Thursday 23rd Feb 2017 - Logistics Manager

Get more out of transport tech

There are lots of IT systems available, but are operators making the best use of the technologies available – and where are the big opportunities?

This article first appeared in Logistics Manager, November 2016.

This article first appeared in Logistics Manager, November 2016.

Many of the technologies used in transport telematics have, rather unobtrusively, achieved “mature” status. The challenge for larger organisations, in particular, is to integrate them effectively to maximise the benefits available. And there are still a surprising number of organisations that have not fully embraced the technologies available.

The transport management system is the most widely used transport IT function as it is integral to almost every single transport operation, says Chris Wallace of Microlise. “It answers the key questions: what needs to be delivered? Where? When? And who is scheduled to do the job? There are far more advanced systems available, yet TMS is ubiquitous in transport operations.”

William Salter, managing director of Paragon Software Systems, believes that logistics operations are primarily looking for advanced transport management systems that enable them to save money, improve customer service and operate more competitively.

“We find that with many smaller, emerging logistics companies, they have simply reached a point where they are now too large to manually plan their transport operations. As a result, they are looking for a system that helps streamline internal planning processes to save time and produce optimised route plans that are realistic and achievable.

“For larger operations, we are seeing growing demand for more complex transport management solutions that are underpinned by routing and scheduling software, but also incorporate other technologies such as integrated vehicle tracking, electronic proof of delivery and business modelling tools. This provides these organisations with greater visibility over their operations, both historically and in real-time, to monitor actual versus planned performance and supports continuous improvement.”

Marc Begg of Isotrak points out that the best fleet management software is versatile enough to provide real-time visibility for every step of a delivery as it happens.

Begg points out that electronic proof of delivery (e-POD) is fast becoming an industry standard. “E-POD solutions can help transport offices, reduce paper-based processes and prevent costs associated with customer complaints by pro-actively addressing potential issues, whether that’s through viewing damage to packages or providing a delivery ETA to their customers. Having real-time visibility into delivery performance allows transport offices to make on-the-spot decisions and ensure jobs are completed as efficiently as possible, which eliminates any unnecessary driving that might drive up fuel costs,” says Begg.

Potential

Wallace highlights the potential to make savings by focusing on safe and economic driving. “Technologies to manage driver performance have tremendous potential to deliver the most significant benefits both financially and operationally. Fleets we work with also see a significant improvement in safety as drivers focus on improving specific key performance indicators, ultimately reducing incidents, accidents and insurance premiums.

“We would also highlight journey planning technologies which allow operators to understand how their actual performance compares with their planned itinerary. As journeys unfold drivers are able to feedback on the reasons for delays, reasons for early arrival or any unplanned activity for that matter. Analysis can later identify trends and allow for adjustments which can lead to very significant improvements in performance,” says Wallace.

However, Chris Horbowyj of GreenRoad Technologies, is concerned that fleet managers are being bombarded with so many different messages about how to make their fleets and drivers safer that it is causing confusion in the marketplace.

“Looking at telematics alone, there are so many different solutions many of which, at first sight do the same thing, it makes it very difficult for operators to identify the right product to meet their requirements. The key is to keep sight of your end objective.

“If it’s driver safety then it is important to remember that the root cause of up to 90 per cent of traffic accidents is poor decision-making by drivers. You can buy all the mirrors, cameras, monitors and tracking systems you like, but you won’t maximise your chances of success until you address driver behaviour.”

Horbowyj argues that fleet managers need to ask if a telematics system both engages drivers in a positive and timely manner to help them to improve, but also is supported by clear reporting channels to provide ease of use for the operator.

The dramatic growth of home delivery in the UK is having an equally dramatic effect on the demand for transport IT systems.

Begg says: “The growth of home delivery has made real-time data a necessity for fleet managers. Consumers continue to demand smaller delivery windows along with lower costs, and real-time fleet visibility allows hauliers to optimise their delivery routes to meet these demands. These expectations have moved into the B2B world as businesses also want shipments completed faster to fit with tight schedules and time lines.”

Salter agrees: “The huge growth in home delivery services has driven the need for more sophisticated technology systems that provide end-to-end supply chain visibility. To balance added convenience and choice for the consumer with a cost-efficient transport operation, retailers are implementing systems that track orders at an individual item level from arrival in the distribution centre to delivery at the customer’s front door.

“Many retailers simply could not offer the level of choice and convenience consumers expect without the use of technology. Home delivery systems have become increasingly complex with integrated systems that manage every stage of the order lifecycle from order capture, capacity management and intelligent route planning to customer notification, consignment tracking, proof of delivery and returns management. As consumer demands become more sophisticated, there is increased pressure on retailers to keep innovating to stay ahead.

“The adoption of omni-channel strategies is heaping added pressure on the order fulfilment process. Retailers have to offer a consistent experience providing the same information across all of their sales channels. In addition, logistics operations no longer handle deliveries just to the home but must also offer Click & Collect services in-store or at third-party collection points such as parcel shops and lockers. All of these different options must be presented and fulfilled seamlessly and cost effectively, driving the need for integrated systems that control the end to end order fulfilment process,” says Salter.

Wallace picks out three factors: the first is the introduction of low cost rugged Android in-cab hardware improving affordability while enabling transport service providers to be capable of more sophisticated activities.

Second is the creation of advanced proof of delivery systems. “Home delivery has certainly driven a far more sophisticated offering in this area – enabled by better in-cab technology.”

The third factor is delivery team enablement. “Installation, instruction details and workflow information can be added to orders to enable delivery teams to perform additional functions – such as installation of consumer electronics, like TVs. This can provide an additional source of revenue as customers can select extra services at check-out. Transport IT systems are enabling activities such as this and a whole range of activities which improve the customer experience and boost revenue earning potential. Telematics is also helping to cut delivery windows to one hour or less,” says Wallace.

Salter points out that the increasing connectivity between IT systems and devices is enabling the flow of information across the supply chain.

“The integration of routing and scheduling software with vehicle tracking technology, for example, is providing visibility of exactly how vehicles are performing against plan. As a result, transport planners, or alternatively customer service teams, can automatically be alerted to any discrepancies in real-time so steps can be taken to mitigate the impact of issues, avoiding unnecessary costs and poor service delivery. This also allows the analysis of what is happening on a day-to-day basis against key performance indicators, allowing operators to target continuous improvement and create tighter, more accurate plans for the future,” says Salter.

 

Collaboration

Begg reckons that everything is leading towards more collaboration across the entire supply chain as technology such as automated management software and driverless vehicles reduce the number of empty miles that fleets have to cover. “Real-time visibility into inventory and vehicle status gives supply chain managers the tools they need to ensure their fleet is making the best use of its time on the road.”

Salter also highlights the significance of the development of the internet of things where devices are connected over the internet and communicate with one another, is becoming increasingly relevant to the supply chain industry.

“With an estimated five billion connected devices already in use globally at the end of 2015, we are going to have access to even greater levels of information moving forward, which will have a significant impact on how logistics and transport management is planned and fulfilled. We may be some way off from an automated replenishment scenario, where a smart fridge automatically makes a grocery order on your behalf which is then delivered and put away without the consumer having to lift a finger, but retailers are already exploring new ways of thinking.

“Automated replenishment is perhaps a more likely proposition in the business-to-business sector at this stage. There is a clear advantage, for example, with having an automated process in place for say auto parts at a garage where a supplier can gain access to a storage area to automatically restock essential items,” says Salter.

Compliance with industry regulations is an area where new technology can be helpful to drivers and transport offices. Begg points out that regulatory mandates are always changing with the times, and they’re usually different depending on which industry or country you’re working in.

“It can be difficult for transport offices to stay on top of regulations and communicate changes to their drivers, but today’s fleet management software and certain service providers streamline the process and automatically implement regulatory changes for the customer as part of their normal fleet software updates. For example, mobile apps on the market today can allow drivers to log their driving hours and automatically submit them to management in real-time, which reduces the chance of manual errors and ensures more accurate reporting.

“If a regulation unexpectedly changes, many of these apps and software platforms can even be updated remotely to ensure fleet operations are always in compliance with regulations,” says Begg.

On the hardware side, the availability of lower cost, higher performance in-cab devices is enabling a revolution in the way transport is managed, says Wallace. “Paper-based process can be removed entirely. Proactive customer service can be delivered and analysis and improvement can be carried out on almost every facet of the logistics process. Remote Digital Tachograph Download is also changing the way fleet compliance is managed. New advanced camera systems are having a significant impact on how fleets are being operated.

And he sees opportunities to cut empty running. “More than 30 per cent of HGVs on UK roads are running empty, and that figure is even higher in London, according to the FTA’s 2016 Logistics Report. Technology can be an enabler to address this and I see this as fundamentally game-changing. This has been mooted for a long time – but I see the technology on the horizon which can properly address this issue,” says Wallace.


 

Thornbridge picks cloud based delivery planning

Thornbridge Brewery, based at Ashford-in-the-Water in Derbyshire, chose the Maxoptra cloud-based dynamic delivery planning solution to improve delivery costs, increasing driver efficiency and minimising the environmental impact of their mobile operation.

“We discussed in detail what we required from a route planner, including all possible factors that needed to be taken into consideration when scheduling. We then trialled a number of solutions before concluding that Maxoptra fitted all of our needs perfectly,” says James Walker, logistics manager at Thornbridge Brewery.

“Since we started using Maxoptra, we have seen a noticeable reduction in mileage, and therefore costs and emissions, and driver time is better use. We have also improved customer service with better communication and are confident that, as our business continues to expand, Maxoptra will support us along the way,” says Walker.


 

Masternaut for PSA

The PSA Group has partnered with Masternaut to offer the Connect telematics platform on Peugeot, Citroën, DS connected commercial vehicles.

Brigitte Courtehoux, head of the connected services and new mobility solutions business unit of PSA Group, says: “By working in association with Masternaut, we are providing a way for fleet managers to reduce their vehicle’s total cost of ownership. Our partnership allows PSA Group to offer market-leading services in Europe, which is a significant step in PSA Group’s strategy in mobility services.”

Masternaut’s services will be available for all PSA Group vehicles through the “Connect Fleet Management” program, using PSA Group telematics technology.
Data from all vehicles is fed back over the air in real-time to the Masternaut Connect online platform. Fleet managers can reduce the total cost of ownership of their fleet through the monitoring of fuel consumption, driver behaviour, emissions or geo-fencing in a consistent and effective way.


 

Freightex goes for Gatehouse technology

Freightex, the cross-Channel road freight provider, uses dynamic proprietary technology to match loads with available empty trucks. It has chosen GateHouse Logistics ghTrack technology to monitor any of its suppliers’ trucks via GPS integrated into its service platform.

“Over 90 per cent of the 2 million trucks in Europe now have some kind of GPS device allowing the transport planner back at base to view the location and route of a truck,” says Tim Phillips, CEO Freightex. “The complexity is that there are 500 different companies a fleet can buy its GPS system from…”

It chose Gatehouse, an established Danish company which has been providing GPS systems to the shipping industry for years, because of its ability to integrate information from all GPS systems into one cohesive format. “This is game changing technology allowing users to log into the Gatehouse cloud and view GPS data from multiple fleets in easy to use formats,” says Phillips.

The integration technology is called ghTrack and solves the problem of logging in and out of different telematics systems and provides real time tracking across all suppliers. ghTrack unifies data across different systems effectively creating one homogenous view of the contracted fleet.