Connect, Secure, and Manage the Supply Chain

Q: How are transport and logistics firms using mobility to improve employee engagement?

A: Mobility once meant giving each driver a cell phone. Today, however, connected devices with communication applications allow drivers to get news and road updates, connect with family, and do business anywhere and anytime. By accessing training programs while waiting for a pickup, for example, drivers are more productive, and have more time for family when at home.

Mobile broadband enables field personnel by providing secure access to business applications, expert analysis, and data on inventories, parts availability, and procurement. Broader wireless connectivity helps keep drivers on the grid. Effectively engaging remote employees can improve morale, and potentially reduce turnover.

Q: What’s the latest thinking on leveraging sensors to monitor and secure shipment integrity?

A: RFID, bar-code scanners, shipment-aware sensor devices, and other mobile technologies are helping secure and more effectively manage the supply chain.

Logistics providers then require an effective strategy to manage this content-rich data to help predict potential service issues, and detect possible tampering with freight or fleet systems.

In the event of a security breach or other emergency, mobile systems can forward automatic alerts and location data to service technicians or first responders.

Q: How are companies using telematics to improve business operations?

A: The convergence of communications and information processing is changing the nature of supply chain operations. Next-generation telematics is revolutionizing fleet management. With three million-plus long-haul drivers in the United States alone, many still report driving hours using paper, pens, and fax machines. Newer applications automatically track drive times and distances, create log files, and forward those to dispatch.

Predictive analytics leverages data on driving patterns, weather, traffic, and even employee lifestyles to help reduce transport-related accidents. Original equipment manufacturers increasingly use telematics to capture engine-related prognostic data, which can predict and prevent roadside breakdowns.

These technologies are now also being applied across the supply chain and logistics spectrum, from managing freight costs to jobs brokering and dynamic insurance pricing. While most fleets operate on razor-thin margins, the total cost of telematics systems—including hardware, software, and mobile network data—is coming down.

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