The talk is all about technology, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the human component.
Let’s face it, we’re in the Technology Age and digitizing processes and activities at Mach speed – so much so that billions of data points are now regularly packaged as big data or mega data, and new technologies have arisen to harness this massive volume of information; to make it more digestible and useful to the user. Ultimately, this technology will be judged by how it creates greater efficiencies, safety, cost reduction, and other benefits. The easier that technology is to adapt to and use, the greater the benefits will be.
In our industry, the functional roles responsible for getting product to its destination include drivers, fleet managers, and supply chain managers and, with today’s technology, you can create a parallel to traa control tower operation. Today’s truck drivers sit in a digital cockpit, filled with instrumentation and tools that measure, recommend, and communicate. The fleet manager performs in much the same way as an air traffic controller: following the vehicle on its path; getting real-time views into any potential vehicle problems; suggesting alternate routes to avoid traffic backups. The supply chain manager’s role takes on a broader responsibility to ensure that his or her customers, internal and external, receive their precious cargo. All three of these positions are interconnected and have access to information gathered by the technology that will enable them to make important business decisions based on that information.
As an example, consider GPS technology. Advanced software will analyze the road mapped, recognize any construction work, traffic jams, or accidents that will negatively impact the delivery schedule and communicate that information to the fleet manager through dispatch. The software will also recommend alternate routes, enabling dispatch to communicate those changes to the driver in real time. The supply chain manager, armed with the same knowledge, will communicate any potential delays with suppliers and customers who will reconfigure the necessary resources to adapt in kind. This is vitally important when it comes to just-in-time inventory deliveries and other time-sensitive issues.
Increasingly, there are systems that inhabit the IoT (Internet of Things) scenario, where those systems either communicate with one another or make decisions independently, allowing them to modify processes without human intervention. Consider a collision avoidance system that causes a truck to sense an obstruction directly in front and slow the vehicle down to avoid a crash, without the active participation of the driver. Although no human intervenes, the users, along with the driving public at large, reap the benefits. The driver’s safety is ensured; the fleet manager avoids what could otherwise be substantial costs to the business; and the supply chain manager can rely on his or her product arriving intact and on schedule.
To the extent these technologies enable users to make more fact-based, proactive decisions in less time, in fact, in real-time, the industry will continue to drive efficiencies for years to come. However, until we reach a completely autonomous order-to-delivery process state, real people will have to make real decisions requiring the translation of data and information to actionable knowledge.