Like in virtually all other industries, manufacturers are facing tremendous challenges due to shifting consumer expectations, technological changes, and new regulations. It also doesn't help that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing major disruptions everywhere and across industries. Satish Natajaran, CEO of DispatchTrack, explains.
Of course, there’s tremendous opportunity for evolution and growth within the industry, but you’ll have to overcome some serious challenges before you can truly capitalise on these opportunities. Below are some of the key transportation logistics challenges manufacturers will have to face this year and beyond.
There is more attention on carbon emission reduction than ever, and the public is increasingly demanding environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices from their manufacturers, even when they’re farming out their shipping needs to third parties.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways of addressing environmental and sustainability concerns within the framework of transport optimisation. For instance, if you can improve the efficiency of your routes (e.g. via route optimisation technology), you can shorten the distance travelled between deliveries and thereby cut down on your carbon footprint on a per-stop basis.
As with any large-scale initiative, the best vantage point for making a choice is one of full visibility. If you don’t have the transparency and the reporting to pinpoint your fuel consumption, idling time, etc., then boosting visibility might be an important starting point.
Cutting transportation logistics costs
The single biggest challenge of the industry is cutting down transportation costs. Logistics costs can easily make up the largest percentage of your total costs within the manufacturing industry, and rising fuel prices and capacity limitations only exacerbate this problem.
Again, visibility is paramount. If you have the tools to take a holistic approach to your entire supply chain – including the last mile – you build enough transparency into your processes to make waste and inefficiency glaringly obvious. This means having the ability to track shipments at a glance, while ensuring that carriers follow the right route plans and stick to the schedule. Visibility requires real-time alerts and notifications so that transportation managers and drivers can take prompt actions should there be delays in the deliveries.
Navigating new technological solutions
As you might be gathering from the context above, most manufacturing companies need to adopt new and innovative technological solutions to overcome challenges brought by new consumer demands and scarce labour. Advanced technologies can help increase productivity and reduce operational inefficiencies, and they’re quickly becoming non-negotiable.
Here, you can benefit from investing in automation systems such as warehouse sorting and advanced packaging labelling for increased operational efficiency. Advanced route planning solutions also help in cutting down transportation costs and optimising fleet capacity. Data analytics enable companies to improve both operational efficiency and customer experience.
It can be hard for manufacturers to find the right technology with so many solutions available in the market. Each business needs to identify what they need in a given technology solution for themselves. That said, there are a handful of things that you should look out for in a vendor:
- Strong integration capabilities
- Personalised, 24/7 customer support
- Scalable SaaS technology
- A proven track record in managing transportation logistics
- Ease-of-use via an intuitive, user-friendly interface
Grappling with the COVID-19 era
None of the challenges we listed above are new – and by now, this one isn’t really that new either. Manufacturers and their 3PLs initially had to deal with the high surge in consumer orders when stay-at-home orders were implemented. Volatility around volume and continued supply chain disruptions are still making planning harder than usual.
Plus, COVID-19 is forcing businesses across industries to make major changes and adopt new strategies to ensure the safety of both their employees and customers, and manufacturing is no different. Contactless deliveries, new sick leave rules, and constant communication are just some of the hurdles that have been brought on by the pandemic – all of which raise the stakes for visibility and transparency even higher.
In the end, adapting to the new landscape is more urgent than ever for manufacturers. Ensuring flexibility – while investing in processes, people, and the right technology – is the best way to ensure that your company survives, and even thrives, during this period of change.
About the author
As founder and CEO, Satish Natajaran has built DispatchTrack into the leading SaaS solution for optimising last mile logistics. Satish believes in building software around the customers’ needs and pain points, which means striving to boost efficiency and minimise human effort at every turn.
Satish holds an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Mississippi.