Technology in 3PLs: the future is now!

The global supply chain changes abruptly every day without even noticing it, adding complexity to the roles of their Third-Party logistics providers (3PLs) and shippers. The “I want it now” environment, built-in primarily out of the so-called Amazon Effect, is creating opportunities for those 3PLs willing to change and adapt to meet those consumer demands.

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 The diversity of means required to track products from the manufacturer to the consumer, particularly with international supply chains, is costly and prohibitive for many businesses. Still, investments in 3PL technology proved to be so rewarding and profitable that advances and progress towards an unique, efficient supply chain, is becoming accessible to more and more regions of the world.

 

Why is technology important in business?

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 Technological advances in the past few decades have increased the competitive nature of the economic business world, forcing businesses to remain flexible, adapting their operations to newer and better technological development.

Companies transformed their firms from local, to national, and ultimately global market competitors due to the use of softwares, computers and, of course, Internet. Many businesses responded to these changes by automating their business processes and capturing industry-related information, using it to their advantage.

Nowadays, customers expect Third-Party Logistic providers to offer advanced and adaptable solution offerings, allowing them to compete on a higher plane than just price. In turn, this enables more efficient and flexible operations and provides stronger returns for end clients.

 

What are the benefits of technology?

Getting in today’s business world doesn’t only mean being the broadest company, or operating with the latest, most contemporary technology. But it does mean choosing the right technology equipment to impact your business’ daily operations profoundly. Here are some benefits that will help you make the best decision:

 

  • Better interaction and reporting functions

Technology plays an important role when assisting companies that have multiple locations, whether it’s national or global. Better communication services are implemented, allowing businesses to cut through new economic markets without sacrificing established processes, workforce, logistics, among other assets. Plus, companies can capture information and produce extremely detailed reports for specific strategies or actions, dramatically improving results after any business decision. This is also catalyzed by the constant development and implementation of better Management Information Systems (MIS).

Take a look at the increase in vehicle communications in 3PLs. Some time ago, the only contact between a driver and the home base was after an action took place or when there was a problem. Nowadays, shippers communicate with their drivers in real-time while paying closer attention to vehicle operations, routing, and scheduling, among other Key Performance Indicators.

 

  • Improved business mobility

Nowadays, we can see a significant improvement in companies' sales and service departments due to mobility technology. Employees are allowed to use personal electronic devices creating sales displays and transmitting orders and customer information to the home office, shortening the lead time companies spend on receiving and delivering goods or services. Besides, employees can work from home, using their own personal computers, connected to the company’s cloud-based services, reducing any fixed expenses from a large corporate office.

 

  • Business productivity 

Online business productivity and project management softwares enable managers to track progress, offering immediate reinforcement or coaching to keep performance and deadlines on track. Greater business efficiency is achieved, as your organization is staffed with a workforce of people who are constantly learning new skills and being challenged to do their very best. When it comes to the people who work for you, take note that inspired, motivated, and happy employees will work harder. Remember to encourage your staff by rewarding them for their successes, using both monetary and non-monetary incentives!

Furthermore, you may sometimes need to redirect employees to different departments, if you feel their business productivity could increase somewhere else. If there are impediments to better performance, the company should review why it is happening and try to eliminate these through better allocation of resources or additional training.

 In Third-Party Logistics, technology enhances transportation of products inside their warehouse. As a result, repetitive-task-like jobs disappear, inefficient work is avoided due to motivated and skillful employees and efficiency increases.

 

  • Communication

Companies must interact with clients clearly and quickly. Websites and digital marketing, for example, not only provide a quicker interaction within employers and customers, but also allow clients to find answers to their questions on a timely manner. Another example could be the fast shipment options, which would enable firms to move products over a large geographic area, and in a faster way. Plus, the better the communication, the stronger your PR strategy!

 

  • Security

Technology can be used to protect financial data, confidential executive decisions and other proprietary information that leads to competitive advantages. It might sound simple, but a business can’t ensure none of its forthcoming projects will be copied by the competition, if they get access to their computers with passwords. So, we can say that technology helps businesses keeping their ideas away from their competition.

eBay reported a cyberattack in 2014. The names, addresses, dates of birth and encrypted passwords of its million users were exposed. The multinational e-commerce indicated that hackers got into the company network using the credentials of three corporate employees, and had complete inside access for seven and a half months. eBay told its customers to change their passwords, but said financial information, such as credit card numbers, were stored separately and was not compromised.

 

  • Financial Record-Keeping

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small and largecompanies use advanced software programs to manage accounting and finance tasks. It minimizes manual processes, reduces costs, and protects your company against human errors using technology to handle financial data record-keeping..

Did you know? Companies often use programs that sync accounting with point-of-sale terminals and bookkeeping programs, sothat each purchase or sales transaction is automatically captured in an accounting platform.

As you can see, technology transformed the social and business environment, dealing with methods or tools used to gather, manipulate, store and communicate information. Many firms have implemented technology designed for personal use to reduce business costs and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of production methods. 

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Technology in 3PLs

The use of technology helps Third-Party Logistics be more sophisticated about how they anticipate and adapt to a possible change in the supply chain dynamics. Plus, technology provides logistic partners forecasts, or at least recognizes when exceptional events occur. Let’s take a look at some advantages that high tech offers to Third-Party Logistic businesses.

 

  • Inventory management

Technology can be used (and helpful) to achieve an organized warehouse. Most of the inventory processes used in 3PLs are automated - matching computer information to inventory storage spaces helps associates pull stock as fast as possible, and companies can quickly compare inventory when receiving it to order sizes on the computer screen. So, as you can see, organized, efficient inventory control helps minimizing costs while achieving better customer service.

 

  • Efficiency of operations

Technology is the best in assisting businesses to understand its cash flow needs. Besides, it preserves resources such as time, or physical space. Business owners understand how best to handle the storage costs of holding a product thanks to warehouse inventory technologies. With proper technology in place, executives can save time and money. How? Well, for example, holding meetings over the Internet instead of corporate headquarters.

 

  • Platform Approach

Platform-based technology assists companies to overcome the challenges and complexities of the modern-day supply chain management, giving users a high-level view over their supply chains and allowing them to a better function in the multichannel world. As we said before, complete visibility into your inventory will help you identify your needs, such as reducing stock without compromising customer service.

 

  • Mobile Supply Chain Management

Another way to improve efficiencies and reduce costs is to take advantage of new supply chain mobility devices and applications, especially at a time when the world is becoming increasingly mobile-centric.

If you are struggling with all this innovative technologies, check out this example. A mobile supply chain management app CAN help you with a wide range of activities, such as:

  • Inventory management
  • Order fulfillment
  • Reduced operational expenses
  • Transportation costs
  • Improved warehouse efficiency

 

So, as you can see, Mobile Supply Chain Management can be extremely helpful when it comes to saving time and increasing labor productivity.

 

What should you look for in a supply chain management mobile app?

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  • Real-time Data

Your management app should provide capabilities for real-time data management, providing complete visibility into your supply chain. Transaction accuracy can be improved with real-time data validation, where customers are able to track their delivery in real-time, and therefore, improving the customer experience.

 

  • GPS Tracking

A Global Positioning System in 3PLs is crucial, especially when it comes to transport. Monitoring vehicles and deliveries provide dispatchers more timely and accurate information regarding their assets. Real-time traffic updates and optimized delivery routes can help cut costs and even improve drivers’ safety.

 

  • Asset Tracking

Asset tracking and inventory management is another benefit that these apps guarantee. Mobile barcoding solutions enable better tracking and management - your products move through the supply chain and can drive inefficiencies out of existing, outdated processes. Real-time inventory updates, for example, can provide accurate information to customers about item and quantity availability. Consequently, data entry errors can be reduced.

 

  • Shipment Tracking

Shipping data, including shipment monitoring and tracing, getting rate quotes, and receiving shipment notifications are vital in Third-Party Logistics. With added visibility into your supply chain and control over drop shipments, you can improve your lot traceability and reduce shipping errors. Ultimately, costs are significantly reduced, and customer service is improved.

Meeting the demands of an ever-changing global marketplace is a challenge for many businesses. Changes in the transportation landscape, advancements in technology and globalization force business leaders to analyze their operations and achieve new efficiencies in order to minimize risks.

 

Want some advice? Work with partners who understand the capabilities of new technologies and can guide you in making the best decision for your business.

 

Adopting technology within your organization is a big step, but if done correctly, it can turn into an enormous improvement of your overall supply chain performance and increase of your bottom line goals. So, embrace technology with your arms and eyes wide open!

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