The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (previously the Council of Logistics Management) defined logistics as “The process of planning, implementing, and controlling procedures for the efficient and effective transportation and storage of goods including services, and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption for the purpose of conforming to customer requirements. This definition includes inbound, outbound, internal, and external movements.”
From the above we can see that logistics is the bloodline, indeed the fuel, that keeps the supply chain in all businesses running. Therefore logistics managers need to constantly improve on their processes to improve customer experience/retention and stay ahead of the competition.
Sadly this, as with all other things in business, is not bereft of challenges. Logistics managers are responsible for a host of things ranging from the health and safety of employees and other road users to managing fuel costs, managing and servicing fleet, creating shortest routes for deliveries, maximising fleet capacity load etc.
And as with juggling too many things often and at once, several things are bound to either go wrong, be overlooked, or simply done poorly. Let’s look at four of such challenges and how technology can help make things easier.
1. Cutting down transportation & maintenance cost: The price of fuel and maintaining the company fleet is a variable that logistics managers often have no real control over, the most they can do is plan and budget for both ahead and leave wiggle room for changes that may arise. The only real control they can exercise is to cut down how much time and manpower is required to complete a task in the shortest time possible.
Before technology, managers often had to resort to doing manual mental calculations and through trial and error, come up with a strategy that allows them achieve the above goal, but now, with a slew of logistics solutions and tools available that provide insight and data on your field operations sometimes in real-time, it is possible to have eyes on the field and monitor the metrics that are most important to you so you can begin making better and smarter data based decisions.
For example, being able to map customers location on a digital map, will help you come up with the best and shortest routes possible for deliveries and doing this consistently will save you money in the long run, deliver goods faster, make your team more efficient and deliver better results.
2. Effective manpower management: It’s part of a logistics manager’s role to manage a team of people often assigned to cover different territories and even states. Depending on the number of people and their roles/duties, being able to keep an eye on all of them, as well as focus on your own tasks can sometimes prove daunting. Being able to spend less time actively managing your team and monitoring what they are up to, frees up your time to get more of your tasks done, and to innovate and improve your product and/or service.
For example, using a solution that automatically collects and aggregates your team’s daily activities in one place depending on what you’re trying to measure, allows you keep an eye on everyone as well as judge performance overtime. This help to reduce the friction that comes with manpower management because it’s harder to argue to raw hard data.
3. Customer satisfaction: When customers are unhappy, it is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Usually, this indicates the presence of other problems in your business or in your fleet, such as late deliveries, bad service etc. Also, constantly innovating and improving your distribution strategy to make the entire ordering and delivery process seamless, easy and transparent is a huge part of increasing customer satisfaction and retention.
Customers are the lifeline of any business, if they are unhappy for long periods of time, they unconsciously start to look for better alternatives. To combat this, begin by making them feel valued and heard, and then embrace the technology that encourages end-to-end transparency for both you and your customer while giving them the ability to reach out to you easily and quickly once something is wrong so you can begin working on a solution right away.
4. Huge information processing: Aside from ensuring smooth operations, logistics managers are faced with the challenge of manually ensuring good condition of their fleets, the safety of staff, fleet loading, cross checking of goods and processing of waybill e.t.c
Automating some or all of these processes, saves you time and mental energy that would be better spent elsewhere, which in turn enables logistics managers to channel their energy into often neglected but equally important aspects of the core business operations.
Most of the challenges faced by managers in the supply chain space can now be easily solved or at least better managed with one or several technology solutions. Know of any other challenges Logistics Managers face and how technology can help?