Like many business functions and processes, logistics management is a strong candidate for achieving significant improvements and optimization with the use of technology. Automation is essential when it comes to addressing the complexity of managing materials, products, shipping, billing, inventory, and production.
The explosive growth of Ecommerce requires the digitization of processes and resources to effectively compete and produce profits. Removing the risk of human error is critical when it comes to meeting rising customer demands and profitability. Additionally, the valuable insights revealed from processing and analyzing collected data, leads to further operational, product and service improvements.
Since each company has specific processes, it’s key to partner with a provider that has significant experience in developing logistics software. First Line Software (website) is one of those companies. In addition to our expert abilities as a software development company, it is also partners with leading software and system providers to perform customized implementation of warehouse management systems such as Viastore Systems.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the specific requirements for logistics and supply chain management software. But first, we’ll start with a review of what challenges are associated with logistics and supply chain management. Then we’ll explain how technology addresses those risks and challenges.
What is Logistics Management?
Logistics management falls under the domain of a supply chain “which is a network between a company and its suppliers to produce and distribute a specific product to the final buyer” according to Investopedia.
There are many functions performed under the umbrella of logistics management and operations:
- Materials sourcing
- Materials procurement
- Inventory control and management
- Production planning
- Production process
- Dispatch and communications
All these functions represent many moving parts that must be coordinated to seamlessly progress from one process to another. That’s where technology can play a critical role.
Challenges with Logistics Management
Logistics is a complex operation that requires a great deal of precision to ensure the efficiency of all functions across the life cycle. Performing these functions manually increases the risk of human error and can cause delays in production, preparing products for shipping and customer delivery.
Then there are the fluctuating costs of fuel, energy, shipping and labor. Dynamic market conditions are more likely to drive those costs up versus down.
Another challenge is how time-consuming it is to collect and analyze data manually, which limits a company’s ability to quickly react to market trends and opportunities.
Finally, without real-time visibility into the entire life cycle of logistics operations, companies lack the ability to conduct precise planning and scheduling.
Logistics Management Software Functions and Components
Software for logistics management automates processes and integrates with other systems to enable enterprise-grade capabilities. Not only are the logistics functions automated, systems within supply chain management can now connect and exchange data with other systems such as finance or HR.
Logistics management software lowers the potential for human error which improves the quality of operations. Data and information are now digital which makes it easy to retrieve and analyze as well as informing better planning and scheduling.
Logistics management software covers a wide range of functions and assets including:
- Incoming and outgoing shipping
- Warehouse operations
- Vehicles and equipment fleet scheduling, operation, and maintenance
- Order processing and fulfillment
- Inventory management
- Scheduling and coordination with third-party logistics service providers such as shipping providers
- Supply and demand planning
Benefits of Logistics Management Software
Organizations that invest in logistics management software quickly begin reaping the benefits. Benefits that are associated with streamlined processes, less human error, along with faster production, order processing and delivery. Specific examples include:
- Streamline choosing a shipper, shipping route and scheduling
- Improve accuracy of orders and delivery times
- Optimize production planning and execution
- Automate load scheduling and order hand-off to shippers
- Reduce expedited order shipping
- Optimize processes
- Discover new products and services
These are only a few examples, there are more.
Before you can choose the right systems, software development company or implementation partner, it’s essential to do some upfront preparation.
Conducting an audit of all processes and functions is essential to creating your baseline of software requirements. The audit will also help reveal gaps and common points of failure that require specific features and functionality. Next, create a list functions to automate along with new capabilities such as predictive analytics and scheduling, inventory management.
Then think about the other systems the software needs to connect with to share data back and forth – e.g. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, Finance or HR.
Next, consider what you’d like to see in a dashboard to monitor operations and identify issues.
The above steps will be the foundation for starting discussions with potential software vendors and partners. The vendors and partners will also be able to provide advice and guidance. This will help ensure you’ve considered all options for moving forward with your logistics technology solution.
Companies can also use their experience across multiple industries to propose innovative solutions. It may be that using software and tools developed for other industries, or to solve other business challenges, will be instrumental in transforming your logistics operations.
Finally, it’s important to stay current with trends in logistics management to help ensure your company is taking full advantage of existing and emerging technologies. Cloud computing offers flexibility and cost savings. Artificial intelligence offers many innovative capabilities that are relevant to logistics operations. There’s a plus and play automation, robotics, gesture recognition, as well as autonomous delivery by self-driving vehicles. Sensors, wearables, and the Internet of Things will transform logistics operations as we know it today.
It’s an exciting time to be exploring the use of technology that can be instrumental in streamlining your business processes for efficiency, cost savings, and competitive advantage.