In the uber-competitive logistics industry, customer satisfaction is the key to profitability. This means that logistics players must continuously actualize strategies for enhancing customer loyalty. Once entirely driven by manpower, the sector is fast realizing that automation of the end-to-end supply chain is a key driver of excellence, ultimately leading to enhanced customer satisfaction.
How Automation can Drive Logistics Value Chain Excellence
In the Indian logistics landscape, there are special challenges on several levels. Such are the inefficiencies in the industry that the country is one of the largest spenders in the world with a compound logistics expenditure of 13% of GDP. Its expenses are exceeded only by China whose manufacturing sector is almost double that of India. Thus, automating has special advantages for removing inefficiencies in the country’s system – ensuring that items are stored, transported, and delivered efficiently.
Using technologies such as scanning, bar codes, RFID tags, Blockchains, IoT, Analytics and AI, logistics firms can drive faster order delivery, improved tracking, and reduce losses and damage to packages. Better order tracking and real-time updates about in transit and delivery status can enhance customer comfort. Operations can be automated and simplified such as validating and sorting packages while unloading with help of technology, route them appropriately, and minimize delays in delivery through dispensing accurate information to delivery personnel and customers. Technology usage will ensure uniform and desired results irrespective of the skill of the handlers.
Easier Order Booking
Through automation, order booking can be made easier. Instead of the customer physically placing an order over the phone or internet, AI can be leveraged to pick on falling inventory levels and automate ordering. Customers, thus, no longer have to follow a specific protocol to share the order details. Alternately interfaces can be built to automatically place logistics/supply chain management orders directly with the orders from end customers/retailers. Suppliers can use Analytics and AI to predict the demand and stock the regional warehouses accordingly.
Providing customers tools of the trade will reduce dependency on customers calling/following up with Logistics providers. Customers need to have visibility into tracking information of the consignments, accurate ETAs, Digital Invoices, Proof of Deliveries, Payments etc.. Technology can help automate all of this to customers and they can get the information real time. Providing visibility into detailed tracking information will help bring in more loyalty. It will also push the operations team to deliver more efficiency.
To optimize operations, automation is needed. With automated and optimized operations the cost will come down. The benefit of reduced cost can be passed to customers, or better service at the same cost passed to customers will bring in loyalty and stickiness.
Automating warehouse management using AI, bots can drive down costs and reduce processing times. Self-driving trucks loaded with the packages can be on the road for longer hours as compared to human-driven vehicles, bringing down costs. Similarly, Augmented Reality can reduce warehouse costs by providing employees with Graphical User Interface enabled instructions, helping in faster warehousing operations. In turn, such cost savings can be passed on to the customers.
Automation in logistics also leads to greater efficiency and reduction in redundancies. The customer stands to gain on both counts in terms of faster deliveries and cost-effective solutions.
Tracking is not limited to information about the delivery of the consignment or the movement of the shipment. It also involves information on its condition and identifying the root cause of change in condition (to avoid similar incidents in future). With the right use of automation, pilferage and damages can be curtailed to a large extent. A paper-less trail for shipment with electronic proof of deliveries and payments make the process hassle-free and lead to greater transparency. With automation manual errors can also be avoided such as wrong routing, wrong packet delivery or wrong POD submissions.
Personalized Customer Service
Using technology to automate supply chains also leads to the personalization of the customer experience. Both point of sale and point of delivery steps where the customer interfaces with the logistics firms can be personalized according to their specific needs.
IoT embraces customer touch points including integrating AI-driven customer devices such as Amazon’s Alexa into the value chain. This helps in person independent pickup and delivery which leads to greater flexibility for the customers.
In addition, corporate customers who have deep relationships with the logistics firms can be assured of personalized and highly attentive customer service through real-time dashboards for accurate and timely information. Indeed, integrating the customer interface modules of the logistics firms with the vendor modules at the corporate’s end can result in effective synergies.
Key corporate accounts can be geared to meet peak demand, seasonal or otherwise, as automation enables firms to scale up according to changing demand patterns. Use of Predictive Analytics enabled by Big Data and AI allows logistics firms to manage the highs as well as the troughs in volumes.
Implementation in India
In India, automation is naturally not implemented to the extent it is in the West. Cheap labor means the sector is still largely driven by manpower. Sudden automation of the entire value chain, thus, is not possible in the country. Instead, a combination of manpower and automation will make for a better model. It is the right mix of human assistance and technology that will lead to enhanced output and quicker processes.
Changing customer expectations means that logistics firms have to continually innovate to stay ahead of the curve. Cutting edge automation is perhaps the most important strategy that firms can use to differentiate themselves today.
It goes without saying that automation of the logistics supply chains benefits customers. Cost savings, customized solutions, assured deliveries, and damage inured processes are some of the ways in which customer satisfaction is enhanced.
By automating the end-to-end supply chain, managers can also save man hours spent on repetitive tasks and instead use human insight to ensure greater customer satisfaction. Thus, investing in tools like warehouse management systems and robotics is certain to improve productivity throughout the entire supply chain.
The emergence of game-changing technologies such as AI and IoT is already paving the way for logistics firms to ride the wave of transformation in their operations, eventually leading to greater customer delight.