by Jim Lodwick
The Real-Time Route to Twenty-First Century Logistics
How live feeds are connecting vehicles and transport hubs to drive predictive, proactive and preventative practices
Previous Rocket blog posts have covered the way in which technology is transforming the warehouse. We’ve looked at how Extended Warehouse management (EWM) drives efficiency, driving operational excellence with S/4 HANA, and why HANA is a game-changer for EWM.
The key to the new state-of-the-art warehouse is access to vast amounts of real-time data that underpins proactive decision-making. The nature of logistics has, until recently, prohibited the function following suit.
While telematics data (including speed, distance, driving hours, driving style, etc) was recorded, vehicles out on the road didn’t equate to this information being available and analysed in real-time. Multiple feeds from the vehicle generated a plethora of figures, but these required detailed analysis before more workable insight could be derived from them.
But that is changing as digital technology is introduced; the supply chain is now viewing a future of being end-to-end real-time connected.
At the centre of this transformation is the ability to connect assets in real-time via cloud-based solutions. This provides a whole host of benefits that make organisations smarter and digitally enabled. Data is no longer just ‘big’, but converted into meaningful insight while paperless processes pave the way to the future in the connected world. It is now common practice to model scenarios on live data, which drives proactive and preventative decision-making.
In practice, the ability to access vehicles with live data streams removes guesswork, with the following being some of the key advantages this enables:
Live tracking provides real-time information on the progress of a delivery vehicle as well as taking into account elements such as vehicle speed and traffic conditions ahead. Any delays (such as those due to traffic congestion) can be captured and progress in relation to specific location points monitored to provide an accurate forecast of final delivery time. This provides the key insight required to increase efficiencies. For example, warehouse space and resource can be optimised to ensure that a bay is clear and a team available to unload the lorry, or measures taken to remove the impact of driving time limitations.
An up-to-date record of every delivery vehicle’s maintenance history, including checks made immediately before its current journey, is available. Ongoing predictive analysis enables the advanced itemisation of potential faults, which facilitates action and as a consequence reduces the risk of breakdowns and unscheduled maintenance, all of which cause delays.
As well as ensuring deliveries arrive as scheduled (and customer service optimised as a result) insight at this granular level can help to reduce costs. For example, wheel alignment and tracking is checked and recorded, and rectified if necessary, which reduces wear on tyres, which subsequently reduces fuel consumption. Similarly oil and water levels are monitored, again cutting down on future maintenance issues as well as maximising safety sand minimising environmental impacts.
Fuel consumption is visible in real-time, and this information can be drilled into to find the root causes if the figures seem high. Investigation might reveal that a specific type of vehicle has high consumption rates, or it could be a particular driving style (that can then be altered to be more efficient); equally terrain is a key factor – lorries in Norfolk will use less fuel than those driving through the Alps. When coupled with information such as the use of gears, brakes and engine revolutions, accurate and timely reporting can be undertaken to provide the complete picture.
With such information immediately at hand proactive and preventative decisions can be taken in real-time. Efficiency improvements can be made immediately, rather than undertaking a driver debrief at the end of the day, which causes delays, and potentially disputes.
Exception management and predictions
Data becomes even more powerful when cloud analytics are used for scenario planning and exception management. For example, unexpected temperature changes in refrigerated vehicles are flagged, the logistics team alerts the driver who can make necessary checks and rectify if possible. This prevents products being scrapped because they have been carried outside their safe temperature parameters.
Or the team may want to determine how reducing the speed of the vehicle will effect not just fuel economy, but also engine wear and tear.
Connected logistics networks
The insight outlined above – and more – is available for logistics management teams in dashboards customised for the needs of their organisation and reinforced with text and email alerts.
Customers, partners and suppliers can also have role-based access to this hub so that all parties are working off the same central source of live data. Customers can view vehicle progress and the expected time of their delivery. Following traffic delays, suppliers can check that a driver has enough legal driving hours left to complete the journey; similarly for last minute collection requests, they can investigate the option of using a vehicle that is already on the road rather than having to draft in a third party vehicle at increased cost and risk.
Data and analysis are the key drivers as businesses drive their digitalisation programmes. Analysis of actuals versus plans allows for the continuous review of processes, which drives better practices, continuous improvement and optimal efficiency.
To find out more about how real-time connected vehicles and hubs can become a reality for your business, contact Rocket Consulting.
- Cloud-based technology is bringing access to real-time data to the logistics function.
- Real-time data enables unprecedented insight and analysis, which drives efficiency at the same time as enhancing customer service.
- Connecting vehicles and transport hubs in real-time paves the way for intelligent logistics solutions.