With the globalisation of the logistics industry, the supply chain has become increasingly complex. In turn, this has placed pressure on companies in the sector to streamline their processes in order to meet customer demands.
What has made life somewhat easier for these companies is the array of software solutions that are currently on the market. Not a day goes by without a press release dropping into my inbox about a company implementing a piece of software that in some way refines their internal or external operations.
Sifting through these press releases, it is clear there are a diverse range of solutions available for every part of the supply chain; from shipping software, mobile resource management (MRM) to route optimization software, companies now have the ability to create more visible operations.
The significant array of software products on offer is rather dazzling but there is no doubt that they bring results.
Antony Bourne is Global Industry Sales Director at IFS and has first-hand experience of the logistics software market. IFS develops, supplies and implements its own ERP suite, IFS Applications™.
Bourne reminds us that only a few years back, companies had information stored on various spreadsheets in different systems, in several countries. “To be able to have an application that can collate them into a single report gives management and C-level executives a lot more confidence in the data that they’re viewing because they know it comes from one source,” he explains. “Therefore, there are fewer errors, or fewer opportunities for errors, in that data.”
He maintains that what it comes down to is cost and visibility.
Last month, Willow Foods, a supplier of goods to professional caterers, implemented Solarsoft Dashboard technology in a bid to improve management information. The Dashboard software provides users with access to performance data, thereby opening up visibility. Willow Foods explained in a press release that its reason for utilizing such technology was to get an accurate picture of business activity.
“Our Solarsoft ERP system holds an enormous amount of valuable information, but we wanted to look deeper into the data that it stores,” commented Managing Director, Malcolm Acott.
The Dashboard system provides a summary analysis in graphic form, so that users can see what is happening in the business, according to the company. “This allows us to devise more effective sales strategies and to improve our internal processes which impacts on profitability,” Acott adds.
“Everyone always wants to keep costs down, whether there’s a recession or not,” replies Bourne when asked if he thinks the recession has prompted an increase in the adoption of logistics software.
Reaping the rewards
He cites one of IFS’s own customers as an example of using software to cut costs. “Bristan, who supply taps and showers, utilized external transport systems and applications linked into the IFS application to allow them to be more efficient in sending their despatches out every day – they don’t want to have the burden of carrying their own fleet,” he says. “That could be related to the recession.
“They’ve certainly seen their business grow and been able to utilize more functionality with IFS to enable that as well.”
With regards to how long it takes for such software to demonstrate savings for any one company depends on many factors. It also depends on how those reductions in spend are measured.
There are also green implications to consider. The pressure is now on transportation companies to prove their green credentials. By implementing track and trace, and routing software, many businesses can better measure their carbon footprint and be proactive in minimizing it.
Bourne believes this is where logistics software could have the greatest impact and is an area of concern for IFS’s customers. “Everybody wants to know that their products are being handled in a sustainable way and they’re being transported in a sustainable way,” he explains.
While Bourne is reluctant to say that companies may go out of business if they fail to keep up with the latest software innovations, it is likely that they will need to respond quickly to the latest software developments.
“The implication is that there is going to be pressure,” he adds. “If they can’t plug in some external logistics software into their current one, or use their existing applications, then businesses are going to lose market share.”
The logistics industry is, by its very nature, a global sector. And it is one in which visibility is vital to the success of any operation; not only internal visibility, but increasingly consumers are demanding that they know where there delivery is at any time. Factor into that the sustainability issue, and logistics is an industry that can undoubtedly benefit from the utilization of the most up-to-date software.