Scrutiny, regulatory institutions, accountability and transparency are central to building best practice and trust in business.  For complex supply chain management, they are essential.  Proof of integrity is in the big data, which for businesses seeking expansion into new markets, means that new customers need no longer simply rely on TrustPilot, personal recommendations or longevity of relationship. Fortunately, with the internet of things (IoT) and business inter-connectivity facilitated by transport management systems (TMS) in today’s shipping industry, data harvesting comes as standard.

Paul Clarke, writing for DigitalistMag recently, says that supply chain networks are better able to track and thus direct transportation operations more appropriately and compliantly.  This, he claims, is down to“…advancements in automation, and more recently artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics…”  All of these functions are available in smart, configurable TMS systems.

Nevertheless, companies who adopt innovative technologies, geared to improve industry practice are still far from perfect, either because they are not sure where to begin with their digitisation, or how to improve existing infrastructure to future proof their company. This is understandable, given that transportation experts have not trained in IT and given the huge array of mind-boggling software systems available that may or may not be compatible.

Transportation services struggle with prioritising internal and external operations, which is essentially a non-dilemma; the power of online platforms is their capacity to be integrated via flexible TMS modules, given the right tech partner.

Getting started with a checklist of future business needs is the first step to knowing what to ask the various transport hardware and software providers on the market. Part of this business resource review also needs to include those less tangible assets too, such as ideal business partnerships and supply chain networks.  Reliability of suppliers is essential to “…legal, financial, and reputational risk…” limitation.

For Jan Wouters of Capgemini’s global supply chain community, however, “Things are getting worse even as new systems and processes are added to the scattered IT landscape and IT architects try to solve them with the tools already in place.

It was unsurprisingly a leading technology company that has been paved the way in terms of leveraging technological innovations to improve standards in their supply chain management.  Since Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) began adopting the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, software developers have continually improved machine learning to simplify business processes and management decision making.

HPE Codify Best Practice in Supply Chain Management

The logic for technological innovation in their 2017 annual report is compelling: “Climate and human rights risks have the potential to affect every part of our value chain, including setbacks from materials scarcity and supply chain disruptions…”. According to Antonio Neri, President and CEO of HPE“… a resilient business means being proactive in addressing these risks before they affect customers and communities.”

HPE aimed to reduce 100 million tons of manufacturing-related greenhouse gas emissions within its supply chain by 2025. This scientific research based 15% reduction against initial monitoring levels, “…will improve environmental and working conditions worldwide… more importantly, it will set off a chain of sustainability improvements across its customers’ operations as well.”

While emissions might not seem like core business for a technology company, it is certainly a by-product of their business that is subject to regulation and also public pressure.  By not only doing, but by being seen to be doing, HPE are not only taking corporate responsibility towards their customers and stakeholders, they have also gained the moral high ground and boosted their brand offering versus competitors.

For Cliff Henson, Senior VP of HPE’s international supply chain: “This creates a ripple effect throughout our value chain. When our customers implement these sustainable IT solutions, they, in turn, lower their own footprint, allowing them to do more with less environmental impact.

By taking the lead in assuming greater responsibility for what is both a blue touch-paper, real-world issue and one that has both cost and compliance implications, the company is improving accountability throughout a complex supply chain, while simultaneously demonstrating how technological solutions can measure, monitor and help companies to report more clearly. This in turn boosts their brand, regardless of any initial misgivings business partners may have had on hearing of HPE’s plans.

Their program helps suppliers implement best practice, guiding companies on setting goals and achieving them.  Like the many ‘software as a support service’ (SaaS) providers in this space, provision of practical tools to adopt, together with professional support, supply chain partners are increasingly collaborating with using industry leading technology and best practice experts with a strong history in their particular sector.  For the transport and logistics sector, this means specialists in T&L brokerage offering modular and flexible software packages, such as TMS (transport management solutions), that can also be tailored to the needs of well-developed transportation service providers needing more customised integration of back office and field based functions.

High Ideals and Immediate Practicalities

CEO Neri expresses pride in adoption of ethical choices; some in the T&L industry say that idealism is a luxury that they cannot afford. However, Neri puts it like this: “We are proud to remain a responsible partner for our customers – to be a company that invests in its employees and sets high standards for its supply chain.”

This gets to the heart of why freight forwarding companies, industry brokers and their business partners need to seriously consider the risks of not adopting technologies that not only track, monitor and facilitate reporting, but can help businesses identify profit leakage, poorly performing personnel and assets, areas for innovation and immediately cut down on time and costs.

Take a moment to look at the following (incomplete) list of benefits to T&L companies of TMS software:

  • speedier, simpler and more accurate contract management that dispenses with dispute;
  • optimal transportation management purchasing through visible supply chain metrics;
  • consistent regulatory compliance, regardless of recent changes on location;
  • optimised route planning, delivery scheduling and fleet management, minimising less than load losses through clearer planning and consolidation;
  • simpler forwarder and broker solutions comparisons;
  • enhanced trading partner and personnel connectivity;
  • much more

 

In short, transport management technology is not just for the tech oriented companies; it is the future of sustainability and longevity for transportation companies of all sizes. For those companies still struggling with overwhelm about options, here’s our top tip: Partner with professionals who understand your business through long-standing expertise developed in the industry.

(Hint: Logistician can help!)