Leveraging Real-time Information And Data To Manage Logistics Better The modern world of logistics is making full use of data and information to stay up to the task

By Pramod Jajoo

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In the fast-growing era of digital technologies, information and data have both proved to be quite significant in defining the success of a company. There's nothing like some key insight via crunching numbers to enable an organization to prepare better for the future. And, akin to other industries, the modern world of logistics, too, is making full use of data and information to stay up to the task.

With the growing number of production sites and clients scattered across different regions, facilitating logistics and operating a seamless supply chain has never been more complex. But, the birth of new challenges has also paved the way for innovative solutions through data analytics that, in turn, continues to transform the industry.

Adoption of real-time data and information

Gone were the days when the logistics industry depended on obsolete manual processes, involving the use of rigid machines and inflexible gadgets, which saw operating firms losing out on productivity, profitable opportunities and customer satisfaction. The new-age logistics service providers rely on informational records, obtained while facilitating a massive flow of goods, to bridge gaps in operations.

By making use of real-time data from IoT sensors, combining data from different data sources (both internal and external parties via API integrations) and then devising the right data science and analytics models to derive insights from such data, a logistics service provider can explore the trends and identify patterns which can have a revolutionizing effect on the business. More importantly, data, especially in logistics, can serve as a great foundation to evaluate all major key performance indicators (KPIs) for a firm. And, that's not all.

According to a Council of Supply Chain Management study, as much as 93 per cent of shippers and 98 per cent of third-party-logistics (3PL) model companies feel that data analytics is critical to making intelligent decisions. Additionally, 71 per cent of them believe that data sets also improve quality and performance.

Here's a look at the impact of real-time data and information on the logistics industry

Improved operational efficiency: Irrespective of the industry, operational inefficiencies always pose a threat to the success of a company. Owing to big data, you can not only track the changes in the operational cycle but also instigate corrective measures, if required. Tracking and measuring the KPIs such as cost, value and services, among others, have never been easier, all thanks to real-time data and information. The data science models are specifically designed to bring out optimizations on the supply chain networks to balance inventory, facilitate intelligent routing and sortation and load optimizations.

Better and more accurate forecasting: For long, the logistics companies have struggled to produce reliable results with the current forecasting methods. With the mean absolute percentage error generally exceeding 20 per cent, the predictive models struggle to accommodate a greater number of variables and analogies to be more accurate. This is where big data can come in handy. Collection of real-time data and its subsequent analysis from multiple sources can facilitate better forecasting with higher accuracy.

Efficient route optimization: Determining the shortest and safest possible route from a given production facility to an individual client location is of utmost importance to a logistics service provider. The idea is not only to expedite the delivery process but also to minimize the logistics costs on a route-by-route level. This is where real-time data can make a difference. Logistics companies can employ data-related services to track deliveries and identify trends related to orders, climate, average speed on the route, amount of fuel used and time taken to complete the order. The availability of such key information in all these aspects can bolster a firm in carrying out seamless operations at a minimal cost, a luxury logistics companies can easily afford.

Enhancing customer experience: Just like other sectors, the logistics industry is also influenced by changes in customer behavior and demands. The information in relation to customers' tastes, habits and purchasing patterns can help logistics firms in improving the solutions and enhancing their experience. Big data provides a comprehensive view of customer requirements and service quality to the companies who can use the valuable information to cater to them better and more efficiently.

Evaluating and overcoming risks: There's nothing like advance planning to overcome unforeseen events and exceptions. With real-time data and information, companies can do just that. A logistics service provider, making use of big data, can easily track and predict events that may lead to a disruption in the supply chain. The availability of such priceless information can help organizations in building a resilient transport model which can embolden them in negating future risks and discrepancies.

Managing complete visibility: One can't manage what they can't see. And, unlike other sectors, the logistics and transportation industry demands a keen eye from operating businesses. The facilitation of a good management and visibility system, via real-time data, can enable firms in proactively managing the delivery cycle right from its packaging in the warehouse until the time it is delivered to the customer. Granular visibility into shipments and inventory levels further ensures a seamless supply chain operation, increasing value for the organization and customer.

Way forward

The complexities of the logistics industry, as well as the intricate structure of the supply chain, make it imperative for companies to leverage real-time data and information. Like other sectors, the logistics industry is also going through several changes and adapting to the new digital environment which has facilitated the need for big data applications now more than ever before.

From tracking compliances and streamlining the supply chain to reducing risks, data will have a major role to play in the logistics industry in the future. Thus, logistics is at the cusp of big data transformation which will only make life easier for operating firms in the times ahead.

Pramod Jajoo

Senior vice-president and country head, ShipBob India

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