem has not ceased to exist, there is no longer any room for short-termism in modern business. The largest players on the market are consistently building their powerhouses to the rhythm of sustainability, i.e. in such a way as to minimise their negative impact on the natural, social and economic environment in the long term.

Sustainability is a must

Not so long ago, sustainability in various sectors of business and industry was a novelty, a trend that was worth following for our company to be perceived as modern, responsible and conscious. Today, development in line with these standards is no longer a choice but a necessity. 

The widespread knowledge about the impact of large corporations on the degradation of the environment makes the largest corporations in the world very carefully select their partners and suppliers, and the criterion for selection is precisely the observance of appropriate procedures. 

Particular elements of the supply chain are not perceived individually, but each supplier becomes, in a way, the responsibility of the buyer, and on subsequent rungs of the business ladder, everyone follows the same schema, cooperating with companies that respect sustainable supply chain development standards. 

As a result, a network of conscious practices is created, and if we want to develop among the most important players on the market, there is nothing left to do but to implement modern solutions in our structures. But how to do it?

Sustainable Supply Chain

Luckily, catching up with standards of sustainability is becoming much easier, thanks to the advancements in digital technologies. 

Software helps supply chain companies deal with a number of issues. Take empty (or half-empty) runs as an example. Digital technologies, such as real-time visibility, allow transport companies to significantly reduce the amount of empty runs, which directly leads to the reduction of CO2 emissions. 

Green supply chain also means green logistics and warehouse management. But how can we actually make it green? Automation and digital analytics lead to shorter time spent by transport units at the docks, ports and distribution centers, which significantly contributes to the lower energy consumption. Again, software is essential to hit those sustainability targets and create sustainable supply chain tools.

There are countless examples of digital technologies allowing supply chain companies to become greener. At times we might think that a certain kind of innovation is not revolutionary enough and the resulting change is too small. But sometimes even the tiniest improvements can lead to massive savings, when you consider the scale of a company’s operations and its fleet size. 

A good example? Smart steaming! Smart steaming is a strategy by which the vessel speed is dynamically optimised based on the real-time state of the sea, weather and the situation at the destination port - all of it to reduce fuel consumption. And even though the amount of saved fuel by an individual vessel might not be spectacular, when this innovation is applied to a fleet of hundreds of thousands of vessels, it really makes an enormous difference. 

Hello technology 

When we already have knowledge and awareness of what a green supply chain can do and we want to implement these standards in our company, technology comes to our aid. 

Thanks to it, we can develop in the field of zero waste, constantly monitoring the indicators of raw materials used, control the emission of pollutants, reduce the amount of paper used, simplify administration, collect and analyse data on the entire supply chain and educate our suppliers and partners on responsible procedures. 

Digital solutions have a huge impact on optimising almost every stage in the supply chain, so it makes sense to use them as often as possible.

Knowledge is power

Yes, yes, this phrase sounds like a truism, but let's think about it - how can we streamline processes, make changes or improve the functioning of our company without relevant data about the current state of affairs? How can we look for solutions when we don't know the source of the problem? 

Thousands of elements interact in the supply chain. Every stage of transport and logistics involves a huge number of operations, each of which generates profits, but also losses, for example in the form of emissions or unnecessary tasks that reduce the efficiency and well-being of employees. 

It's frightening how many companies don't know the details of their supply chains, especially as today's organisations' operations are more extensive and global than ever before. Knowledge of the processes in a company is the basis and starting point for making improvements and with the help of digital solutions, we can obtain it in several ways. 

Audits, or how our company is doing

An audit is a basic tool of verification and control of processes in our organisation, giving us an overall view of its functioning. In an extended supply chain, each of the entities conducts or at least should conduct them. This allows us to accumulate tons of valuable knowledge, but the problem is its flow. 

Anyone who has watched films or series about serial killers in America in the 1960s or 1970s may have noticed a certain absurdity in the investigations carried out at that time. Namely, the police in different states did not exchange knowledge among themselves. As a result, a criminal only needed to cross a state border for the current investigation to practically cease, because law enforcement in another state had no access to the information gathered and developed by officers at the crime scene. 

Of course, in the case of more serious crimes, the case could be taken over by federal officers, but FBI agents did not always evoke positive feelings from local police, who were reluctant to share their knowledge with them. The stifling flow of information between the various units resulted in the case not being solved and further damage caused by the elusive criminal. 

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Information flow

In the case of audits, the potential consequences may not be as dramatic, but the principle is similar - the subsequent companies in the chain do not share it with each other or with the buyer, and the faulty practices still exist and cause damage. 

Modern supply chain software allows you to greatly simplify the entire audit process and systematise the information, which can then be shared with partners. 

Is a company generating too much raw material waste? Are working conditions unsuitable for employees somewhere? Does a particular supplier emit too many greenhouse gases or make inefficient transports? Thanks to technology, we will know this as soon as possible so that we can react to potential risks.

Supply chain mapping

Supply chain mapping is not a new idea. Back in the 19th century, when the management of raw material transportation grew to unprecedented proportions due to colonisation, rulers, entrepreneurs and companies created such maps. 

They made it possible to determine the course of trade routes, the most important suppliers, the places of receipt and sale, and which raw materials were involved. The disadvantage of such maps was their comprehensive and static nature - the document showed the status of our chain only at the time of its creation; every change of route, a new partner or threat of pirate attack or armed conflict made the map outdated. 

Constantly correcting it was complicated because the flow of information was slow, and it was unfeasible to provide everyone involved with the latest version of the map at the same time. Ah, if only 19th-century entrepreneurs had the technology we have now.

After all, we don't live in the 19th century…

Today, the scale and complexity of the supply chain are incomparably greater. The vast amount of information we have to analyse and take into account would not be possible to process without appropriate digital solutions such as cloud based supply chain management software. 

We can create accurate maps, showing every supplier, every receiving and selling point, every process, every transport, in real-time, because we can update them in a highly automated way. What's more, everyone involved in our supply chain has access to the map and can follow the process they are interested in at any time, so they can see if there is a problem at any stage. 

At the same time, information about suppliers can also include whether they operate to sustainability standards, so we can support them in implementing appropriate practices. IoT (Internet of Things) technology is very often used to collect this data, i.e. devices that constantly monitor fuel consumption or emissions and transfer them to a database in real-time. 

Modern supply chain maps are important for optimising transport and logistics, increasing visibility and developing sustainable supply chain business.

Risk under control

Risk assessment in multi-component industries such as transport and logistics is an absolute must. Analysing factors such as the possibility of natural disasters, financial crises, social and political issues is essential to minimise damage and select the best solutions from a business, environmental and safety perspective. 

Processing the information coming from each partner at different stages of transport in supply chains as complex as today's would be impossible without the support of appropriate technology. Modern systems work with huge amounts of data and automation makes procedures simpler, clearer and, above all, effective. 

Supply chain information management programs can accurately predict which elements of an operation are most sensitive, allowing weaknesses to be identified and potential risks to be addressed at the earliest possible stage.

Carbon footprint, the main market antagonist

Reducing the carbon footprint, or the sum of greenhouse gases generated is one of the most important tasks facing companies aiming to aiming to create sustainable supply chain. Counting and reducing this indicator is key to stopping environmental degradation. 

Moreover, in today's business environment, the carbon footprint is one of the most important criteria for companies to join collaborations or tenders, as major companies strictly adhere to standards and restrictions in this area. 

Here again, technology comes to the rescue, as dedicated software can not only count the carbon footprint of the entire supply chain and each company but can also predict how much greenhouse gas will be generated in the future. Such solutions allow us to monitor the state of carbon emissions in real-time and react where necessary and develop preventative solutions. 

Support and cooperation

Owners or investors of large, modern companies today have all the knowledge and tools they need to grow their businesses in the most sustainable way. Technology companies are racing to develop the solutions needed to do this because in a time of climate change and social inequality it is not just about profit, but about creating a market. 

It is up to large organisations to ensure that their partners and suppliers operate to modern standards, but many of them are located in developing economies where these procedures are not yet as strongly implemented. 

Sharing knowledge and best practice, through educational platforms, training and instruction, which will enable smaller businesses to improve their businesses, is hugely important in this case. This education and knowledge sharing throughout the supply chain help to build an interconnected network of sustainable practices and shape a modern, responsible market.


24 January 2021Comments are off for this post.

Cargo securing: why intermodal transport needs digital solutions

Inadequate securing of cargo and the resulting damage is a constant, although undesirable element of any kind of transport, including intermodal transport. In an increasingly competitive business environment even a small optimization of costs can have a significant impact on the company's financial results. Improvement of the cargo securing process is therefore one of the factors that can have a large impact on building a competitive advantage.

Cargo securing - challenges of the current state of affairs

The cost of lost cargo, due to inadequate securing, can be enormous. Given the low margins that dominate the shipping industry, a single loss of shipment can represent a significant drop in revenue.

Statistics show that the damage rate in transport is found to be between 1 and 4%, depending on the type of transit. Globally, cargo damage losses amount to €4 billion each year. Most importantly - almost 70% of cargo damage in global transport is classified as avoidable.

Apart from the obvious, huge financial losses related to the destruction of the cargo, its improper securing carries another risk - the risk of receiving financial penalties. The EU Directive 2014/47 / EU on the technical roadside inspection of roadworthiness of commercial vehicles has been in force for more than a year, which imposes not only higher penalties, but also even the risk of revoking a license to operate, in case of repeated failure to secure cargo properly.

The COVID-19 pandemic also has an impact on cargo securing, potential damage and financial losses. The turmoil hit small and medium-sized players hardest, allowing global giants to take over an ever-larger piece of the transport market pie. Under these conditions, cost optimization becomes absolutely essential to be able to remain competitive on the market. Correct and efficient load securing is one of the most important elements of reducing operating costs.

Efficiency in cargo securing affects the competitiveness of any company from the very beginning of the fight for a customer. The valuation of transport and cargo securing costs has an enormous impact on the efficiency of catching new deals on a freight exchange.

It is also worth noting that in the case of intermodal transport, these estimates are particularly complex due to different requirements of cargo securing for different modes of transport. Intermodal transport is also often associated with intercontinental travel, through a large number of countries - which leads to the increased number of regulations and requirements that the cargo securing must meet.

So how do transport companies deal with minimizing the financial risk related to cargo damage? Insurance of cargo in case of damage is the main tool to transfer risks. However, insurance requires a cargo securing plan from the carrier, together with documentation confirming its implementation. This presents transport companies with another challenge.

cargo securing app

At Setapp we are working on solutions that make cargo securing much more efficient.

Cargo securing plan - how do transport companies deal with this task?

The cargo securing plan and documentation confirming its implementation is another factor that puts small and medium-sized companies under huge pressure. Large transport concerns do not have a problem with this task, as they use their extensive internal resources or hire expensive cargo securing companies. Smaller companies usually can’t afford these kinds of solutions. So they do either one of these two things:

Some companies secure their cargo intuitively, not relying on precise calculations or plans. This usually means they secure their cargo excessively, wasting material and time. This type of approach involves constant and significant financial losses - completely avoidable losses.

The second way to get a cargo securing plan is to have this type of calculation and documentation created by a person who creates them based on spreadsheets or autocad. This is a time consuming and inflexible approach. It often happens that the incoming load is packed or divided differently or with different parameters than set in the contract. In such a situation, a quick response and change of the security plan is required, and it is not always possible when a company relies on autocad calculations or spreadsheets.

These imperfect solutions create space for the use of digital solutions that would allow relatively cheap and quick creation of complete documentation necessary for the safe transport of cargo. The first digital products of this type are already appearing on the market. Most of them however, turn out to be inaccurate, which results in incorrect calculations and, consequently, potential penalties for the carrier. It is therefore important to take a look at conditions that we believe should be met by apps that would solve the problem of cargo securing and its documentation.

One of the most important thing for us is to create a tool that works with any kind of load

What criteria should a digital tool for building a cargo securing plan meet? 

One of the basic conditions for the success of any app is whether it will be a trusted tool that works with global standards. It must therefore be a tool that can easily comply with the most important cargo securing standards (CTU-Code 2014 and EN 12195-1: 2011). This type of app should allow for quick and standardized calculations to create a cargo securing plan.

Another of the key requirements is the flexibility of the app and the ability to adjust its tools to specific needs of any kind of client. The apps available on the market generate an automatic proposal of cargo securing, but do not allow the use of expert knowledge and optimal matching, which means that their calculations do not work for more complicated loads. 

A good example here is, for example, an oversized transport, which the currently available apps are not able to handle. The goal should therefore be to create an application that covers all the needs of a transport company, regardless of the complexity of their orders.

Moving cargo securing to the digital world should also mean that the entire process should not require extensive expert knowledge. The app should allow you to enter the input data easily. In such a case, you don’t need to engage any experts, because the planner in the company, without deep knowledge of the standards, will be able to design cargo securing, and the app will provide calculations and verify their compliance with global standards.

 

Digitization also significantly increases the accessibility of documentation. Right now, it is common to use technical drawing that requires experience in reading. Moving the experience to the digital world, we can show everything on 3D objects, which are much easier to understand. This benefit is absolutely crucial as it ensures cargo securing documentation is available and easy to read at all stages of transport - for the planner, packing team, driver, forwarder, cargo controlling services, insurer, etc.

Increasing the availability through digitization also means, for example, the ease of downloading the report anywhere in the world. This is especially crucial for the intermodal transport industry. All you need is a QR code and full documentation can follow the cargo all over the world.

The main advantage of digitization is cost optimization. The goal is to properly secure the cargo at the lowest possible cost. The digital app should be able to recalculate each binding or blockage on the fly, informing the user that the requirements specified by the standards are met, so that there is no waste of materials for securing the load excessively.

Cost optimization is also associated with the optimization of time spent by employees on cargo securing. The time to build a cargo securing plan thanks to digital solutions is around 15-30 minutes, instead of the standard 1-2 days. As a result, transport companies don’t need to hire as many experts as before.

The app we are creating focuses on user-friendliness.

Our project at Setapp

Responding to the challenges mentioned in this post and the lack of efficient tools on the market, we at Setapp conduct research and development work aimed at creating a digital solution that meets the requirements of the market. We create this app in cooperation with Dr. Jarosław Soliwoda from the Department of Ship’s Operation at Gdynia Maritime University,

The main goal of our project is to create an app that allows companies to quickly and repeatedly build industrial cargo security plans, for a fraction of the price of the traditional approach.

Thanks to special algorithms, each cargo securing plan will (amongst other things) verify loads mass, forces and moments affecting the load to ensure its compliance with world standards. To learn more about this project, leave your e-mail below and we will contact you with all the details!

The original (Polish) version of this article was first published on IntermodalNews.


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OUR OFFICES

PL: Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

ISR: 220 Hertzel Street, 7630003 Israel

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.

VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

OUR OFFICE

Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.

VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

 COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.
VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

OUR OFFICES

POL: Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

ISR: 220 Hertzel Street, 7630003 Israel

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.
VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

OUR OFFICES

PL: Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

ISR: 220 Hertzel Street, 7630003 Israel

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.

VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

OUR OFFICE

Wojskowa 6, 60-792 Poznań, Poland
+48 506 798 998
office@setapp.pl

COMPANY DATA

Setapp Sp. z o.o.

VAT ID: PL7781465185
REGON: 301183743
KRS: 0000334616

PRIVACY POLICY

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