While 2020 was the year that sent the world reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s becoming clear that 2021 is a year beset by stressed supply chains and global shortages as a result. Catastrophic flooding in Europe and China has crippled delivery infrastructure in both regions and shortages of sought-after items like lumber and vehicle chips for automobiles still persist – even shipping containers are incredibly scarce.
Business survival is dependent on making smarter decisions with the resources and data you have right now. According to research from McKinsey, the recovery time from the COVID-19 pandemic for freight and logistics companies will be an estimated three to five years.
As a result of these factors, organizations in the transportation and logistics space are being forced to consider change. Digital transformation is the key to moving forward, and in an industry that is historically slow to modernize, some transportation and logistics companies are beginning to partner with businesses that offer AI and machine learning capabilities in order to accelerate innovation. As businesses are still feeling the impacts of the pandemic and we brace for the unknowns of a fourth surge, it’s imperative that transportation and logistics companies get smarter with the data they have – streamlining processes and systems to help employees make better informed decisions in the moment.
Here are a few areas we are seeing transportation and logistics leaders focus on when it comes to leveraging their data to better run their business:
Due to the supply chain obstacles presented by the pandemic, many organizations became more aware of their lack of visibility into the systems that could accelerate logistics and improve fulfillment. But one area where a lack of visibility especially persists is in last-mile delivery. It’s the most expensive and time-consuming part of the shipping process, with many organizations using third parties. For those that contract out delivery, there is no window into how things are done. So businesses are forced to determine how to maintain brand experience when contracting out last-mile delivery.
For anyone who has received an order from Amazon, they know they do this by requiring drivers to show photo proof of delivery to ensure quality standards are met and brand experience is maintained. In May 2020, Target announced they were acquiring Deliv, a crowdsourced, crowdshipping, same-day delivery startup in a similar effort to improve last-mile delivery and maintain brand experience. In this space, more data could help brands understand the experience and pivot on last-mile providers if needed, or hold current last mile providers more accountable.
Like with the issues surrounding last-mile delivery, the pandemic and the resulting changes in consumer behavior showed transportation and logistics firms that they need better insight into supply chain visibility. Unfortunately, these same transportation and logistics firms typically face the challenge of unstructured, confusing data around shipments and deliveries that leads to lagging action and dissatisfied customers.
Genuine supply chain visibility provides immeasurable insight to shippers, carriers and recipients alike. As an example, route optimization and visualization can be put to use to help freight drivers make smarter decisions with real-time insights into inclement weather systems, road closures – they can even help to understand cost-per-mile. Unfortunately this visibility can be difficult to achieve through internal initiatives, which is why some transportation and logistics companies are partnering with data technology firms to bridge this gap.
There is currently a large gap between transportation and logistics firms having the necessary data and insights, and being able to actually take informed action with that data. For example, fleet performance and driver behavior all start at operations, but both require people management and legal management for liabilities or damage to products too. How can better, faster insights help in this space?
A subset of the Internet of Things (IoT), telematics data on fleet performance provides a comprehensive view of health, productivity, and profitability. It can capture location, speed, idling time, harsh acceleration or braking, fuel consumption, and more. All of this data can then be analyzed for particular events and patterns of risk. Once identified, businesses can work to take action before it impacts their reputation or bottom line.
They may not realize it, but many large transportation and logistics firms are sitting on a gold mine of data that’s attractive to many parties – including retail. Using the data these firms have on hand, retail and ecommerce giants can better predict what will happen in the market, how soon freight will be delivered – even determine whether customers will continue to shop with them or move to a competitor.
With the right data, firms can address and take stock of how inclement weather, political unrest, and other national and global events impact the supply chain down to the driver. Using this data to their advantage, transportation and logistics firms can get out of supply chain bottlenecks more easily and better support distributors or retailers.
One of the last, most fundamental things transportation and logistics firms should be considering is to determine and implement ways to empower the people closest to your customer. For companies in the transportation and logistics space, that means ensuring people on the road have data at their fingertips – collaborate with your users.
For its part, RevUnit developed a recommendation system for a leading transportation and logistics firm that identified new lanes that drivers may not typically take, but they might consider if it made sense logistically and financially for the carrier. While driver feedback was more in regards to UX (cleanliness, amount of rest stops along route, etc.), the information they supplied from this ‘best route’ approach provided helpful insights on revenue and profit for the carrier business operator.
Few transportation and logistics organizations lack the right data – in fact, many of them are sitting on data gold mines. The challenge often lies in outdated or disparate systems, access to real-time insight, and the need for more flexibility and control. Data innovation, supply chain visibility, load and route optimization, and insights into fleet performance and driver behavior will all be things transportation and logistics organizations will need to consider in the coming year.
Need help getting started? Our teams have worked with transportation and logistics firms like J.B. Hunt, ArcBest, UniGroup, and Handled to get insights into the hands of their employees, faster. Learn More.