23 October 2018

Fixing the paper trail: why going digital is good for business  

The size and scope of the bulk logistics sector has undergone a massive shift over the last 20 years, make no mistake about it.   For example, back in the 1990s the largest container ships boasted space for around 5,000 containers. But compare that to the latest Maersk Triple E-class container ships that carry over 18,000 containers and you get an idea of the pace of change.  

The problem is that the bulk logistics sector as a whole has traditionally been behind the curve when it comes to implementing the latest IT technology, which is crucial to handling the increase in administrative workload.  

It’s true that in recent years some have begun to embrace innovation – no doubt motivated by estimates like the $1.5 trillion in value that the World Economic Forum claimed is at stake for logistics players as a result of digital transformation in the industry up until 2025[1].  

A separate survey by IDG validates this and highlights a “device explosion”, with mobility seen as business critical. Sixty four per cent of enterprises placed it as a high priority on their current technology agendas. With IoT in transportation set to see a compound annual growth rate of sixteen per cent by 2020, there is a clear need for companies to underpin their transformation strategy with digitised mobility ….. but is this happening in practice?

While some aspects of bulk logistics have moved rapidly with the advancement of new technology, other areas have been left behind or outpaced, unable to keep up with the giant leaps that have been taken in other areas of the supply chain. Moving goods internationally is a more complex task than delivering products within a domestic market. However there are actually many lessons that can be learned if we apply best practices for smaller, more agile logistics processes to large scale programmes. In a modern supply chain, the foundation of developing a more efficient and effective service is digitisation.  

Efficiency drive

Demand is growing, and expectations are higher, so those in bulk logistics require new solutions that take advantage of the latest technologies in order to meet these challenges. By going digital, and by placing a digital strategy at the heart of the business, many companies are already taking steps to overcome new challenges and futureproof themselves.  

Just consider the impact that digitising paper processes can have on the inefficient paperwork trail. For example, the UN estimates that the implementation of cross-border paperless trade in the Asia-Pacific region could cut the time required to export goods by up to 44% and reduce costs by up to 31%[2]. In fact, it’s often the case that the costliest processes are linked to outdated procedures that could be dramatically improved through technology. But going digital means more than that. It’s about real-time data and using that data to gain better visibility of the supply chain. When you have greater visibility at your fingertips, it becomes easier to manage issues and quickly respond to potential difficulties before they develop into critical problems. Managers are also able to make more proactive decisions based on solid information rather than waiting hours, or even days for a report, or having to guess based on incomplete data.  

Technology can be transformative, especially the mobile devices that can give instant updates, allowing managers to create more effective and efficient processes for everything from fleet management to data entry, and especially end delivery.    

Digital optimisation

There’s been something of a data revolution in how data is now collected digitally and held in back office systems. This provides benefits for other areas of the supply chain, such as the many end delivery scenarios that can be better catered for and optimised. For example, many of us are now familiar with Electronic Proof of Delivery (EPOD) systems, whereby using a smart phone or mobile computer, drivers can obtain an electronic signature from clients which confirms receipt of the bulk goods delivered. If further evidence is required, the driver can take a confirmatory photograph or scan a barcode which the system will automatically attach to the client record.  

EPOD also helps with invoicing as proof of delivery information is transmitted in real-time to back office systems. TouchStar’s EPOD solution has an invoicing module built into the system as standard. This allows users to create invoices for completed jobs and then raise invoices or supplier payments electronically via PDF. The client can then be invoiced quickly, which means a positive impact on your cash flow.  

But the benefits go far further than this. For example, TouchStar’s EPOD solution is able to view tasks entered into the system and then automatically allocated to vehicles in the most logical order using a planning tool. Jobs can still be allocated manually, but whichever method is chosen you are eliminating paperwork and saving time.  

The solution also includes vehicle inspection reminders, vehicle and driver tracking and route planning to ensure the highest levels of accuracy, the elimination of paperwork and the avoidance of fines.  

Finally, TouchStar’s EPOD dashboard offers real time performance KPI information at your fingertips. It can be displayed on any device ranging from tablets and mobile phones to a large TV in the traffic office. The EPOD Dashboard can display real-time ETA information for your jobs and notify you if a delivery is going to be late or on time. If required, there are a standard set of reports in the system giving detailed information on jobs and driver performance. The system also has the ability to export all data fields allowing you to create bespoke reports quickly and efficiently.  

If you’d like to find out more about TouchStar’s EPOD solution and how it can benefit your business, contact the TouchStar team now or call +44 (0) 161 874 5050.  


[1] http://reports.weforum.org/digital-transformation/wp-content/blogs.dir/94/mp/files/pages/files/wef-dti-logisticswhitepaper-final-january-2016.pdf  

[2] https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/Trade%20Facilitation%20and%20Paperless%20Trade%20State%20of%20Play.pdf        

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