Saturday 17th Mar 2018 - Logistics Manager

Transports of delight

Transport his a highly competitive business and it is no surprise that logistics operations have always looked to transport management technologies to save money and operate more competitively.

This article first appeared in Logistics Manager, November 2017.

However, says William Salter, managing director of Paragon Software Systems: “Increasingly we are seeing customers using these systems to differentiate customer service as well. There are now a multitude of different transport IT solutions available, which range from vehicle tracking, in cab vehicle cameras and electronic proof of delivery systems to routing and scheduling software and fleet management tools.

“We are seeing a growing trend towards the integration of two or more of these technologies with the aim of streamlining operational processes and delivering a wider range of benefits,” says Salter.

“Operational visibility is everything,” points out Steve Collins, director of Fargo Systems.

“Delivering a clear view of every aspect of the logistics process, from driver and fleet management to product whereabouts, is where effective transport IT solutions are vital. Knowing where your fleet and moving cargo are in real-time is essential for efficient operations. In my opinion, systems that have the ability to integrate GPS data to provide ETA updates and truck arrival and departure alerts are critical transport IT functions. Such technology delivers smart data that makes planning and optimising trips more efficient, providing information on estimated times of arrival (ETAs) and potential delays, but also information about how long the truck is on site. Alerts can then be triggered warning of excessive waiting times. This data also makes it possible for average waiting times to be calculated making planning easier.”

“Technology has a significant role to play in improving the efficiency of back-end administration. The automating of standardised reporting reduces time spent on manual data entry and minimises paper handling which both improves efficiency and accuracy as it eliminates human error. Auto-rating (built-in tariffs and rate cards that are calculated and applied automatically) also increases accuracy and reduces invoice queries, which again is more time-efficient.”

Mark Norcliffe, chief executive of Mandata, highlights the importance of stable and flexible systems. “Business continuity is a prerequisite for any transport operator and their customers will look for assurance that the necessary systems and procedures are in place should a disaster occur.”

Some 40 per cent of Mandata customers use a secure cloud TMS platform. “This allows transport operators to concentrate on running their business; free from the IT support burden. For companies with multiple sites, being able to give all staff and business functions access to the same real-time information on the same system is a fundamental requirement,” says Norcliffe.
Routing and scheduling has become a core function, and, says Salter: “Because advanced routing and scheduling software can manage resources at a vehicle and driver level, logistics operations can produce realistic and achievable transport plans that maximise efficiency. Unnecessary mileage and costs are removed and deliveries are completed in line with exact customer needs and restrictions. When combined with tracking technology, transport teams have the ability to see what is happening on the day providing further savings, and the ability to ensure customers are continuously updated with accurate ETAs.”

Fargo’s Steve Collins points out that technology such as mobile smartphone or fixed in-cab devices that report back to the office and have the functionality to automatically feed into the transport planning and dispatch module provide invaluable real-time data that vastly improves efficiency.
“The extent of what can be done with GPS data by the transport operating systems that it feeds into, delivers a level of intelligence that impacts every element of the logistics process.”
“Cost comparison tools for logistics planning have the greatest impact from a financial point of view. Tools such as; smart vendor planning tools, combination/optimisation wizards, transport mode comparisons (road versus rail) and own vehicle fleet versus subcontract resource cost comparison tools, all use a combination of rule-based semi-automated systems with human expertise to deliver significant cost savings and vastly improve time efficiency. Automation has a huge role to play in the financial benefits of these tools. The ability to automate cost comparisons for example, automating and incorporating tariff rate comparisons between agreed versus actual costs within the planning module, not only saves money but also saves time,” says Collins.

Danish software company GateHouse Logistics pursues a different approach for data transparency in the transport sector. It targets “data subscribers” (transport companies and shippers) who want data processes to be transparent and accessible with its ghTrack gateway. The idea is that with data transparency, they can track all shipments via a single portal at any time.
“The special feature of the solution is not just that the GateHouse software is able to capture data from around 400 systems and to display them consistently on one screen, but that the portal is strictly neutral in dealing with the information,” says Jesper Bennike, chief executive of Gatehouse Logistics.

“This means that the GateHouse platform determines who is to be given what data, but has no influence on the content. However, whether data is made available to a partner is determined – and this is the key difference – solely by the transport company as a data supplier itself, although the transport company is not paid for this service.”
Transport professionals have had to face up to significant changes in the demands placed upon them with the growth of home delivery and the impact has been spreading across the whole transport sector.

“The fact that real-time reporting and visibility is so common within the home delivery network has increased customer expectations and, as a result, customers are increasingly expecting the same level of information across the whole transport sector,” says Collins.

“There is an increasing requirement to alert the customer when the delivery is approaching and/or send an estimated time slot based on the planned or latest ETA therefore, there is a demand for transport IT systems such as TOPS that can calculate journey times and allow low-level planning and reporting at an individual journey way point level to deliver this information. Furthermore, electronic signature (sign-on-glass) capture is now commonplace, most systems now send a notification that the goods have been delivered in real-time. The requirement for this level of customer communication dictates that transport IT systems must deliver high-level reporting to all parties in the logistics chain, including the end customer. With TOPS the customer and the person signing for the goods can both receive an email with the POD information before the driver has left the delivery point.”

The implications of this development are not lost on William Salter: “The growth in home delivery has reinforced the need for greater levels of visibility and control across the supply chain. However, the expectation among consumers for added convenience and choice must be balanced with providing a cost-efficient delivery service. This can only realistically be achieved using an end to end order fulfilment system which tracks items from consolidation hub through to the customer’s door and when necessary back again.

“The transport management function responsible for last mile delivery can no longer operate in isolation from the rest of the business. Retailers are implementing 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. This is helping them provide cost-effective delivery solutions that meet the demand for shorter lead times and specified time windows as well as higher levels of consumer communication and self-service,” says Salter.

There is no doubt that technology is driving change in the transport arena. Steve Collins highlights the development of web-based solutions that are making the management of 24-hour operations easier with the ability to access software across a variety of platforms such as PC/Mac/Android/iOS.

Stephen Watson, director of product at Microlise, highlights the importance of big data analytics – using large volumes of historical data to help model and predict future patterns. “Microlise captures well over seven billion miles worth of road data each year, but working with such large data sets and harnessing its power presents a challenge. But that’s all about to change with new technologies and techniques enabling us to scale up and process large data sets in a quick and agile way.

“The first uses of this new big data resource will be predictive analytics for vehicle health, improving hazard awareness and briefing drivers. Though there are many use cases which will be developed in due course including the ability to benchmark performance against the industry or sector a fleet operates in.

“It will soon be possible to rank routes according to risk, and even to alert drivers to specific risks along their route as they approach them ensuring they are prepared.”
Salter points to the increasing connectivity between IT systems and devices that is enabling the flow of information across the supply chain. “The integration of routing and scheduling software with vehicle tracking or electronic proof of delivery 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,” says Salter.

“This also allows the analysis of what is happening on a day-to-day basis against key performance indicators such as fuel usage per kilometres driven or percentage of deliveries on time, allowing operators to target continuous improvement and create tighter, more accurate plans for the future.”
And beyond this is the rise of autonomous vehicles, which Collins points out is being made possible by developments such as sensors, artificial intelligence, networking (5G) and the communication of transport orders/routes to the vehicle electronically are all driving the development of platooning and autonomous vehicles.

Time to regulate van drivers?

Some unregulated drivers are bringing shame on the others who drive for a living, says Jemma James, director of commercial operations and marketing for TruTac, who argues that it’s time regulators stepped in to protect all road users.

James argues that tachographs enable operators and law enforcement agencies to monitor drivers’ activity to prevent fatigue, protect public safety and ensure compliance with road transport law. “To put it simply Tachographs saves lives.”

She points out that a number of van fleets are using TruTac’ TruWTD solution for non-tacho vehicles such as vans and buses. “We are currently developing an additional solution and app which will act as a standalone system for managing WTD for these sectors. Additionally, we have TruChecks which can be used by any vehicle operator (van, HGV, PSV, bike, car) to manage the daily vehicle road worthiness and maintenance checks.”

Over the past ten years there has been a 43 per cent decrease in HGV related fatalities, she says, but “during the same period, there has been a 12 per cent increase in van/light commercial vehicle accidents (20 per cent in London) and, more worryingly, a 44 per cent increase in private hire and taxi accidents, primarily driven by the recent Uber culture.

“There has been a significant increase in light van traffic owing to a rise in internet shopping deliveries. Compared with 2014, van traffic grew faster than any other vehicle type, rising 4.2 per cent to reach a record high of 46.9 billion vehicle miles in 2015.
“The sooner these vehicles and their so called ‘professional drivers’ have to undertake regulated competency exams the better. They should also come under tachograph and driver’s hours’ legislation and we’ll all be safer,” he says.

DFDS chooses Mandata in the cloud

DFDS Logistics recently chose to invest in a Mandata transport management system. The Mandata Cloud TMS was selected to provide staff at all depots access to the same information and on-line functionality, while at the same time simplifying procedures and providing visibility across its UK operation.

Mark Bennett, DFDS compliance manager, says: “Before we implemented Mandata, managing work across the network was a challenge for us as we were using a mix of legacy systems and spreadsheets at our depots. We looked to bring planning and vehicle tracking together under one roof so we could see and manage loads more easily across the board.”

“Providing full and live up-to-date information to everyone is enabling a joined-up approach to be taken. Each depot used to have its own pot of work. Now someone else can see it, doing re-loads has got a lot easier as we’re able to integrate loads from other depots in the planning process.”

“We can also identify areas where we need to look for work or indeed, where we may be over subscribed and we can react accordingly.”
DFDS is now starting to track vehicles with Mandata. “We’re gaining more detailed information; geo-fenced loads are giving us firm entry and exit times and we can see live progress and load status updates,” says Bennett.

Paragon has enhanced the reporting capabilities of its fleXipod electronic proof of delivery software with the launch of a new dashboard function. This latest development will enable logistics operations to access key reports at-a-glance to support trend analysis and the performance management of delivery teams.

Mandata has developed the Manifest App to provide a connection between the haulage operator’s back-office traffic planning systems and its drivers for a fast and more economic way of sharing data and information. Work instructions can be sent to drivers and as changes are made, they’re fed to the driver automatically, so they are quickly alerted to any changes throughout the day. Signatures and photo POD’s and images of non-conformance are all fed back into the TMS along with other details as work is complete – reducing the haulier’s reliance on paperwork.