A new mobile paradigm is emerging, with mobile devices and apps becoming key connective cogs in the transportation cycle.
Mobile technology is hardly new to the freight transportation world. Qualcomm rolled out its mobile computing platform in 1988, and UPS launched its first Delivery Information Acquisition Device in 1991.
The difference today is vastly improved mobile technologies and a proliferation of devices and apps. Now that companies can be in constant contact with their drivers, assets and cargo, and receive continuous real-time shipment data, the challenge for fleet managers is to leverage that connectivity to develop new capabilities and services and further reduce costs, said Mike Mulqueen, senior director of product management for global supply chain technology company Manhattan Associates.
The mobile-enabled “continuous connection” paradigm includes wireless networks that provide vast amounts of data quickly and cheaply, vehicle telematics including GPS, trailer sensors, engine diagnostics, and detailed information about driver and vehicle performance.
Mobile devices provide dynamic content about weather, fuel prices, traffic conditions and third-party loads that can be integrated into back-office systems for improved dispatch and route planning. They can capture consignee signatures; identify OS&D (Over, Short, Damage) situations to initiate claims processes; standardize communications for reporting and analysis; and manage regulatory compliance.
The full value of mobile data is realized in what Mulqueen calls the orchestration layer of the mobile paradigm, in which back-end systems are employed to integrate the vast amounts of disparate data flowing into the enterprise.
“The orchestration layer is responsible for identifying the type and criticality of the data,” Mulqueen said. “By merging and synchronizing the data into a single freight and mobile asset management system, an enterprise has unprecedented visibility into their shipping activities.”
Diagnostic mobile data is being leveraged to drive down fuel and insurance costs, aid in accident recreation, and reduce detention charges and other assessorials. Real-time information on inventory in transit is used to allow for more efficient inventory and transportation planning.
In terms of freight payment, mobile phones can capture and send EDI-type data so carriers can initiate payments. Most major carriers already have those processes. Small carriers and owner-operators are the primary beneficiaries of advances in mobile technologies, through which they can access portals such as Manhattan Associates’ Logistics Gateway.
The portal serves as a collaboration platform for shippers, carriers and suppliers to exchange information about invoices, orders, fulfillment, shipment status and more. It facilitates inspections and quality assurance, shipping and chargeback programs, and requisition and purchase order management.
Fast-flowing mobile data and back-end analytics have helped carriers understand which customers are profitable and which not so much. It helps them evaluate the efficiency of shipper operations, and correlate that to rates.
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