• Transportation

Smart Mobility Driving Greater Visibility in the Transportation and Logistics Sector

Written by Robert Brice
April 20, 2017

Greater visibility into metrics such as travel time can pay dividends in warehouse settings.

Greater visibility into metrics such as travel time can pay dividends in warehouse settings.

Emerging connected technologies, ranging from Internet of Things sensors to IP-enabled vehicles and fleet tracking systems, are coming together to transform the entire transportation industry. As these solutions drive innovation, organizations have an opportunity to revisit how they measure and evaluate travel time across their supply chains in order to optimize operations. As momentum surrounding intelligent transportation systems rises, businesses that consider how these technologies can disrupt their supply chain and distribution strategies and gain more visibility into operations.

Smart Mobility Projects Gaining Momentum

Many intelligent mobility design projects are getting off the ground around the country. A Logistics 24/7 report detailing these developments explained that smart mobility efforts could end up having a major positive impact on the supply chain and logistics sectors. Essentially, gaining more visibility into data within transportation infrastructure can give organizations an increased awareness of how their supply chains operate, providing a greater degree of transparency into travel times for their products.

Looking at the Importance of Travel Times

A report from The Moderate Voice highlighted that travel time is among the elements of warehouse management that leaders can optimize to improve efficiency. While this look at travel time emphasized the importance of considering how products move within the warehouse and organizing facility floor space accordingly, a broader perspective on the issue highlights how changes in smart mobility are creating travel time optimization opportunities.

The growing digital economy is creating a world in which consumers can increasingly expect to get just about anything they want with almost immediate results. Beyond digital goods and services, emerging e-commerce models are providing rapid order processing and quick delivery. All told, there’s a growing expectation that organizations should be able to process an order and get items out to customers in a matter of days. This same expectation of speed is emerging in sectors such as manufacturing, where technologies ranging from additive manufacturing to robotics are pushing organizations to coordinate their supply chain and production activities with a greater degree of precision.

All of these issues add up to create a situation in which travel time is critical. If raw materials are taking too long to get to the warehouse – or simply being shipped with any degree of unpredictability – the warehouse’s ability to accurately maintain supply for the production team diminishes. If warehouse routes aren’t optimized to account for drones and humans working side by side, warehouse operators may struggle to keep up with the momentum surrounding robotics. All of these changes are being driven by a simple but undeniable revolution taking place in modern businesses – greater access to a wider range of data is making it easier to coordinate distinct parts of the organization to allow for more precise operations.

When a vendor reports a delay in getting materials, that information can be pulled from an enterprise resource planning system and sent as an alert to warehouse managers, sales teams and production leaders. As these individuals get the data they need, they can adjust their decisions and plans accordingly. Now consider this situation when it comes to travel times. Imagine getting alerts when a shipment is delayed by a few hours because of traffic. This type of smart mobility function can extend out to tracking conditions during shipment for regulated projects, providing up-to-the-minute visibility into shipment times so warehouse teams can plan for product arrivals and reduce time when items are at rest instead of traveling efficiently to their destinations.

Data is changing the dynamics of travel time by giving warehouse leaders more areas to measure. Instead of simply assessing time from shelf to delivery, they can now assess the entire supply chain alongside the warehouse to consider the full scope of travel time and optimize end-to-end resource and product delivery.

Using Data to Gain Travel Time Visibility

Gaining a more refined view of travel time across the entire supply chain is possible through a variety of digital tools that come together to collect and organize data from different user groups. Gathering this information in the first place is increasingly commonplace. Barcode scanners track goods moving through the warehouse, similar monitoring solutions can track items in transit and provide key metrics. The challenge is not so much in acquiring that data, but is instead based on getting the information to the right people in a convenient way. This is where smartphones are transforming supply chain operations, and data integration and process automation solutions are ensuring relevant data can get to mobile users when and where they need it.

Mobile data collection and integration solutions are empowering organizations to establish the kind of interconnectedness needed to bring all of the data end users need to the mobile devices they are using on a day-to-day basis. As smart mobility systems emerge, businesses have an opportunity to tap the data being generated within their logistics network to give the warehouse a clear idea of what it can expect in terms of deliveries into and out of the facility. As the logistics industry embraces mobile data collection and distribution, businesses can incorporate that data into operations to understand the wide range of factors contributing to travel time performance.

As warehouse leaders face more pressure to improve operations and operate in more precise ways, they can use greater visibility into key metrics to create new efficiency opportunities within the business. Travel time has long played an essential role in warehouse efficiency efforts, and greater data connectivity can enable organizations to broaden how they look at metrics like travel time to establish even greater levels of efficiency.