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Empowering Communications in Logistics and Supply Chain

Empowering Communications in Logistics and Supply Chain




by Martin Hager, CEO, Retarus Group

In today’s rapidly changing economy, the freight and logistics industry faces several challenges, including globalisation, moving towards a serviceoriented society, shorter product life cycles and infrastructure and process optimisation. These trends have created substantial changes in corporate networks and production flows. To keep up with the developments, a reliable, secured real-time communications technology for logistics service providers is needed to stay ahead of the curve.

The proliferation of global trade agreements has divided the world into larger chunks of trading blocks where goods can flow virtually unimpeded across national borders that once protected their precious industries from outside competition with tariffs, duties and penalties. Over in Asia Pacific, the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community reinforced better tariffs and trade laws for the region.

The rise of communication in logistics and supply chain

As organisations adapt their supply chains to take advantage of lower tariffs, rules and standards within new trade zones, there will be even greater movement of products worldwide. Logistics today is more than ever, dependent on information technology to not only track shipments, but also map the most cost-efficient methods to move products worth millions of dollars across the globe.

Due to increasing digitalisation of businesses, today’s consumers have higher expectations on how fast they should be able to access information. It is not only punctual deliveries that matter, but also prompt communications to secure the timely clearance of goods through customs, the scheduled delivery or transport of goods by haulers and shipping agents, and the shortest possible idle time for trucks, planes and ships.

Since supply chain focuses on movement, it relies largely on relationships and interactions between people. After all, it is people who connect the purchasing processes, so it is adding value to those relationships that lies at the heart of technology-enabled customer service tools. Logistics service providers will increasingly look at customer engagement technologies to inform, educate and interact with customers, while adding capabilities to traditional business applications to empower customers’ interaction.

When communications are delayed or unsecured, it leads to supply chain risk which ultimately leads to incurred costs for not only service providers but its clients. In the long-run, it can lead to dampened customer relations, and even loss of customers.

According to an Ernst & Young report, supply chain firms average 7.85 on a scale of one to ten in terms of how mature they are in transitioning from a customer service mindset to customer relationship management. The wide range of scores by supply chain companies from 5.88 to 9.82, also reflected the broad disparity in progress toward building strong customer relationships.

Creating a holistic communications strategy Logistics processes must adapt to expanding both customer and supplier networks through innovative communication and information technologies, and employing efficient communication processes. State-of-the-art interfaces, global availability and absolute reliability can ensure that communicationbased business processes are and remain successful.

To implement a holistic strategy, which takes changes in technology, competition and staffing requirements, the following can be considered:

1. Cloud Computing

Many organisations have switched over to cloud computing, which can also be observed with regard to SAP solutions, moving large parts of their processes, from controlling and accounting to delivery and transport schedules to the SAP cloud. This enables logistics and shipment firms to secure the timeline clearance of goods through customs, to scheduled delivery or transport of goods by haulers and shipping agents, and to manage the shortest possible time and route for trucks, planes or ships.

2. Application Integration

Organisations should look at flexible, transparent and customised global communications services that enable them to send and receive SMS, email and fax messages directly via business applications and cargo systems reliably and securely, without needing an on premise infrastructure. This can safeguard organisations’ supply chain, and ensure non-stop availability of digital data.

3. Desktop Communication

Organisations can consider fax and SMS services for desktops and devices offering seamless integration into Microsoft Windows, Exchange or IBM Notes/Domino environments. Efficient services ensure maximum usability and deliverability. Documents are transmitted speedily and reliably, thus considerably improving customer information and the management of field staff.

4. Broadcast and Content Delivery

Broadcast services must be designed for efficient business communication and high-volume transmissions via email, fax and SMS. As a web-based solution, it should be platform-independent and easyto- use, allowing users to act promptly when it comes to sales, customer service, marketing, as well as internal and external communication.

5. Email Security and Compliance

The security of email communications should also be factored in, including the use of end-to-end antivirus and antispam protection, gateway-based encryption, data processing through solutions that meet stringent guidelines, innovative email management, and audit-compliant archiving.

Empowering communications in supply chain and logistics enhances productivity, efficiency and revenues for service providers, ensuring they not only maintain their competitive edge while taking advantage of the benefits of global trade agreements.

Information exchange between customers and suppliers needs to be of the highest quality and always up-to-date. Whether it is about offers, orders, delivery documents, alerts, invoices or transport requests, efficient business processes as well as smooth and just-in-time electronic communications are key success factors of any business.

About the Author

Martin Hager is the CEO, founder and managing director of Retarus. Prior to the creation of Retarus in 1992, Martin Hager studied Computer Science and Economics at the Technical University of Munich and the University of Hagen, Germany.

He has worked with several global companies in various positions including sales, product management, development, support, and consulting, all of which gave him the vision and drive to turn Retarus into a global leader in messaging services.