In this article, I have presented the general challenge faced by logistics companies in terms of automation, followed by solution and then finally the significant use cases. This article concludes with a short note on how a web portal and mobile application can impact your brand
If you are running a successful logistics business, you certainly have software systems in place to manage your transactions. The ERP systems like the ones offered by Oracle (https://www.oracle.com/in/applications/supply-chain-management/solutions/logistics/transportation-management.html), Soloplan (https://www.soloplan.com) , Descartes (https://www.descartes.com) , Magaya (https://www.magaya.com) etc. have been ruling the logistics ERP world since ages. They do provide marvelous backend systems to run day to day transactions in your logistics business like nvocc (container business) , freight forwarding, warehouse, transport management / trucking and vessel. However, what most of these ERP(s) lack is - “the customer facing self-service portal” that can facilitate the customers to register and request for on-boarding, request bookings and view their booking statuses.
These ERP systems are not churning enough. They have tonnes of customer specific data which can be made available to the customer on a meticulously crafted web portal & a mobile application. But more often than not, they are closed systems. These ERP systems are backend systems used by your internal sales & operations team to manage business transactions. Most of the legacy ERPs do not even have a web based interface that can facilitate your own staff to access the systems when they are not in office.
It is needless to say that a super effective solution will be to let your existing ERPs churn information out to the customers directly through a web or a mobile interface. So how do you do that ! You cannot re-write the entire ERP solution on top of new technologies; this will mean writing-off all the investments made till date. Replacing systems is not a very good idea. It costs lot of time and money.
The solution is to build a web portal complemented by mobile app, that sits on top of your existing ERP or any other backend system(s). The modern technologies, especially the revolution in ux (user experience) space, provide means to build state-of-the-art applications for web and mobile that engage your customers in an extremely superior way.
While your ERP / backend systems continue to support core business processes, the customers can be on-boarded to your web portals & mobile apps. The customers can then access their data and place bookings through these applications. These applications can in turn seamlessly integrate with your existing backend systems to get and push data.
have listed some significant use cases in the following section.
The logistics business is pretty much complex. The transactions are laden with documentation. Not only transactions, but also the customer is supposed to submit his KYC documents without which the on boarding process is incomplete.
The self-service web portal can be used by your customers & prospects to register and submit their KYC documents. The web portal can then push these documents to your backend system in real-time and notify your sales / operations team.
If you are into NVOCC business, your customers would love to place bookings online instead of mailing you the details. While some of your “not-so-very-savvy” customers may want to upload the excel sheet with the booking details, your large customers may want to push bookings directly to your backend systems.
All these use cases can be implemented on top of “API oriented micro-services based” architecture. The web portal can provide beautifully designed forms to place booking requests. APIs can provide secured access to your large customers to push bookings into your system directly. Mobile applications can provide a dashboard to the customer to view the status of the bookings that they have placed.
Similarly, such an architectural framework can be used to build & develop applications for vessel business where in your customers may want to book your vessels to place their containers to be shipped.
Freight forwarders, warehouse & transport service providers can build such applications to accept bookings from their customers in a similar manner.
This is the star use case. In any logistics business, while receiving bookings is of utmost importance and significance for the service provider, monitoring the status of bookings already placed is of utmost importance for the customer.
Meticulously designed dashboard can provide all the information to the customer with respect to his bookings. The customer can filter the bookings by “accepted”, “rejected”, “cro released”, “cancelled”, “bookings ready for instructions submission” etc.
A powerful search mechanism can be provided over and above filtering, such that user can search for bookings based on date, booking number, shipper name, load port and discharge port.
You may also want to provide alerts and list of the pending invoices to the customer on his dashboard.
This is yet another significant use case where in the customer can be notified through an email / sms / WhatsApp when his booking status changes. For e.g. the customer can be notified that his booking has been accepted, the cro is released, the booking is ready for adding of shipment instructions and so on.
Placing a booking is a bit of a complex business .. especially in case of nvocc and vessel business and hence may not be the best use case on mobile app but…the dashboard and notifications are killer use cases for mobile. Imagine - your customer getting the updates on the status of his bookings on his mobile; this will give your company a huge edge over your competitors.
All the aforementioned use cases not only saves a lot of time and cost of operations at your end, it enhances the user experience while doing business with your company. In uber competitive world, where your customer has choice of other service providers, such web portals and mobile applications in logistics business can certainly give you an edge over your competitors, enhance customer loyalty and most important of all - strengthen your brand.