July 2002 | Commentary | IT Matters

Transforming Companies and Services on the Web

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Developments in information technology are transforming the logistics industry by expanding the capabilities of logistics providers and enabling them to automate services to enhance customer support.

Using the web, a logistics company can offer a variety of services and information to you without requiring them to invest in special software programs. Logistics services providers are realizing improvements in productivity by eliminating the need for employees to spend time on the phone accessing required information.

Safety Comes First

You'll want to choose a logistics provider that has invested in making its web site accommodating and easy to use. Does your provider offer a secure online environment? Make sure the web site has security checks to eliminate hacking, data entry errors, and duplication.

With a secure site in place, your provider can make available numerous logistics processes and reports online. These include:

Track, trace, and proof-of-delivery functionalities are key logistics information tools easily made available via the web. Users can log into a password-protected portal and view detailed reports on the status of a shipment or strategically stored inventory.

The best reports will provide real-time status of shipments in transit, estimated time of arrival, and any field engineering or system configuration work that is required.

Proof-of-delivery—with signature, date, and time—is also important information to provide in the report.

An online waybill is another customer-centric feature logistics providers often make accessible through a web platform. This feature lets shippers create their own waybills and offers the flexibility to initiate shipments at anytime or anywhere, given the appropriate setup.

Adding flexible features further enhances online service. For example, drop-down menus minimize data entry errors and make it easier and more convenient to use. Customers should be able to create their waybill number or use a pre-selected one. Free-text fields should be provided for special instructions and information.

A detailed history of equipment usage is also helpful to include online, particularly if equipment, such as a demonstration machine, is moved frequently. This report is beneficial because it enables you to determine when a machine needs to be serviced or taken out of circulation and tagged for sale.

Less Means More

Increasingly, businesses want to work with fewer vendors—but vendors that provide more services. Your logistics providers can accommodate these demands in the form of technical support and system configuration via the Internet.

For example, in the case of complicated electronic or medical equipment, getting it to its destination is only the first step. The end user needs to have the equipment installed, tested, and running.

Often, users need training. The manufacturer can send its own reps around the country to do this, but it's an inefficient use of time. Equipment could conceivably sit idle for a few days or weeks, costing companies potential revenue.

By contrast, a provider can post complete instructions to install, test, and configure equipment on its web site. The provider can even offer training via e-learning—easily and inexpensively creating a nationwide network of trained technicians to perform these various tasks. This streamlined service allows the customer to schedule shipping, installation, and testing of equipment with one point of contact. The logistics provider can coordinate the delivery and installation to occur together and offer a complete record for the customer at one location online.

Embracing Change

Utilizing web-based information technology, logistics companies are expanding services and offering better reporting and communications for their customers. The web has also evolved as a tool for training technicians and delivery personnel to offer enhanced customer service.

Technology is revolutionizing the logistics industry just as it is every other industry today. Smart logistics providers are embracing this change and using technology to transform themselves and the services they provide their customers.

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