Like most transformative innovations in supply chain automation, the end state – in this case, a completely touchless supply chain – is an aspirational goal. And while technology is already being leveraged toward achieving the goal of contactless supply chain, it is an incremental process. Here’s what TMS technologies companies like UltraShipTMS are already delivering and how these incremental steps bring us closer to the ideal.
The pandemic has intensified the focus of supply chain professionals on the need to increase automation. The rising interest in the notion of contactless supply chain is evident as businesses of all kinds seek to reduce the human interactions in the movement of materials into production facilities and deliver finished products to customers both wholesale and retail.
While much digital ink has been spilt on the subject of touchless final mile delivery, the contactless process begins long before the new toaster you ordered arrives at your doorstep. For a truly contactless process, logistics operations must also focus on all the literal touchpoints occurring upstream and at every juncture from inbound freight delivery and freight yard activity to the manufacturing process and then the outbound freight delivery to the warehouse/DC and ultimately to the point of sale. This begins with digitizing the paper-based documentation passed back and forth between shippers, carriers and consignees.
This one step, digitizing bills of lading, proofs of delivery and other documentation typically printed and passed back and forth between drivers, warehouse dock workers, yard/gate operators and financial processing personnel, adds a significant brick to the foundation of any supply chain digitization initiative. Long before data can be harnessed to support artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, block chain for supply chain management and other digitization goals, it must first be captured electronically in the systems already being used to manage supply chain processes. TMS, YMS, ERP, WMS and other supply chain tech can only leverage data if it exists in digital form. The challenge becomes getting all these platforms to digitize paper-based activities and then to be able to normalize the transfer of this data across each application.
TMS applications like UltraShipTMS already have “digital-ready” capabilities that can immediately support the digitization needed to achieve contactless supply chain management (or at least the logistics link of the supply chain). With capabilities like electronic document capture and storage for BOLs, PODs and manifests; paperless dock scheduling for warehouse and DC planning; paperless gate check-in and check-out as part of the Yard Management process; and electronic invoice settlement, UltraShipTMS has already done away with much of the paper-based activity required in transportation logistics.
To support the easy exchange of digital data between UltraShipTMS (which includes UltraYMS, Advanced Scheduling, Freight Settlement and Fleet Management solutions) and external systems like ERP/order management tools, visibility tools and warehouse management systems, UltraShip delivers digital data processing capabilities through its Nucleus Supply Chain Data Hub. This technology ensures easy, accurate data flow through the logistics portion of any enterprise supply chain tech stack.
As more shippers call for contactless options, the task will fall to tech providers like UltraShip already fielding digitization capabilities to work with their shipper customers, the customers’ carriers and consignees to drive integration and participation. Achieving the aspirational and truly innovative goal of a touchless, end-to-end supply chain will rely both on powerful technology and robust collaborative action between all parties concerned. Are you ready to go contactless? Ask us how.