Reacting to The Changing World of Shipping Logistics
The trucking and commercial transportation industry is at a crossroad where smart technology is stepping forward to meet evolving industry expectations and new, more complex logistics problems. Between growing concerns with last-mile delivery and the importance of the ELD mandate, companies are at an integral stage where they are being forced to adopt technology solutions at a time of unprecedented technological change.
3PL companies like Dupré Logistics have navigated this tumultuous period with effective methodologies for technology integration and adoption. In a recent webinar focused on addressing growing technology concerns for 3PL companies, Dupré CIO Bob Verret outlined the events that led up to the current state of technology confusion and how Dupré Logistics has responded.
Planned Obsolescence Has Made Future-Proofing Difficult
Planned obsolescence (or built-in obsolescence as it’s sometimes called) is a concept that every decision maker within an organization should be aware of because it affects every technology decision for the foreseeable future. However, don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it—consumers have largely grown accustomed to—and unaware of—routine cycles of technology change.
Planned obsolescence explains a common practice where products (most often technology) are manufactured with an artificial life expectancy, guaranteeing that users will eventually seek replacements and bolster demand. Smartphones are a perfect example of how consumers have become accustomed to this practice: manufacturers have designed their products to maximize performance over a window of around three years, which is about the same time most consumers are eligible for an upgrade via their phone plan. As a consumer’s phone begins to slow down at the end of its lifespan, users are already anticipating their next model.
How has this affected the shipping industry? According to Verret, it’s made future-proofing technology solutions difficult. In the webinar, he addresses a valid concern faced by many in the industry. “How do I put something in place that won’t require a major technology change in the future?”
Don’t try to fight planned obsolescence head-on but plan around and work with it. “To solve this,” says Verret, “I look at future-proofing as based on what we do with our trucks. Here at Dupré, we won’t run a truck beyond 650,000 miles or four years. So I have to set a realistic time horizon of what I want the solution in the cab to do.” By setting a concrete time-frame with a clear start and end point, you are able to plan for technology upgrades across an entire fleet based on expected maintenance service intervals. This sort of planning becomes important with respect to meeting the stipulations of evolving industry regulations, such as the ELD mandate.
The Impact of the ELD Mandate
On February 16, 2016, the ELD mandate was enacted and, since then, has affected the shipping industry in a profound way. Put in place to address a pervasive issue with unreliable hours-of-service (HOS) recording, the ELD mandate has necessitated that companies and employees adopt technology solutions to electronically log hours to ensure that drivers are on the road for appropriate amounts of time.
Prior to the ELD mandate, technology vendors were beginning to consolidate solutions into a handful of packages. This resulted in a small number of recognizable, reliable brand names to choose from and little competition amongst vendors. However, once the ELD mandate was signed into law, the number of certified ELD technology vendors exploded and a tightly contested technology race ensued.
Now, with over 100 certified companies offering similar services and products, it’s become incredibly challenging to sift through the noise. Decision makers are overwhelmed by the sheer number of options and are struggling to come up with effective ways to discern the right technology option for their operation.
The best method to overcome this confusion is to set your performance goals as a requirement and then choose the solution that best meets that requirement with as little modification as possible. You will be certain that adopted technology is aligned to your operations and that you can easily upgrade your technology on a regular basis. However, successful implementation of new technology also depends on strong training practices.
Training Your Trainers to Meet Logistical Needs
“It’s important to note that your people play a big role in this,” says Verret in respect to successful technology adoption. “All of your technology associates need to be accepting of new solutions and understanding of the business’s performance goals. Because of this, solid training programs are essential to promote the understanding of your new technology solution.”
To accomplish this, implement a “train the trainer” approach. In this model, the trainer, an expert on a subject, trains employees in how to use something (such as a new ELD device) while also teaching them how to train other employees. When implemented correctly, this model has many advantages, such as disseminating information quickly across an organization and minimizing the time managers need to spend on organizing training sessions. When it comes to implementing training across large fleet sizes, this approach is particularly effective.
In order for this approach to work for trucking, you have to establish good performance requirements in the same way you would for choosing the right technology solution. “Have really good requirements,” Verret says, “and take those requirements and build your user cases associated with how the user is going to use that product from those requirements. Doing this will ensure that there’s a good understanding of how that technology is going to impact your business, and improve alignment between the operations and the technology.”
Technology Should Work For You, Not Against You
Above all, technology components should always improve an employee’s ability to perform their duties. If they don’t, then you don’t consider them.
A strong telephony network is the lifeblood of all modern trucking and transportation technology. With 3G connectivity on the way out and an increased reliance on technology to maintain consistent network coverage, it’s important to consider adopting at least a 4G connection. A strong connection allows transportation management systems (TMS) to share important endpoint data via tablets across an open architecture system with near-instant feedback. This connectivity and secured endpoint data sharing opens the possibility for driver assistance technology and improved communications.
While image capture technology has been around for years, the prevalence of 4G connectivity has expanded the technology’s capabilities drastically. This increased connectivity allows for video information to be relayed back to the manager of the driver in real-time, and the driver’s manager can monitor conditions and provide instant feedback. It also serves as a way to protect a driver’s liability in the case of a collision or wrongful ticketing, as well as guarantees authentic HOS logging.
Driver Emergency Button
A critically important application of having real-time image capture communication is the ability for instant driver assistance. By providing the driver with an emergency button, you’re equipping them with a tool that allows them to communicate with specialists in times of need. This way, a driver’s manager can assist the driver with abnormal situations. It’s important to note that the camera by itself won’t achieve the results you’re after, so you need to have trained staff to facilitate the technology and leverage information collected to educate the driver or coach.
Modern technology solutions and smart ELD applications are providing more sophisticated data for use by both drivers and management. Having a clear geographical representation of driver location, along with sophisticated mapping and turn-by-turn directions leads to increased performance and less out-of-route-miles. As a result, this translates to reduced costs and helps keep freight on time. As a bonus, managers can track HOS recording across locational data and measure performance more accurately.
What Does the Future Hold in Store?
These technology solutions represent a small glimpse of the exciting advancements in transportation technology. From cloud-based IoT telematics to sophisticated V2X communications, there are a number of emerging technologies which will completely reshape the industry. Because of this, it’s important that companies continue to push for innovation of practices through mindful technology implementation (and tempered expectations). As tempting as it is to jump head first into the exciting future of transportation technology, it’s important to remember two things: 1) adopt technology that meets performance goals and, 2) ensure that your adopted technology solution is making your employees’ lives easier.
Our continued success as a leading 3PL company can be attributed to an understanding of these two considerations, and a deep appreciation of the value of our employees—whether that be the strategic guidance of CIO Bob Verret or the diligent efforts of our skilled drivers.