Article published in Revista Logística Hoje
Technology advances at great speed, contributing in the creation of new rules among players in the logistics sector. However, these rules imply the development of new solutions in order to guarantee the competitiveness of companies. In order that technology can contribute to real gains in productivity, it is not sufficient to install equipment on-board. It is also necessary to look at the company from the inside and the outside, how it interfaces with customers and suppliers and integrates relevant information into its systems.
The key to the success of companies is currently in managing to find technological applications which are actually able to impact on the logistics chain, and in parallel, choose a available technological solutions which are able to aid a company to face these new challenges.
In the first group, one can clearly identify the influence that the Internet and e-commerce have had on our day to day activities. Although the levels of e-commerce are well below expectations, one finds an ever larger number of success stories in the use of e-commerce, e-procurement, building of e-marketplaces, all of which majorly affect the relationship between suppliers and their customers.
The end to middlemen, the direct and personal relationship with customers who demand ever more frequent and smaller orders in order to maintain smaller stocks, are changing the way information must be managed within companies in the logistics sector.
During the last few years an increase has been noted in the number of companies choosing outsourcing to meet their logistics needs, which has led to companies in this sector changing form transporters to logistics operators.
Logistics operators offer complete services to the customer which range from reception of orders, picking, packing, transport etc. to information services which contribute to the improved business of their customers.
In order to manage this vast range of activities it has been necessary to supply these companies with information systems for internal management (warehousing, billing, human resources, etc).
In most logistics operators these activities are already computerised, however, the main challenge is to integrate the information originating from the vehicle fleet – the core of the business. Traditionally in the transport sector, the chain of information flow is broken, with all documents and reports having to be entered manually. Also, any significant events may only be analysed after the fact, preventing immediate action from being taken.
As a solution to these problems, Tecmic has invested in the development of the XtraN – Fleet Management System since 1994. Actually, the new fleet management system developed by Tecmic is a true information management system, based on the needs on the transport sector, and supplying them with essential information. This information flows to the existing back-office systems, to achieve true optimisation of company resources.
XTraN is composed of a central IT system, interconnected to the back-office systems in order to create a solid information chain in both directions, and an on-board system for managing all activities. At the heart is a management system capable of communicating with all units via any available means of communication (TETRA, GSM or Trunking), showing vehicle positions on a map.
There are two main kinds of information transmitted from the vehicles to the control centre:
- Economic data concerning the operation of the actual fleet may be used to optimise the fleet’s use, as well as managing maintenance schedules. According to data from ANTRAN, approx. 50% of operating costs are variable costs (fuel consumption, variable manpower costs, maintenance). The system allows more than 80% of these costs to be determined. The quality and level of the information received allow the investment in the system to be quickly recovered.
- Information concerning drivers’ activities operating these vehicles. The on-board computer has been designed in order to allow the driver to receive all the information needed in the course of his work. At the same time, the company is able to track all of the employee’s actions, assist when he needs more information and know when the activity has been finished.
This data allows the economic viability of routes, contracts, trucks and drivers to be known, increasing the information base for the negotiation of contracts with customers.
Through Tecmic’s constant innovation in this field and through its competence in the the development of hardware and low and high level software, all on-board equipment as been designed in terms of robustness and ease of use, as it is essential that drivers have tools which form true interfaces between themselves and the traffic control centre.
Within the context initially described, the key to transporters’ success is knowing how to take advantage of the new tools in order to control all information and use it in their favor. Through the installation of on-board IT, logistics companies are able to obtain a competitive advantage over the rest through the level of services offered. Recent studies show that transporters are chosen on the basis of their use of IT systems and the value added services they provide.
XTraN is capable of extending the company’s IT system all the way to the fleet on the exterior, simplifying management activities. This allows economic losses to be easily determined, whether they occur at the same vehicle, with the same driver, at the same customer’s premises, on a particular route, or in a particular country, and to use this information to improve business.
All this is achieved through the real time management and control of product and services tracking, providing managers with the necessary tools to create synergies among the various company departments.
Finally, the system also takes advantage of customer information, such as types and times of delivery, payment methods, results of advertising campaigns, suppliers and products, and may be used to target companies in a more personalised manner.