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Industry Solutions Transportation and Logistics

The Value of Space Optimization in the Transportation Industry

Increasing demand for service, customer expectations around rapid delivery, and free shipping provided by online retailers have put pressure on shippers to do more, do it faster — but at the same time, keep shipping fees low. One way businesses are meeting this challenge is with space optimization solutions.

The cost of leasing or buying industrial warehouse space has increased by 25% over the past three years, according to Prologis Research. In addition, fees for shipping have shifted to a system based solely on weight to one based on the higher of two measures, weight or space. As e-commerce grows and the number of cartons shipped increases, carriers are exceeding space constraints before they reach weight constraints. Once dimensional pricing models were introduced, shipping costs rapidly increased — 42% in 2015 alone for ground parcel shipments. Complicating matters is the fact that shippers often provide inaccurate dimensions, which can lead to chargebacks and inefficiencies in shipping.

These rising costs have forced companies across the supply chain to place an increased emphasis on space optimization on the pallet, on the truck, and in the warehouse. When margins are thin and every cubic foot costs you more money, wasted space means lost profits.

Automated Dimensioning is Key

In order to better manage these changes and improve accuracy, companies are turning to automated dimensioning solutions. Manual measurement is inefficient, slow, and often inaccurate. Knowing the dimensions of every product can help optimize workflows like pallet building and picking/putaway.

Capturing accurate dimensions for every product on the truck or in the warehouse is a critical part of improving accuracy and reducing costs. Systems are now available that utilize dimensioning scanners and 3D depth-sensing technology to accurately measure objects. For example, the Honeywell AutoCube 8200 system can measure packages of any size, measure multiple items at the same time, and even detect bulges or protrusions. Intelligent dimensioning software can then be used to determine the optimal way to pack items in a carton (even items that are different sizes and shapes), and provide an accurate measurement to help determine and reconcile shipping charges.

Accurate dimensioning data also helps warehouse planners make better use of available space, predict future storage needs, and eliminate dead space in the racks/shelves so that merchandise doesn’t have to clutter up the receiving or shipping area.

In transportation, space optimization technology will help get more products onto a truck by providing an accurate view of dimensional weight when scanner and scale data are combined. It also provides shippers with the ability to give customers actual shipping costs rather than estimates.

Better managing the flow of inventory in and out of the warehouse with space optimization can also lower the cost of holding goods in a warehouse. For companies with limited budgets or that are geographically constrained and unable to expand existing warehouses or build new ones, space optimization also provides a way to do more with existing resources while still expanding warehouse/shipping capacity.

The Solution is More than Technology Alone

Dimensioning alone won’t fully optimize warehouse or truck space, however. The technology should be combined with strategies like smart slotting (storage based on the velocity of specific goods), dedicated pick lanes, full utilization of vertical space, intelligent transportation management software, and other approaches.

Moving forward, space optimization will continue to be a priority as customer demands and the price of warehouse/transportation space increase. For more information on how your business can operate more efficiently and save money with space optimization technology, contact omniQ.

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Data Interchange Energy Field Sales and Delivery Industry Solutions Mobility Route Accounting Transportation and Logistics

3 Ways Technology Optimizes Productivity for Your Field Employees

Field employees — whether they are technicians, delivery drivers, route sales reps, or some combination of those jobs — are an extremely valuable and expensive part of your operation. If you don’t properly optimize their schedules or daily workloads, you can wind up with idle employees and equipment or find yourself over-hiring and investing in more routes or vehicles than you actually need.

Technology and planning can help you improve the efficiency of your field employees. That’s good for the company (you can log more jobs or sales without hiring additional employees) and also good for your field staff since they can spend more time earning money and less time driving from job to job.

Here are three examples of how technology can benefit your field operation:

Route Optimization: No matter how skilled your schedulers and dispatchers are, if they are still managing routes manually then your field employees are probably not working to their full potential. Manual routing is prone to human error.

By using an intelligent, automated routing and scheduling tool you can ensure that all routes are optimized based on your own efficiency/productivity goals. Route optimization tools can ensure that stops are organized to minimize time and distance, but within key customer time constraints and expectations.  Route optimization can also ensure that employees take the fastest route between stops, intelligently schedule pick-up/drop-off stops for delivery applications, and even schedule service technicians based on both location and skill set.

Modern route optimization solutions with real-time capabilities can even reroute employees based on traffic, weather, and road construction information. If a job is taking too long, the next stop can be automatically rerouted to another employee.

These features can keep the schedule on track, improve customer service, save fuel, and boost productivity — and routes can be optimized and communicated even before the shift begins.

Anticipate Customer Needs: Inventory management tools can help your delivery or route sales drivers arrive at each customer stop with the right merchandise and equipment on hand. New predictive analytics and forecasting tools can help sales operations forecast what their customers need before an order is placed or the driver arrives, which can help improve the efficiency of each stop.

In field service applications, sensors, automation, machine-to-machine interfaces, and cloud computing resources can help companies remotely diagnose (and in some cases repair) assets and equipment. By knowing what is wrong with a machine before they arrive to fix it, technicians can be sure to have the right tools and parts, which will improve both the first-time fix rate and overall productivity.

Leverage Technology on the Truck and in the Field: With mobile computers, GPS technology, and/or telematics solutions in your company vehicles you can further boost employee productivity.

By deploying automated delivery, inventory, or work order management solutions on mobile companies or tablets in the field, employees can quickly provide status updates, document their work, obtain customer signatures/payments, and close out work orders without time-consuming paperwork.

Combined with real-time wireless communications, these systems can also automatically update ERP, CRM, and route optimization solutions in real time. Managers and dispatchers can see the status of each job/stop and use that information to adjust the schedule if necessary.

GPS-based fleet tracking units on the truck can also update the location of each employee, time-stamp arrivals and departures to improve documentation/billing, and help automatically populate driver logs, hours of service documentation, or fuel tax forms, saving even more time for field employees.

The technology can also provide solutions for electronic logging devices (ELDs), hours of service (HOS) management, driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIR), and other compliance and operations requirements.

With the right technology solutions in place to optimizing your routing and scheduling, anticipate the needs of each work order/customer, and track the progress and location of your staff and vehicles, you can greatly enhance both the efficiency and productivity of your field employees.

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Industry Solutions RFID Hardware RFID Software Transportation and Logistics

How Technology is Changing the Transportation and Logistics Industry

The transportation and logistics industry has traditionally been defined by trucks and infrastructure, but over the past several years technology has begun to change that. The use of mobile computers, GPS solutions, electronic tolling, and electronic vehicle logs have revolutionized logistics. Other new technologies are poised to have just as big an impact, and the future of logistics will be marked by new advancements. It’s important for transportation companies to stay up-to-speed with these developments, even those that may be a few years away from widespread adoption.

While there are a number of new technologies that will affect the transportation and logistics industry, here are some critical ones to keep on your radar:

Telematics and Fleet Management

Logistics companies have been using GPS systems to track the location of their trucks for years. What has changed is the number of new features and functions that GPS-based fleet management systems now offer. In addition to seeing truck locations, managers can now set up geofences to enable alerts when a truck is nearing its destination (or has veered far out of its service area), optimize routes using real-time traffic data, improve vehicle utilization, and automatically track driver hours and fuel tax reporting information.

The telematics functions of these system also make it possible to track vehicle maintenance needs (scheduling serviced based on miles driven), and generate alerts if the engine generates a trouble code. This can help avoid breakdowns and extend the life of the vehicle. Finally, companies can track speeding, harsh braking/acceleration, excessive idling and other conditions that will reduce fuel consumption, save costs, and improve safety. In addition, some insurance companies now offer discounts for fleet operators that use these solutions.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT involves using sensors and network communications to connect machines to the Internet. This makes it possible to monitor equipment, remotely control devices (like printers or home security systems), and receive alerts when machines need repaired or serviced. IoT is an extension of the types of telematics information that has already been provided.  This can start further up-stream in the ordering, manufacturing and warehousing chain. Smart machines will broadcast their needs for new parts or consumables before running out. With clearer demand signals, the supply chain will have to be more responsive.

During transport, trucks could monitor temperature, vibration and other elements that affect the condition of the load. Not only will information about the truck and environment be captured, but IoT monitors can stay with a shipment across multiple international transportation methods, from shipping to truck to rail to steamship to yard storage to rail to truck to delivery. In this way, logistics companies could provide better insight for shippers and receivers — this type of data is critical for cold chain or produce applications.

The availability of low-cost sensors and Bluetooth wireless technology will make it easier to add trucks to this burgeoning online network of supply chain data, providing last-mile visibility that was previously unattainable.

Drone Delivery and Driverless Cars

Amazon made a big splash when it announced it planned to use unmanned flying drones to deliver products to customers. While the idea of flying robots dropping packages from the sky sounds pretty cool, practical considerations (cost, safety, regulations, etc.) will likely keep deliver operations grounded for several more years.

Driverless vehicles, on the other hand, are an advancement that may affect the logistics and transportation industry sooner rather than later. Several companies have already tested driverless cars on the open road (including Google), and there are a number of test facilities in the U.S. where the technology is being further developed. Several auto manufactures have also introduced semi-autonomous driving capabilities in their vehicles (Tesla is a prime example). And Uber’s Otto division is already testing driverless trucks for logistics and delivery applications. By eliminating the need for a driver, logistics companies could address the driver shortage and greatly improve safety by reducing or eliminating the possibility of driver fatigue.

Even if a driver has to still be inside an autonomous truck (which is the case under current law), they could switch the vehicle to autonomous and mode and theoretically rest while the truck keeps on moving. There are plenty of regulatory and insurance issues to sort through, in addition to great leaps in reliability that would be required of the technology. But the transportation and logistics industry should start giving this technology a hard look.

Cloud-Based Computing and Business Analytics

Often, people think of technology as strictly hardware, gadgets, etc.  However, the significant increase in capabilities and enhancements in architecture for cloud-based computing and business analytics also dramatically affects the transportation industry.   For years, telematics and RFID and other technologies provided plenty of data that could be used, but companies rarely were able to capture and organize that data, let alone harness the value of analytics.  The sophistication of software and data architectures now allow all the data to be effectively controlled and manipulated to generate not only detail status of activity and process flow, but predictive and suggestive advice to proactively improve operations and stop problems before they occur.

Then, providing operational alerts and management advice in a timely fashion to users’ mobile devices keeps them productively active and in the field instead of tied to a spreadsheet or mountains of paper printouts, wondering “What does it all mean?”

The transportation and logistics industry should prepare to embrace these changes and innovations. Doing so will improve their competitive position and enable them to meet the future needs and demands of their customers.