Point of view: how mobile technology is transforming supply chain management

This review was written by CEO and co-founder of Shipwell, Greg Price. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

By Greg Price

Mobile devices are so common in today’s personal and professional worlds that it can sometimes be hard to imagine going through the day without them. It is no longer remarkable that people pay their bills, purchase products and services, or do their banking using their smartphones and tablets. The wide range of applications and mobility options have become an integral part of everyday life.

Greg Price

While this is true for many industries, supply chain players have largely remained computer-bound for the majority of their work. However, these shippers and carriers now find themselves on the brink of mobile market disruption. Fully mobile transportation management systems will help remote workforces be more efficient, allowing them to do their jobs from anywhere.

Mobile technology is transforming the carrier side of the supply chain

Truckers have now joined remote workers in other sectors who are already using mobile technology. Truckers today use mobile technology to bid and secure freight to be transported. As these capabilities rapidly evolve, they will soon become the norm for those responsible for securing carrier capacity and personnel responsible for freight planning. Mobile private networks, the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G and 6G will be key to this evolution.

Mobile apps have supplemented traditional workflows, enabled greater flexibility and improved communication. Many devices have also become viable IoT sensors that open new gateways for businesses, even without specialized hardware. These devices already include sensors such as cameras and GPS that reduce the need for excessive paperwork by helping with real-time tracking and uploading delivery data to the cloud.

The power of implementing mobile technology and reaping the benefits of what it unlocks can be seen in how companies have used it in their trucking operations to grow their business. These companies are taking advantage of a white space market opportunity in an industry worth over $700 billion.

For example, California-based Trucker Path, founded in 2013, successfully exited five years later by focusing on mobile services for truckers. Twelve years after its founding in 2000, Connecticut-headquartered XPO Logistics has gone public, in part due to its effective use of mobile technology. After becoming one of the first Internet loading signs, Idaho-based Truckstop.com, founded in 1995, brought mobile technology to truckers. This strategy paid off in 2019, when it was acquired for a $1 billion valuation.

And San Francisco-headquartered Motive, formed in 2013 as KeepTruckin, achieved unicorn status in 2019. The company deliberately applied mobile technology to improve the chain management experience. supply. Its founders launched the company by creating a free mobile application for a logbook. He followed that up with a superb electronic journaling device. Now Motive is a platform.

The next step: shippers

Mobile technology for shippers is the next logical and evolutionary progression to improve the efficiency of supply chain communication. Mobile technology enables different functions within a business to perform and manage core workflows and responsibilities. Shipping managers, warehouse technicians, sales and account managers, for example, will be able to log into their TMS platforms and quickly respond to customer inquiries, track sensitive shipments and resolve issues in real time. wherever they are – at their desk or computers are no longer needed. A logistics manager can receive an alert when a shipment has been delayed and respond instantly from their mobile device.

Mobile technology will enable actions such as booking, as well as the ability to view shipments – and respective delays – as well as notes for shippers and additional documents. Expanding its focus from the trucker side of the equation to a more holistic supply chain management tool, mobile technology will enable collaboration and communication between shippers, carriers and brokers all in one place. Visibility enhancements that mobile technology will bring include messaging, location ratings, and the ability to check in and out of locations. Mobile technology will also allow shipments to be created more quickly and transmitted to warehouse employees more quickly. An on-the-go warehouse and logistics planner, for example, armed with current plant data, can use mobile technology to quickly manifest a shipment or change a shipment’s route once at the dock.

Mobile and Emerging Technologies

Although 5G deployment has been slow due to network provider costs and implementation difficulties, its arrival will usher in a new era of mobile applications, including time sensing, mapping and machine learning. real. The vast majority of mobile users worldwide remain on 4G networks. At 20 times the speed of these networks, 5G will finally connect people, machines, things and devices in ways that were previously impossible. Ultra-low latency – the time it takes for data to travel from one wireless device to another – is just one benefit this next-generation network will bring to supply chain management professionals who use mobile technology.

The continued development of 6G networks builds on the possibilities of 5G networks, which are expected to become commercially available by 2030. Experts predict that 6G speed will be about 100 times faster than 5G, with even more reliability and greater network coverage range. The IoT, some say, will benefit from an expansion of device connection per square kilometer 1,000% greater than it will be with 5G.

Enabled by the increased speeds provided by 5G and 6G networks, edge computing – the deployment of compute and storage resources where data is produced – will enhance mobile’s ability to transform the supply chain . Rather than relying on the cloud in a data center, edge computing does all the work at or near the data location. Edge computing will allow applications to detect peaks in demand, for example, to ensure that necessary inventory adjustments can be made. Edge computing will also drive the expansion of workflows in the shipyard, gatehouse, and for on-the-go shippers.

The Impending Mobile Revolution

Once mobile technology is fully integrated into supply chain management, companies will have the opportunity to expand their business. The paperwork itself, as well as the task of managing it, will be reduced. Most information will become digital or live in the cloud. Trucking, shipping, port and warehouse operations – and company personnel whose responsibilities intersect with the supply chain – will have the ability to integrate planning tasks, improve communications and data processing speed, provide optimized pricing and routing options, and improve other workflows.

Mobile technology makes it possible to perform all of these actions remotely. Ultimately, mobile technology will bring real-time machine learning, the ability to detect unexpected supply chain disruptions, and the ability for shippers, carriers, and brokers to collaborate.

Mobile technology will soon have us wondering how we ever got along without it.

Greg Price is CEO and co-founder of Austin, Texas, headquartered Vessel, a cloud-based shipping and logistics company. He was a consultant at McKinsey & Co. and spent seven years working at Lincoln Labs at MIT, where he earned master’s degrees in engineering and business.

FREIGHTWAVES’ Top 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes XPO Logistics (#8).

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