At the latest since the outbreak of the corona virus, digitalisation has received an enormous boost. In the meantime, many processes can also be displayed from other locations than just the office. Trends such as Industry 4.0, Industry Internet of Things or Digital Freight Forwarding, which have emerged in recent years, are gradually changing the world of work and the industry. Companies must react in time in order not to miss the boat.
First of all, "digitisation" only means the conversion of analogue values into digital ones. Today, however, digitisation is much more - networking with each other or documents in the cloud are also part of digitisation, as are digital forms. It changes the way companies interact with their customers and employees, for example. The goal is always to create added value through the new technology. Like the forms that forwarding companies no longer have to print out, but can send digitally. But this is just one example - there are numerous processes in the transport and logistics industry that show how important digitalisation is.
Be it apps for tracking parcels, risk management along the supply chain, error reduction or process optimisation through automation. Empty kilometres can also be avoided by better utilising existing transport capacities through software. This not only increases delivery reliability, but also leads to lower CO2 emissions. On the other hand, companies can react faster to market demands - for example through networking and end-to-end automation. All this can reduce costs and increase the profitability of logistics companies.
For your own digital transformations in operations, you need data above all. Without it, no reliable statements can be made, for example about ETA (estimated time of arrival). But data alone is not enough; it is important that it is also correct. Depending on the source - such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or the freight forwarder - the information about when a truck will arrive differs. This is often because information passes through different hands and is collected manually. If the quality of the data is right, processes can be optimised on the basis of it. Another step is to share one's own data, for example to place orders by mouse click instead of by phone. However, this certain "openness" is necessary for the company to create the conditions for the digital transformation.
However, data is only half the truth: for digitisation, people are just as important - if not more important. After all, the consistent transformation of analogue processes is not about replacing people. Rather, the work areas should complement each other. It is precisely through further training that the company's own employees can be taken along and picked up. Above all, there is the will and the willingness to change.
Regardless of whether you are a medium-sized freight forwarder or a large corporation: in order to save time and conserve resources, processes have to be reviewed again and again. For a long time, for example, the telephone or email were the means of choice for the freight forwarder to place orders. However, this is very time-consuming; it is much easier and faster with our independent networking platform NeoCargo. Freight can be organised with just a few clicks. Not only transport management systems (TMS), but also other partner service providers can be connected via interfaces, so that the fragmented IT structure is significantly simplified. Especially in communication with other companies, significant savings in time and money can be achieved. Long e-mails or telephone calls are now a thing of the past. Networking will continue to be a central topic for companies along the supply chain. The Bundesvereinigung Logistik e.V. (BVL), for example, says that "in the age of digitalisation, every company must be able to link its internal systems with those of others". Every small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) can take advantage of digitalisation to become more competitive or generate more turnover.
When processes are digitised, there is always a risk of cyberattacks. Appropriate precautions should be taken to keep the potential damage as low as possible. It is advisable to always keep the operating system and the corresponding programmes up to date and to install updates regularly. At the same time, employees must also be made aware that no attachments or links should be opened in the case of suspicious mails. Even a private USB stick can transmit malware into the company network without knowledge. Furthermore, it is extremely important to prevent data loss and to create backups in order to be able to act again quickly in the event of a crisis. Of course, there are also investments that companies have to make if they decide to digitalise their processes. However, if digitalisation were to be dispensed with, great potential would be wasted and the risk of losing competitiveness would increase.
In the annual digitalisation index it quickly becomes clear that digitalisation in companies in the transport and logistics sector has progressed very quickly due to the corona pandemic. Almost 30 per cent of companies already use digital waybills and signatures. The same applies to the tracking and tracing of containers and goods. German companies are also in a good position compared to other European countries. For example, according to the European Private Business Survey, 80 percent of companies said they are investing in future-proof IT. Almost half are also designing a digital strategy. Despite the good preconditions of companies in the transport and logistics sector, the next step makes sense. This includes investing in digitalisation across companies and implementing digital processes. Especially forwarding companies that work with subcontractors and other customers, for example, where order, transport and billing processes come into play, benefit. Simplification increases their own efficiency and saves resources.
The corona pandemic has led to companies having to become much more digital. While there are major challenges along the supply chain as different actors such as freight forwarders, hubs, customs or service providers are involved, digitalisation can help simplify these processes. For example, participants are networked with each other to gain early insight into the supply chain. In addition, automatic data transfer saves valuable time and resources. In general, the available data not only creates the necessary transparency within the transport and logistics industry, but also the necessary flexibility to be able to react to market requirements. And this is the only way a company can be and remain profitable these days.