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The power of data in logistics

According to Michael Schilling, COO of Road Logistics at DACHSERfaster and better data ultimately benefits the entire supply chain, making the flow of goods and information more predictable, efficient, and sustainable in times of scarce resources. With weakening global economies placing increasing pressure on efficiency and costs, Schilling calls for senders and logistics providers to work together to bring an unprecedented level of planning certainty, efficiency and precision to logistics. “To ensure a reliable flow of goods and uninterrupted supply chains, Industry 4.0 needs Logistics 4.0, and vice versa.”

The power of data in logistics

In logistics, shipment information can be almost as important as the goods themselves. When will the shipment arrive? Are there any delays in the supply chain? How do external influences impact transit time? On the part of the logistics provider, core systems for transport management paired with special planning tools provide the dispatchers with the information they need. Beyond systems, the dispatchers’ personal experience, own expertise, and reliable contacts play a key role in the day-to-day planning of deliveries and collections.

While the logistics industry continues to optimise processes and increase efficiency to an extent that is unparalleled in most other industries, this approach no longer lends itself to overcoming additional challenges like shortages of drivers and loading space, pronounced seasonal peaks, restricted access to city centres, and increasing demands for sustainability,” says Schilling.

Schilling believes the key to accurate quantity planning and control lies at the very beginning of the logistics process chain—in the shipment data that the sender transmits to their logistics partner. “In the future, this data will have to be made available digitally and at an earlier stage of the chain than before. DACHSER offers a range of flexible options for connecting to the relevant interfaces to make this data transfer as straightforward as possible.”

A new standard: Sender notification the day before forwarding

“If notification on the day before forwarding was made a standard practice, it would allow companies and logistics providers to harness a great deal of untapped efficiency and sustainability potential,” says Schilling.

Having data available the day prior to forwarding triggers a notification that would make it possible to create a scheduling forecast, increasing efficiency in all the downstream processes in the groupage network—from procuring load capacity all the way to final delivery. Earlier availability of such data would also pave the way for AI and predictive analytics applications in the future.

At DACHSER, notification is sent on the day before pickup for around 20 percent of industrial goods shipments in Europe. In food logistics, this figure is already as high as 67 percent—but even here there is still considerable room for improvement.

To prepare for the market’s growing requirements profile, DACHSER is investing in its scheduling systems and, as part of the Idea2net Short Distance 2.0 project, systematically orienting their functionalities toward the processing of early planning data. Following a comprehensive overhaul of its scheduling software tools, the company already rolled some out in 2019. More large-scale developments are set to follow in 2020 and beyond.

The aim is to expand, automate, and simplify data-driven scheduling. This way, the inbound branch receives information about when incoming goods are expected from the delivering branch in the late afternoon as opposed to midnight, as was the case before. The software generates an advance, provisional schedule at the push of a button, which the dispatcher can then optimise. An application that provides information about opening hours, delivery conditions, and delivery restrictions is also linked to the scheduling tool.

Starting in 2020, DACHSER will introduce state-of-the-art handheld devices for drivers, which will further accelerate data collection and transfer. As a result, drivers will also become part of the information and planning process.

However, faster notifications are only one part of the equation and better data quality is key.  “Digitized systems cannot generate optimum results if the data you feed them is incomplete or contains errors,” Schilling explains. “If we want to increase planning transparency and efficiency, logistics providers and customers also need to work on the quality of data.”

Tristan Wiggill
Special Features Editor at Business Fleet Africa