Moving your transportation and logistics organization through the digital maturity curve.

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By Nathan Forster, Head of Automotive and Transportation at T-Mobile for Business

Manual transportation and logistics (T&L) processes often throttle productivity, reduce visibility, and hamper effective collaboration among supply chain partners. But digital tools are playing an increasingly important role in this area and helping T&L organizations improve in operational resilience.

Resilient T&L organizations can thrive when they can effectively manage challenges, quickly recover from those obstacles, and even grow as a result. The problem is that those roadblocks have been more frequent and impactful since the emergence of the global pandemic.

“A series of disruptions over the past two years have altered the transportation industry, most, but not all, attributed directly or indirectly to the global COVID-19 pandemic,” IDC explains in its recent report on resiliency within the T&L industry. “Blank sailings, labor and asset shortages, elevated fuel prices, inflationary pressures, and the push for sustainability demand that organizations cultivate resilient operational capabilities.”

Now, more than ever, transportation and logistics are being viewed as both a critical and costly aspect of the overall value chain. As a result, more companies are realizing T&L must be optimized—and its associated costs controlled—in order to satisfy businesses and end consumers.

Meeting challenges head on.

Managing transportation and logistics operations on a global scale has never been easy, but the job has become increasingly difficult over the last few years. The persistent labor shortage amplifies an already difficult problem. There are fewer workers behind the wheel, on the warehouse floor, and in the retail distribution center. As a result, many manual transportation and logistics systems are in dire need of optimization.

The challenges don’t end there. Transportation and logistics operators are also grappling with higher costs, continued supply disruption, and customers who are fed up with regular price increases, extended order lead times, and delayed shipments. Now, more than ever, transportation and logistics are being viewed as both a critical and costly aspect of the overall value chain. As a result, more companies are realizing T&L must be optimized—and its associated costs controlled—in order to satisfy businesses and end consumers.

Companies understand this and are using a variety of solutions—e.g., 5G connectivity, machine learning (ML), private networks, edge computing, asset tracking, telematics, cargo monitoring, analytics platforms, and predictive systems—to improve business performance amid uncertainty.

We’re also learning what digital maturity looks like from various types of T&L organizations, including contract haulers, e-commerce companies, and large wholesalers.

Taking the correct steps.

Digital transformation can be daunting, but IDC's MaturityScape model is a great tool to help you plot a navigable course. Square one is to identify where your organization is now. Maturity levels range from the “resistant” organizations, whose logistics and transportation models are still mired in manual processes and paper, to ones with fully optimized operations. Between those two endpoints are the opportunistic, repeatable, and managed stages where companies are testing digital tools and putting some or all of them into service.

You can use the IDC study to create a common language for cross-functional and interorganizational collaboration, drive performance improvement, and bring the end-to-end value chain into focus. Taking this global view of the process is important because many companies focus on building extra capacity or creating contingency plans to “be ready” when disruptions occur.

This “be ready” reactive approach may be an effective way to put out fires, but it doesn’t create resilient organizations ready to tackle emerging challenges. Put simply: resilient companies don’t flip emergency contingency switches. Instead, they make adjustments in real time. They do ongoing visibility and risk assessments, leverage data and intelligence, plan for potential disruptions, and execute on those plans as required. And this requires digital maturity.

Moving along the curve.

Right now, many T&L operators struggle to achieve internal end-to-end visibility across their own operations. Using 5G connectivity, telematics, cargo monitoring, and predictive analytics, T&L operators can see and react much more quickly to developing problems. Getting there will create repeatable response performance, but it won’t insulate companies from external factors that may interrupt their operations.

For better results, consider forming agreements for receiving and sharing data across your entire supply chain. With broader data, for example, T&L operators can develop predictive models for a myriad disruptive influences (e.g., inclement weather, crop yields, climate change, geopolitical factors, consumer buying habits, etc.). Then, they can leverage that intelligence for better decision making, resiliency, and agility. Combined, these wins can help move T&L companies along the digital maturity curve.

T-Mobile has America’s largest and fastest 5G network, imagined for tomorrow but ready to give you an edge today. At T-Mobile for Business, we’re focused on providing your business with connectivity solutions and dedicated, exceptional service you need to help you stay ahead. To learn more about how T-Mobile is fueling digital transformation for today’s fleets, visit our transportation industry page.

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