As a college-educated computer scientist, Bastian Späth understands how IT solutions are developed from the ground up. For more than 15 years, he has spent every workday collecting requirements, finding ideas, developing designs, setting up projects and getting them safely across the finish line.
Smart collaboration: work together intelligently and efficiently
Logistics chains consist of many links. They will only run smoothly if everyone involved in them works closely together. Precise information is the key to error-free work, especially across company boundaries. It allows better control of key aspects of collaboration: task management helps to complete tasks on time; bots handle status requests from customers and complex searches; and supply chain managers and dispatchers are automatically notified of process disruptions. That is why the following principles should apply to collaboration in logistics:
- All process participants are interlinked.
- All job data is available to everyone it who needs it.
- All work steps are clearly documented.
- All job management information is in the same system.
- Recurring tasks should be partially or fully automated.
As challenging as these factors sound, they serve an important goal: clarity. A linear process with a starting point and a destination should always progress on a straight path in the right direction.
Working hand in hand
Partners have to coordinate their activities if they jointly provide logistics services. This is the only way to ensure an effective outcome and full customer satisfaction. Coordination also plays a big role in ensuring that every partner benefits from the collaboration. As they seek the right approach to smart collaboration, system alliances have developed their own rules and acquired shared IT systems to manage their day-to-day business. They have one main job to do: to centrally consolidate order information. They have also integrated workflow-based task management in recent years to ensure that everyone knows what to do. These systems walk employees through process steps, document the completion of each step and contains a set of text modules for the most common requests within a network. The systems provide clarity within the alliance: all employees know the status of all the shipments they are handling, whether in inbound or outbound. This method stands in stark contrast to communication by email or instant messenger, where information reaches recipients just as quickly but is no longer available for the next process step. Partners can also use task management to set deadlines for processing steps.
Receive information instead of hunting it down
Hunting for information wastes time. Automatic services not only find information much faster but also keep things in impeccable order. They provide information without requiring user intervention. They include supply chain event management (SCEM) systems that proactively inform users of process disruptions. Or bots that handle complex searches and consolidate data for users. For example, bots that possess artificial intelligence (AI) can find all the emails related to a specific shipment number. Or they can ask a partner about the current status of shipments at predefined times. For example. Is the 10 a.m. delivery on time? They also offer the option of automatically answering queries about a shipment's status by chat or email. All this serves the goal of instilling confidence in customers and given them all the information from a single source. This is when collaboration enters the zone of smart collaboration.
Centralised systems serving as a single point of truth and automation provide clarity in collaboration. That does more than just improve customer service. It is also necessary for the service itself. It is the only way to determine when a partner has done its part in a joint transaction. It requires audit-proof documentation of the individual steps and statuses – right down to the proof of delivery (POD). Billing cannot begin until all the documentation is available. The documentation is also necessary identify who is liable for a shipment at any given time. This is important if a shipment gets damaged on its way to the recipient. When that happens, the next step is to identify who is responsible for the damage and whether insurance will cover it or one of the service providers will have to assume liability themselves. Clear data benefits you threefold in this situation: the incident is resolved quickly, the customer is notified quickly and the relationships between the partners remain intact because there are no doubts.