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Business & Technology Services
29 May 2018

A Focus on the Logistics Industry

In today’s digital transformation era dominated by globalization, changing customer preferences and social customer care, delivering exceptional customer experience is heavily reliant on a well-oiled supply chain. Each component of the supply chain serves as an integral piece of a larger puzzle. And, while all the pieces of the puzzle play an importance role in forming the big picture, the logistics function is key to keeping the picture intact. A well-managed logistics function assures a flawless movement of goods and services from one end of the supply chain to the next.| 

However, some businesses are feeling the strain on their logistics function due to the sudden boom in the eCommerce market. Businesses are finding themselves grappling for the right set of tools and technologies to automate manually intensive processes, swiftly update customer information, cross-check country-specific regulatory norms, standardize invoicing processes, etc., and tackle this surge head-on.

Fortunately, the digital transformation era – Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Cloud Technology, Internet of Things (IoT) – has much to offer businesses that are willing to take the transformation leap. Let’s take a look at some of the key functions in the logistics lifecycle and how digital technology can help transform them. 

  • Customer data: The Big Data and IoT revolution offers logistics managers with a plethora of semi-structured and unstructured customer data which can be sliced and diced to draw intelligent insights. Logistics managers can retrieve, consolidate, and modify this valuable data from any location on the globe, on the fly. Automating the process could reduce the number of manual errors as well as ease up this labor intensive activity. DHL has taken a step in this direction by piloting AI to enhance its customer services. The company has recorded a 10% increase in shipment processing accuracy through increased automation at its hubs and gateways, while its On Demand Delivery online services has increased the first time delivery success for ecommerce shipments from 80% to 92%.

  • Invoicing: Businesses indulging in monthly billing cycles, where thousands of lines items are populated in a single invoice, have a tedious task on their hands. A manually intensive process prone to errors is not the best fit when dealing with customer invoices. With analytical tools that accurately analyze and condense multiple line items into a single entry, logistic managers can focus on valuable granular details instead. 

  • Country-specific regulatory norms: Businesses with a global reach need to be cognizant of the dynamic city-, state- and country-specific regulatory norms and transportation rules. Slippage in adherence could mean lengthy legal hassles and hefty penalties, leading to delayed deliveries and dissatisfied customers. Using cloud applications, customer information can be cross-checked against the shipping location and their respective regulatory norms. Businesses can also easily update the cloud application regularly with the latest regulatory norms, thereby ensuring accurate and swift compliance.

  • Tracking and delivery: Barcodes, while very effective in identifying certain class of products, have far too many limitations. Goods and supplies embedded with sensors and actuators instead, can simplify the tracking and delivery process. This is especially beneficial for time sensitive deliveries like perishable goods. Any delay in the delivery cycle can also be duly notified and timely remedies can be set in place. Damaged or non-delivery of commodities can be tracked and returned to the warehouse appropriately. Replacements for damaged commodities can be set in motion in real-time and swiftly shipped off to customers. Amazon’s Prime Air is a classic example of sensor technology in the logistics industry. Amazon has developed a conceptual drone-based delivery system which uses remote-controlled robotic vehicles to transport goods from the company’s order fulfillment centers to the consumers within a span of 30 minutes or less from the time of placing the order. While the company has to still overcome regulatory issues, and deliveries are restricted to products weighting no more than five pounds, within the immediate vicinity of the distribution center, this is certainly one step closer towards making drone delivery a reality. 

  • Customer feedback: Valuable customer feedback such as complaints on quality of services and delayed delivery need to be appropriately addressed to avoid repetition. Proper storage and analysis of customer history can provide the much needed insights logistics managers need to cope with specific customer preferences. AI, deep learning and natural language processing can help provide the requisite measures to make this possible. Using AI, checks can be set in place to efficiently study the customer’s calling history, query log, email exchanges, past ticket details, etc. and patterns can be detected in real-time based on which decisions can be taken on the fly. Proactive recommendations can also be made to address future queries.

Artificial Intelligence has tremendous potential to improve customer journeys and transform businesses. It can help businesses transform existing services as well as identify unmet customer needs by designing new products and services sooner than expected, thus ensuring continuing relevance in today’s Business 4.0 era. Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are innovators who have use cases and value adds from adopting AI early. While they have all faced their initial set of hiccups, they are successfully riding the AI wave, today. 

The digital transformation era has raised the expectations for logistics managers, but also provided multiple opportunities to transform their business. Timely identification and implementation of transformation methodologies is key to survival.

About the author(s)
Business & Technology Services

TCS’ Business and Technology Services organization combines the power of business excellence with digital innovations to help enterprises and leaders be purpose-driven and performance-oriented, making the shift from shareholder value to stakeholder value. By harnessing the abundance of data, talent, connectivity and capital, B&TS helps leading companies around the world build ecosystems that fuel growth and innovation, foster collaboration and engagement across ecosystems, improve health, safety, and well-being, enabling empowerment and inclusivity, and driving sustainability and positive environmental impact.