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Unified Communications’ benefits for the transportation and logistics sector

Unified Communications are used globally
Picture: FreeImages.com/ilker

In an effort to improve margins and profitability, organisations within the transport and logistics sector are constantly faced with pressure to improve efficiencies and move cargo faster. Telematics, coupled with seamless integration between various third party systems, are the ideal solution to achieving this goal. Reducing cost is another common pressure.

However, it is often far more difficult to achieve, as many of the costs involved with transport and logistics are out of the control of operators. In order to achieve the necessary cost reductions, operators need to look outside of these fixed costs, and communication is one area where significant savings can be realised.

Harnessing the power of hosted Unified Communications can help transport and logistics operators to significantly reduce costs, which then goes straight towards improving the bottom line. While variable costs such as fuel, tolls, and the fixed number of vehicles owned or leased cannot be changed, the cost of communication is one area that is often overlooked.

Communication is an essential component of any transport or logistics enterprise, from customer interaction to communication between drivers, from keeping up to date on the whereabouts of cargo to informing the necessary parties of any issues such as unforeseen delays.

In the commercial sector, hosted or cloud-based Unified Communications is seeing significant uptake because of its ability to improve operations and reduce costs. In conjunction with a dynamic workplace solution, cloud-based Unified Communications can also be used to support mobility, enabling staff to work from any location and access the required corporate information to enable improved productivity.

Unified Communications integrates traditional and IP-based voice solutions and also incorporates non-real-time solutions like email, SMS, voicemail and fax.

Unified Communications integrates traditional and IP-based voice solutions with various real-time enterprise communication services, including chat and instant messaging, mobility, audio and video conferencing, data sharing and collaboration, as well as presence information. It also incorporates non-real-time solutions like email, SMS, voicemail and fax.

Unified Communications is not a single product, but a suite of products that can be tailored according to the needs of the customer and delivered through a unified interface across multiple devices. Utilising the benefits of dynamic cloud-based delivery, hosted Unified Communications can deliver multiple advantages.

As with any cloud service, there is a lower total cost of ownership with hosted Unified Communications, as organisations do not have to pay for infrastructure, licensing, maintenance and so on. The potential saving around infrastructure alone is approximately 25%.

Dynamic cloud services are also delivered on a subscription basis, so organisations only pay for what they use, and can scale according to requirements without being locked into long-term contracts. In addition, moving Unified Communications into the cloud reduces the requirement for skilled resources in-house.

By using hosted Unified Communications through a service provider, transport and logistics companies can take advantage of up to 30% savings around the cost of voice calls, which can be significant.

Furthermore, utilising the advanced economies of scale and relationships of an expert service provider can deliver further cost savings, as it is often possible to leverage bulk discounts around voice interconnect rates. By using hosted Unified Communications through a service provider, transport and logistics companies can take advantage of up to 30% savings around the cost of voice calls, which can be significant.

Unified Communications at work with microwave towers
Picture: FreeImages.com/Jan Roger Johannesen

For example, a call to a driver’s cell phone can be made from head office without incurring the traditional costs of fixed-line to mobile. Conversely, the driver can easily call their logistics controller from their cell without incurring the traditional costs too. If they are not able to get hold of the required person, a voice mail message can be sent as a voice clip via email-to-email if the person’s cell is off.

This is available for as little as R120 per user. Hosted Unified Communications also helps to support the distributed workforce, which is particularly beneficial in the transport and logistics sector as drivers are typically spread over wide geographical regions. Providing mobility and Unified Communications solutions can enable the entire workforce to keep in constant communication, allowing drivers to be rerouted if necessary, immediate relaying of pertinent information, such as delays to shipments being unloaded and more.

Unified Communications can be used for example, experts assisting in mechanical problems via video communications

In addition, Unified Communications can be used for many other applications. For example, should a vehicle break down, the driver can access an expert such as a mechanic via video to help them fix the problem, without the mechanic having to physically travel to the site. If the mechanic does need to travel to the break-down site, they have been given a far clearer picture of the problem and can improve efficiency by ensuring they have the right tools and parts to fix the problem without delay.

Unified Communications can also become a competitive differentiator, as it enables transport and logistics organisations to improve on their customers’ experience. Maintaining tighter control and constant communication over the entire logistics supply chain means that customers can be kept informed, notified of any delays and the reason for delays.

Leveraging the benefits of Unified Communications can help transport and logistics companies to reduce costs and improve efficiencies, which both translate into an improved bottom line. Ultimately, such solutions are not about technology, but how organisations can benefit by becoming more competitive with a solution that enables business processes to be more efficient.

By Michael Frans, Head of Business Development: Business Operations Automotive at T-Systems in South Africa

 
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