Mark Connell, Senior Logistics Architect for WiseTech Global, suggests that hanging on to paper-based practices means throwing away profit.
Sydney, Australia, November 3, 2015. Visibility into every aspect of a transport or warehouse business is essential for keeping the operation humming and pinpointing its strengths and weaknesses. But shuffling through paper files and Excel spreadsheets only slows things down.
Today’s Transport Management Systems (TMS) and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) provide the automation needed to put an end to paper-based practices once and for all, and they're the only means to get ahead of the accountability and compliance regimes that can lock up the operations of every player in the total supply chain, from producer to consumer.
Don't let what you have in common with competitors become an excuse to overlook inefficiency, however. Your focus needs to be on what is or isn’t going on in your own company. Yes, there are plenty of million-dollar operations running on paper and personal contacts, but every logistics provider loses profit when they can’t press a button and quickly see the current status of every job or the throughput of the storemen in regional depots.
Revenue leakage should never be an accepted part of your business
Paper-based, manual billing is the standout example of lost money because of its extreme inefficiency and high susceptibility to error. And because it can’t provide any real time visibility into clients, inventory, assets, or management practices, you’ll be using a lot more labor and assets than you need to. You’ll be unable to offer customers the high levels of real-time service that the market demands. It will be very difficult to sell to or merge with another operation if the facts of the business (beyond a skeletal balance sheet) are tricky to produce.
A cloud subscription-based TMS or WMS, on the other hand, makes it possible to measure what’s truly happening in your business. If you can see what your vehicles are doing and measure your picking performance, you can improve productivity. If things start to go wrong, you can generate some onscreen reports, drill into the exact problem, and fix it before it takes hold. It beats having to print, flip, and skim through stacks of paper.
From real people and trucks, to the real returns of IT
The industry was built on the dedication, effort, and output from fleets of forklifts and trucks and the countless people behind them. Like paper-based businesses, some of these people are old-fashioned. It’s understandable that there has been some skepticism as to the benefits that can be pulled from a perceived intangible like IT.
Many firms are quite happy to put on a couple more storemen, or buy a $200,000 Mac truck, but these same firms hesitate to spend $300 per month on a platform that could transform their entire operation for the better. The power comes when you can see what an automated maintenance system can do for the life of that truck, or what route-optimization can do for the profitability it hauls in to your business.
Massive upfront costs and lengthy, complex implementations have long delayed (or even discouraged) moves to new systems. But with the maturing of flexible, affordable OpEx cloud technologies, there’s nothing holding back even the smallest operator. Quick returns come from incremental implementations rather than all-in-one. Automation is now low-risk, and there are no long term contracts tying you down. Even training is a completely different concept because it’s all online, accessed at your convenience. The interactive videos and guides are easy to follow, created for the real world and with real operations in mind.
Paper still rules, but compliance will see it recycled soon
End-to-end accountability forces the pace to automation. Complying with new regulations and laws doesn’t need to be difficult or disruptive to the bottom line. Checklists and workflows built into your software help your business move forward uninterrupted. By moving now and automating as you go, on your own terms, you’ll be ahead of the curve, rather than rushing to meet government deadlines at the last minute.
Whether transporters and warehouses are being driven by a government policy, a customer demand, or a self-determination to tighten up the business bottom line, the move is definitely towards automation. And when you stack up all the benefits, why wouldn’t you throw out the stacks of paper that slow down your business?
Mark Connell is Senior Logistics Architect for WiseTech Global
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