With today’s smartphones, you can sharpen your game by juggling a multitude of tasks each day without letting anything slip through the cracks. How could you handle hundreds of emails, phone calls, text messages and meeting schedules each day without it? Improved mobile coverage and Wi-Fi connectivity make sure that you are connected at all times to all of this necessary information. When you travel on business, various apps — weather, maps, music, clock, camera, GPS, QR Reader, games, and airline apps — make sure that you get to your destination efficiently. Some of us who like to stay ahead of the workload use social media tools to answer LinkedIn requests, Facebook questions, and review new Twitter messages for our business. If you are meeting an important client for dinner in a neutral city, you can check reviews on Yelp for a great local restaurant and schedule dinner reservations using your smartphone. The list of possibilities goes on and on, and it is hard to believe this has all happened within the last few years.
Many of your more sophisticated logistics operations have also enjoyed improved efficiency from local voice and mobile devices that scan moving inventory to update your cross-docks, warehouses, and transportation management systems. Even the top 25 supply chains in the world have small suppliers, small carriers, freight forwarders, subcontractors, brokers, and drayage carriers that may not be able to connect via 40-year-old EDI messages or 9-year-old AS2 (soon to be AS3) transfers. Blind spots in logistics always lead to increased uncertainty, which then leads to increased safety stock and carrying costs. Small suppliers in China or other parts of the world with 150 day lead times drive warehouse workers and the people scheduling a retailer’s store promotions crazy when a dozen ocean containers show up without any advance notice. Small carriers that provide excellent service to their shippers may not have systems in place to accept EDI 204 tender messages and provide EDI 214 status updates, but their drivers do have smartphones in their pockets. With the upcoming driver shortage forecast, we will need smartphones to facilitate communications and improve our partnerships.
The recent convergence of smartphone technology, cloud computing, and cutting edge logistics technology providers working with industry experts is quickly removing the roadblocks of the past. Logistics technology providers are now delivering social technologies to enhance the capabilities of smartphones by allowing the sharing of purchase orders, acceptance/adjustments to orders, manufacturing dates, departure times, shipment status updates, tracking the shipment on a map, and capturing proof of delivery signatures from carriers all enabled on a smartphone app. If you have a damaged shipment you can use your smartphone to attach a photo, video, and claims document to that particular shipment for all global participants involved with the shipment to see and make necessary comments in real time. Smartphones can also enable small carriers to quickly accept loads on their mobile device and allow the GPS to provide status updates on their shipments, thus improving efficiency and customer service.
So, if your teenagers can use “Find My Friend” to get precise smartphone GPS updates every 15 seconds of where all their buddies are located, then we should all strive to pinpoint our shipments, trigger alerts, and calculate ETA’s before these teenagers enter the workplace and roll their eyes at us. The next time you go on a family trip be thankful for the guidance system in your vehicle or on your smartphone as the kids can calculate the answer to “Are we there yet?” or even better, you can avoid the “Are we taking the scenic route again?” question by not getting lost while you are worried about your logistics operation while you are away.
Mark Nix serves as Cloud Logistics‘ chief executive officer and a member of the Board of Directors. Mr. Nix has 28 years of supply chain software experience in helping clients of every size address their global needs. Mr. Nix serves as a Partner with Nix Venture Partners, is on the Board of Directors with the One Step Closer Foundation, and advises various charities. Mr. Nix served as VP of Major Account Sales at Manhattan Associates, an EVP with One Network Enterprises, and worked with IBM’s Nistevo division, Metasys, and the TranScape/Vocam/PBTS divisions of PBI. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from The University of Tennessee.