Originally published in MHD Supply Chain Solutions magazine in the September October 2016 edition.
Ensuring delivery of goods securely, as ordered and on time is not without its challenges. Last minute changes, unexpected delays or accidents on the road can all impact performance and these incidents are common.
The continuing expansion of e-commerce solutions, improved transport infrastructure and technology innovation in delivery processing have all increased expectations of consumers and businesses alike that they can get almost anything, any time they want.
In its 2016 State of Shipping in Commerce report, shipping and fulfillment platform Temando showed that 85 per cent of Australians expect to see the window between point-of-purchase and shipping shrink considerably as well having more same day and ‘hyper-local’ delivery services to provide product within one to three hours. The report also found 75 per cent of consumers want guaranteed weekend or after-hours shipping to fit in with their lifestyle.
Australia’s freight and logistics industry – which makes up for approximately 10 per cent of GDP according to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development – is tasked with meeting demands like these and helping to keep customers happy. Businesses that don’t simply won’t be able to keep up with the pack.
Communication leading to better productivity
The importance of communication in meeting customer demand cannot be understated. Two-way radios have long been a staple communications companion across the freight and logistics sector, but their value in achieving productivity and safety goals has significantly increased through modern digital mobile radio (DMR) applications that make two-way radios fully-featured digital devices.
Businesses now have access to hundreds of business-compatible apps to connect their smart devices, use GPS tracking, manage fleet operations, manage job tickets, raise an alarm, locate and monitor the health of workers and more.
The ultimate business benefit from all of these apps is a more efficient way to get deliveries from point A to point B.
Consider this scenario. An important customer needs to reroute a shipment already in transit to a warehouse on the other side of the city. The dispatch supervisor immediately locates the truck via GPS tracking software and advises the driver of the destination change. The app identifies high levels of traffic on the primary route so the supervisor redirects the driver, thereby reducing delivery time and potentially saving fuel costs.
Fully informed, the driver sets the new route on his or her GPS tracker when pulled over and the load is safely on its way to the new destination.
These modern apps can also facilitate the trend of freight and logistics workers using their own smart devices on the job. Push-to-talk apps can be installed on smart phones, tablets or other devices that securely integrate with the two-way radio network. These apps can also connect landline phones and desktop computers, meaning personnel can stay connected in on a variety of devices.
Time and cost savings
Wentworth Carrying is one business to have experienced the benefits of DMR technology improving business efficiency in a number of ways.
“The system has lightened the workload of the drivers,” says owner-operator Angela Chambers. “I can guide a driver to the destination over the radio if need be, rather than having the driver pull over to use the map.
“This system is definitely more efficient and the cost savings are across the board. We’ve not only saved on mobile phones costs, we save time, which is a big factor, by making everything quicker and easier. A job which used to take one hour now takes nowhere near that time. It’s hard to put a monetary amount on the value because there’s so much time saved as well.”
While the primary objective of workplace safety measures is to prevent injuries to workers, having fewer accidents and handling them better when they do occur also contributes to more timely and successful deliveries.
‘Man Down’ apps have the potential to save drivers’ lives by alerting headquarters to incidents as they occur. If a DMR radio is tilted beyond 45 degrees for more than 90 seconds – potentially indicating the user has fallen or become incapacitated – an alarm is triggered and GPS tracking automatically notifies headquarters, pinpointing the exact location of the driver.
Lone worker apps build further on this idea. Instead of routinely making voice calls on the radio this app automatically alerts workers to simply press a button on the radio to confirm they are alright. This provides a safe and reliable way for drivers to routinely check in on the road.
Using voice call recording, logistics companies can also monitor staff to ensure they’re working safely. This is particularly valuable after an incident occurs when learnings need to be captured to drive future safety improvements.
The Australian Logistics Council predicts Australia’s freight task will triple by 2050. This phenomenal growth coupled with growing customer expectations of on time delivery will put considerable pressure of distribution and 3PL organisations. Companies which can leverage their existing investments in digital radio to deliver new capabilities will be well placed to succeed in a future defined by digital disruption.
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