The logistics industry, a crucial service provider for millions of people, has been in existence for several decades. However, it is only in the last decade or so that the industry has vastly developed, primarily thanks to automation. Speed sensors, driver monitoring systems, live data transmission, predictive analysis, and various other technical features are responsible for much of the logistics sector’s functioning today, and it is impossible to imagine the system without these.
Like any other technological advancement, automation in the logistics business has its set of pros and cons. The features which benefit one party pose a threat to another, or the same tool can be a powerful asset or a dangerous weapon based on how people use or misuse it. Here is a look at both sides of the coin when it comes to automating fleet management, otherwise known as fleet telematics.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Power of Automation
- 2 The Limitations of Automation
- 3 Automation: A Double-Edged Sword
The Power of Automation
1. Increased Accuracy and Efficiency
Automating repeated or standardized processes increases the overall efficiency of the organization. In any logistics company, the data collected from vehicles and drivers daily can amount to terabytes of numbers and figures that a human will take a long to analyze. On the other hand, computer software can accurately make sense of the data and quickly interpret it.
From the time fleet managers purchase a new fleet and enter their details (like vehicle number, model, etc.) into a centralized database, it is possible to track every vehicle and driver uniquely only because of the power of automation. With a few button presses, you can know which truck is carrying which cargo to which destination and how long it will take to arrive.
2. Safety and Reliability of Transportation
With live location tracking, the fleet supervisor and the client know exactly where the truck is and when it is expected to reach the delivery point. Knowing that they can keep track of the cargo at any time gives the customers confidence that the shipment will arrive safely.
Automation also includes other safety measures like driver monitoring systems and crash detectors. A camera mounted on the steering column continuously scans the driver’s eyes and alerts them and the supervisor in case of abnormal behavior like drunkenness or fatigue.
Crash detectors inform the driver if any other vehicles are in close range so that they can avoid accidents. If an accident does happen, the dash cams installed in trucks capture the footage so that the managers can analyze it later and find out what went wrong.
3. Better Planning and Execution
From scheduling maintenance trips to optimizing delivery routes, software tools such as fleet tracking apps have helped fleet managers significantly improve the decision-making and execution steps. The digital database containing all the details of the trucks and vehicles enables you to find out who is free to take on a new task and assign future jobs accordingly, especially when some trucks are undergoing service.
Route optimization software tools help you plan the shortest or quickest route a driver can take to reach the destination. Live GPS data can inform drivers about the roads where there is traffic or roadblocks too. Moreover, it can also suggest ways to combine multiple deliveries in a single trip based on drop-off locations.
Other software tools can analyze the data you collect on supply and demand quantities over time to pick out trends. Such analyses assist you in forecasting the demand for the next month or quarter to estimate how many trucks and drivers you need.
4. Compliance with Rules and Norms
Every commercial carrier in the US is supposed to follow certain safety regulations and rules. To enforce this practice, the government introduced the CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) score, which takes into account the vehicle’s driving history, maintenance, and other factors. In recent times, all carriers and drivers are required to have digital timesheets and logs to record their daily work.
With automation and telematics devices in place, managers can ensure that their drivers and vehicles stick to these norms by continuously monitoring them during every journey.
The Limitations of Automation
1. Loss of Jobs
From a fleet manager’s point of view, using automation and digital devices can greatly reduce the human effort to do the same work. From automatic data transmission to predictive maintenance analysis, software tools do the job that was earlier done by humans.
At this rate of advancement, the workers face the danger of losing their jobs to robots or machines. This situation can get messy, especially if there are labor unions and strikes.
2. High Initial Investment
In the long run, automation will save your company money and yield a positive ROI. However, the initial investment in purchasing and installing all the devices and training the drivers and crew to use them correctly is quite high.
As a manager, you should be patient enough to see how well your crew adapts to the new system so that you realize profits later. Don’t go for telematics systems and AI tools unless you are sure that your company needs those.
3. Over-Dependence on Machines
People make a common mistake regarding technology because they believe the machines and software can manage everything on their own. In reality, some human intervention and supervision are always required to ensure the software tools do their job correctly.
For example, the sensors attached to the vehicle transmit data continuously and raise the alarm if there is an accident. At that stage, you should take over and decide how to continue the delivery, what should be done to take care of the driver, and other factors. You cannot always expect a machine to run the entire operation by itself.
Automation: A Double-Edged Sword
Automation for fleet management is undoubtedly a powerful tool, but one has to be aware of the flip side. You must learn to use the power responsibly for maximum benefit for yourself, your workers, the company, and the client. Now that you are aware of the pros and cons, you can make an informed decision about upgrading your fleet with the latest devices and automation technology.