Logistics chain: plan transport excellence digitally?

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Man looks at route in route planner on his cell phone

It's Utopian to schedule a transport to reach its destination safely without any delays. Or is it? Or is there a way to use this vision to develop a realistic goal for the future? And what has to happen for reality to set in even faster?

Transports have a starting point and a destination that they reach via a planned route. These three factors harbour risks for freight forwarders and carriers that make the transport process so uncertain in real life. However, the benefits of more precise planning would be huge:

  • Freight forwarders create synergies between different orders.
  • Dispatchers in particular benefit from precise planning options.
  • Truck drivers easily keep to their driving times on reliably planned tours.
  • Coordinated transport planning also relieves traffic congestion.

It does not take a Utopian dreamer or even an entirely new technology to realise these advantages. All you really need to do is digitally integrate your logistics chain in a specific, focused manner and share the data transparently.


Many transports – each with one logistics chain

Every transport forms the heart of a logistics chain. It is carefully planned, often including long buffer times to be sure to stay within specified delivery time slots. A more recent trend aims to determine the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of vehicles and report it to the recipient. This allows downstream processes to be planned with greater certainty. What has not yet been done, however, is the evaluation of historical traffic data using criteria that could inform the planning process: How does traffic volume change over the week? Do some days tend to have less traffic? At what times of the day are the roads relatively clear and free of vehicles? What factors influence traffic conditions?


What data is needed for planning?

Planners have to collect and evaluate as much data as possible in order to plan a transport without disruptions. For example, how does the weather affect driving time? Can drivers take breaks on the scheduled route and still make it by the scheduled time of arrival? Or are the parking and rest areas in the break region overcrowded? Will drivers run into traffic jams after the break? Will they reach the destination region during rush hour? Are there other factors that could disrupt the trip? For example, are road closures or demonstrations planned? It would be ideal to coordinate schedules more closely with the recipient's plans and include any plans made by other freight forwarders . The more current and historical data is available for this purpose, the more likely it is that the transport will run smoothly.

New approaches

Plan early and transparently

The thought that freight forwarders and carriers could plan their routes early and sharing them transparently with each other may seem Utopian from today's perspective. However, the goal is not to give away trade secrets or overshare with competitors. It is enormously helpful, though, to know trip routes and destinations in advance in order to avoid potentially congested roads before a traffic jam occurs. This can optimise drivers' driving and rest times, which also improves their working conditions. This approach does not require a central transport registry. What it does require is a linked data pool that lists all the potential problems along a route. It allows freight forwarders and carriers tocheck each individual scheduled transport against this data pool, providing its route, destination, and calculated time of arrival. If the number of requests to check certain routes indicates that the traffic infrastructure is overloaded, the freight forwarders will automatically receive modified route suggestions. This significantly increases the probability of trouble-free transports without requiring direct coordination by a higher authority. This Utopian idea, in short, can be transformed into a realistic goal as long as there is a strong desire to be efficient.


Linked data sources enable successful transports

Innovation is when small, bold steps turn Utopian ideas into reality. Therefore, as digitalisation continues to make strides, it should become possible to plan transports in advance with far more certainty than today. How quickly this happens will depend on industry players' willingness to be transparent. However, the benefits are clear today.

Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert

As a design guru, the software developer delves into logistics service providers' requirements like no other. He is passionate about exchanging information securely and efficiently and thus speeding up the physical logistics process.

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