Like most production industries, the transportation sector is facing challenging times. Rising fuel prices and tighter profit margins are forcing businesses to evolve and diversify. For instance, according to market research, there has been a substantial increase in the number of shippers outsourcing their transport needs to third-party logistics providers.
There’s also evidence that suggests there should be a greater focus on customer service and product innovation than on operational cost-cutting. This makes sense, as experts predict a sharp drop in talent throughout the coming years. It’s linked to the average age of transportation employees, a large proportion of which will retire and leave the industry at around the same time.
Distributors also have to deal with increasingly rigid environmental policies, mode shifts, volume changes, and growing demands from carriers. In light of these challenges, it’s essential that businesses continue to try to get the most out of their software. Sophisticated field service management software with enhanced integration and features just may be the key to future success.
Route Planning Tools
Sophisticated route planning tools and integrated supply chain software are the next big thing in the field service industry. Why? Because they optimize vehicle routes and create deliveries that are efficient in both time and energy emission. Using the best route planning tools have helped businesses maximize their field service management efforts.
The Benefits of Optimization Software
At the moment, most businesses rely on basic batch planning algorithms to determine the best route for deliveries. This method enables multiple routes to be considered at once. While it is a significant improvement on traditional manual solutions, it can’t always keep up with the dynamism of contemporary supply chains.
Consequently, newer route planning tools are providing real time interaction between drivers and their technology. For instance, they’re making it easier to alter routes while out on the road. If used correctly, this is a valuable asset, as it means that new deliveries can be added to existing itineraries without impacting time targets.
The problem is that this software is still in its infancy, so interaction is somewhat limited. However, businesses can expect route planning tools to be much more responsive in the future. To maximize their potential though, enterprises have to be willing to implement adaptive planning policies and take a more forward thinking approach to distribution.
Optimization software can contribute to this evolution by identifying more efficient routes and centralizing the planning transport process. For example, it may be used to combine transport across multiple depots, regulate the pressure on data centers, and bring together routing and inventory management at customer sites.
The Best Ways to Optimize Transport and Routing
With support from the right routing tools, you can centralize transport routines, so that deliveries are organized at a faster rate and with fewer inaccuracies. High-quality routing software makes it easier to process large amounts of data, without trading off on its quality. It can also help you implement stronger KPIs while streamlining decision-making strategies.
Transport planning processes can be allocated according to their roles and functions. The ideal set up, of course, would be for every user to have a personal interface and a set of unique authorization controls. These controls could be configured and consistently reviewed by a central supervisor. Crucially, all users would be able to access data from other routes.
This would assist them with aligning and optimizing their own. It’s clear that this kind of system would need an extensive implementation. There’s likely to be a need for further training too, as optimization experts are only used to observing the outcome of efficiency measures. The new system would require them to work closely with route planners, in order to make improvements on the fly.
The Meeting of Transport and Technology
The good news is that many TMS and ERP solutions already offer high-end route planning solutions. They actually grow more sophisticated every year, with some systems now providing geocoding, time/distance calculations, and Track and Trace compatible functions. Nevertheless, these existing tools have a long way to go when it comes to intelligent routing.
There continue to be gaps associated with ‘last mile’ functionalities, which require the optimization of multiple deliveries along a single route. This makes it possible to configure advanced restrictions like unexpected congestion, limits on accessibility, and mandatory competencies.
The result is a difficulty in nailing down that last 3-5% of savings optimization across transport operations. Conventional WMS solutions are valuable in many ways, but they lack the capacity to optimize loading and routing procedures extensively. However, WMS systems can be integrated with more dynamic optimization software in the right circumstances.
The Final Word on Optimized Route Planning
For now, at least, the best way to get the most out of your route planning strategies is to allow optimization tools to expand the capabilities of traditional TMS, ERP, WMS and field service management solutions. In order to achieve this, the software has to work with real-time interfaces.
It needs to liaise successfully with both mobile technology and administrative routines. And most importantly, it should aim to productively manage all of the different statuses and updates from either end, while identifying optimal methods of transport execution.
Mobile Workforce Management
The idea of workforce management features have allowed companies to change the ways that they use their available labor in core operations. Specifically, mobile workforce management has revolutionized the ways in which workers go out into the field to deliver products and services, complete key tasks, and deal with customers.
Usually deployed as an app for various mobile devices, mobile workforce management encompasses a broad array of tools with a general purpose: to support field service workers wherever they may be.
Any Device, Anywhere
The best mobile workforce management solutions operate on the principle of universal access to information. These platforms use smartphones and other mobile devices to connect employees and managers all over their business territory. Most mobile workforce management technology is supported by cloud technologies that keep data in vendor storage facilities, and stream it out to where it’s requested.
With easy-to-use interfaces, the best workforce management systems allow efficient and effective real-time communication between individuals working on key business goals. The idea of self-service is important in mobile workforce management — the idea is that a salesperson or a field service technician can get on his or her device and digitally link back to the office. This way they always have access to all kinds of work-related information in real time, and can report what’s going on in the field.
One common example is where the inspection of a field property aids a business in providing higher quality customer service. In this scenario, field service workers may upload pictures and notes to the company office for reference, or download data for the customer to show service options and pricing. All of this digital activity helps to serve both parties: the business and its customers.
Many mobile workforce management tools offer a range of task management solutions. For example, if your field service worker is an estimator, they can use the self-service tool to report when tasks like inspections are completed. If it’s a sales job, then salespeople can use the platform to report accomplishments such as lead nurturing benchmarks, preregistration, or closing a sale.
Time Management and Productivity Monitoring
Most of the top mobile workforce management software also provide time management tracking. Employees can enter their own hours, or the system automatically keeps track of the hours that they’re logged in. This provides the ability to build business intelligence on absenteeism, turnover and individual time off requests for vacation, sick time and personal time. All of this data gets funneled back into a central repository, so that business leaders can see how their field service workers are performing, and make management decisions from there.
Another feature of mobile workforce management software packages includes the ability to budget labor. Scheduling technology is key — mobile workforce management scheduling eliminates the tedious and labor-intensive complexity of manual scheduling. By tying that schedule to monetary amounts, these tools also help businesses make sure that they stay on budget while directing work activities.
Payroll, Tax and Benefits Platforms
Many of the most popular mobile workforce management systems integrate with payroll, tax and benefit systems to manage these financial human resource jobs through a centralized, easy-to-use interface. For example, ADP, a popular third party payroll firm, offers its own mobile workforce management app to customers. In addition to ADP’s core services regarding payroll issuing and tax accounting, many of the above field management features are also built into the platform.
These modern mobile workforce management systems turn any mobile device into a full-fledged business computer. Just a few years ago, salespeople and technicians walked around carrying briefcases full of paper. With this modern technology, workers have access to more information in real time while they’re in the field. In turn, they can provide much more information to their customers and report back to the company in much more versatile ways. All of this is a key part of the mobile workforce management solutions offered by a range of tech vendors, as well as major telecom providers like Sprint and Verizon. Compare packages and services to find the best management tools for a given enterprise.