Logistics technology plays a critical role in enhancing supply chain resilience, but adopting it can be a challenging process.
In the wake of multiple disruptions to global supply chains over the last few years, a variety of technologies has emerged to help business leaders achieve resilience.
Visibility to shipments in transit and their accompanying data is among the essential elements of supply chain resilience. For shippers, there are a variety of mature real-time transportation visibility platforms (RTTVPs) from which to choose. Yet these platforms are only as good as the data they receive from the shipper’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The old adage, “garbage in, garbage out,” certainly applies here. Integration middleware can play a critical role in aggregating, cleansing and normalizing data, so that it can feed RTTVPs or funnel into dashboards and reporting.
For years, shippers have sought predictive analytics to aid in forecasting future events based on past data. Today’s artificial intelligence-powered logistics technology tools take prognostication a step further, promising prescriptive analytics that make specific recommendations based on available datasets.
Both predictive and prescriptive analytics models can be supported by digital twin technology, which uses virtual models of systems, processes and physical objects to simulate their real-world counterparts in real time. Digital twin technology allows supply chain practitioners to postulate millions of “what-if” questions, and game out likely scenarios.
The double-edged sword of technology has also created new opportunities for cybercriminals, both individuals and state actors, to wreak havoc on supply chains through phishing, ransomware and many other schemes.
Cybersecurity measures that draw on AI, such as managed detection and response (MDR) and endpoint detection and response (EDR), allow companies to quickly detect, analyze and respond to cyberthreats. Shippers should ensure that all third-party service providers are SOC 2 compliant, and that critical systems such as their ERP and transportation management systems have strong failovers, disaster recovery servers and encryption. In addition to these measures, shippers must ensure that all employees undergo ongoing cybersecurity training and testing.
Even the best logistics technology tools only work when they have been implemented across an organization. Technology adoption is a perennial challenge in any company. Before embarking on a new project, consider the following approaches to driving adoption that can set you up for success.
Get strategic. The first step in driving technology adoption starts long before the project kickoff. The system that you plan to introduce to your organization should fit into an overarching technology strategy that’s tied into the larger business strategy. By clearly communicating how new technology will advance the goals of the business, you can help employees see the bigger picture. Be sure to communicate how it will benefit your employees and customers, through enhanced efficiency, customer service and satisfaction.
Make a test flight. Before rolling out a technology enterprise-wide, consider a smaller, more limited pilot program. Select a core group of users to test the new tech and report back with potential issues and suggestions for improvement prior to full-scale launch. In doing so, you will also build a group of product champions who can help drive adoption by sharing their positive, hands-on experience of the new tech with their colleagues.
Cue the training montage. Once you’re ready for rollout, it’s critical that you develop a training plan for your employees. Training not only helps users understand how the new technology works; it can also drive adherence to desired processes and procedures. Think of training and feedback as an ongoing process, not a single event. Throughout the training process, emphasize the benefits of adoption and reiterate how the new technology will help your employees achieve their business objectives. Solicit feedback from employees throughout and after the training period, to get ideas for finetuning your approach in the future.
Cultivate partnerships. Broaden your knowledge base by sharing best practices and collaborating with industry peers through conferences, events and other industry forums. In certain instances, partnering with a fourth-party logistics (4PL) provider may be the best approach.
Build culture. To maintain a competitive edge in an ever-changing global marketplace, shippers must embrace logistics technology and the adoption challenges that go with it. Successful execution will not only improve adoption rates, but will contribute to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Think of it as a virtuous cycle in which your employees are empowered to surface innovative ideas, while the IT and dev team delivers technology that makes their jobs easier, and customers happier.
Rob Cook is chief technology officer at Sheer Logistics.