Exploring the world of new logistics technologies offers real excitement for people who can visualize how these cutting-edge tools may revolutionize the industry. New hardware and software systems enhance operational efficiency while providing greater safety for personnel and freight alike.
The potential of these mechanical and computer enhancements is enough to make a logistics manager feel like a kid in a high-tech candy store. Though some logistics technologies are still in their infancy, others are readily consumable.
Your business can obtain a logistics management software system. Your warehouse can install robotic processing equipment. Your drivers can operate with advanced GPS systems.
The question is: What logistics technologies do you really need?
Adopting new logistics technologies within your business requires a significant investment of time, money and manpower, so these can’t be knee-jerk decisions. Consider the benefits a new logistics technology could have on your supply chain and weigh that against the amount of effort will be required to implement it.
Use these four tips to prioritize the way you decide to incorporate logistics technology into your business.
Logistics Technology Priority Tip 1: Efficiency is central
When selecting logistics technologies, first consider what will offer your business the greatest increase in efficiency. Every second of time in the supply chain is precious, especially with the Amazon effect putting additional pressure on businesses to reduce their last-mile delivery times.
Many logistics technologies are focused on improving supply chain efficiency, including supply chain management software. Mostly cloud-based systems, supply chain management software programs allow you to track freight, respond to issues and make adjustments to increase future efficiency. Some systems that incorporate machine learning even offer suggestions for improvement.
In addition to supply chain management software, observers of the logistics industry predict one of the most significant impacts on efficiency may come via Internet of Things devices (IoT). IoT devices help business track their freight by offering a constant cloud-based view of its current status. This can include not just location data, but also temperature, moisture level and more.
The bottom line: Focus on logistics technologies that help you drive efficiency in your operation, such as supply chain management software. Also consider Internet of Things tracking devices, which offer enhanced supply chain visibility.
Priority Tip 2: Go robotic for safety
Warehouse operations are beginning to adopt robotic process automation to speed up their picking, stacking and sorting processes. They also allow businesses to collect more data about inventory and the efficiency of warehouse operations.
Robotic process automation helps maintain a more organized and efficient warehouse, but that’s not the only reason to incorporate this logistics technology. There are compelling safety reasons to incorporate robotic process automation where it’s affordable.
Especially for large and busy warehouses, robotics systems can increase safety for employees and products. Using logistics technologies such as driverless forklifts and robotic picking arms, businesses can help avoid human error that causes accidents.
The bottom line: Besides the obvious benefit of keeping employees safe, robotic logistics technologies can reduce workers compensation benefits costs, avoid product damage, and even prevent hazardous spills.
Tip #3: Employees drive decisions
Of course, a business owner makes the final decision on what logistics technologies to implement. However, they should include employees in the process and take their needs into account when selecting logistics technologies.
Ask employees and observe them to discover inefficiencies that can be supplemented or resolved by technology. Don’t implement technology faster than they can learn it and incorporate it into their workflow, and accept their feedback.
Companies that operate their own fleets also can consider installing on-board driver safety systems in their vehicles. These relatively simple logistics technologies protect drivers with collision avoidance tools while making them more efficient by using smart systems that improve route planning and road awareness.
The bottom line: Leverage employee input when prioritizing which logistics technologies to incorporate. Select logistics technologies that make work simpler and more efficient, and avoid introducing too much at once.
Last but not least: Tip 4: Exhaust non-tech solutions
Innovative logistics technologies hold great promise, but don’t reach for new digital solutions if you haven’t first explored all your analog ones. Do everything you can to improve your efficiency, visibility and safety with the tools you already possess before investing in expensive technology.
First, hire a logistics manager who understands the critical aspects of supply chain efficiency and is adept at managing both employees and warehouse operations. Find someone who has experience in existing logistics technologies and wants to learn more.
Refine warehouse workflows and efficiency by evaluating basic data to see where processes can be tightened. Determine average pick-to-ship times and delivery times, correcting unnecessary lags.
The bottom line: Fully utilize your existing data, employees and technologies to achieve your goals before committing to new logistics technology. This puts you in the best position to leverage new logistics technology when the time comes.