The Connected Logistics Frontline: A New Frontier for Manufacturers: Part 2

Feb 16, 2023 11:14:00 AM . Julia Walsh

Understanding the challenges of connecting outbound and inbound logistics activities while connecting the frontline with the rest of the enterprise and making the most of digitization tools: Part 2

The initial post in this series explained how the warehouse-management landscape is changing and why considering logistics within this paradigm shift is important for manufacturers. As manufacturers pursue digital transformation, they often prioritize certain use cases and start with the areas most in need of digital tools before working toward lesser-priority items. When following this strategy, they often end up with complex IT infrastructures with multiple software applications and platforms, defeating the original purpose of digital transformation and replacing old legacy point solutions with shiny new ones.

Webalo recommends that manufacturers follow the Lighthouse Approach to digital-solution deployment, especially when it comes to their frontlines. This approach advocates for platform deployment across the frontline, allowing workers across the whole process to simultaneously get acquainted with the solution. This improves the chances of success. It also allows for one location to act as the baseline for deployment, improvement, and optimization so that other locations can benefit from the improvements made on one site.

Manufacturers must deploy a strong digital platform within their logistics functions that not only digitally empowers their workers and connects them with other enterprise applications but also, depending on the current level of automation and operational complexity, allows the best possible logistics-management results. Webalo, when deployed following the Lighthouse Strategy, creates a Workforce Intelligence Center that allows all workers, including those managing logistics, to deliver the best possible results with 100% digital oversight and intelligence at their disposal.

Logistics Management Challenges Explained:

There are multiple challenges for manufacturers when it comes to managing logistics, whether inbound or outbound. Everything from the verification of goods received to their safe placement in predetermined warehouse or DC spaces is a challenge. Furthermore, ensuring worker safety and the highest possible efficiency levels are top deliverables for any manufacturer. Let’s briefly take a look at these challenges.

Trailer Management- Whether they are outbound or inbound, the assignment and clearing of trailers needs to be digitized. Depending on the existing IT infrastructure, trailer management might be fully or partially spreadsheet based with no mobile tracking or real-time reporting of trailer status. All of this creates inefficiency and delays in trailer management.

Dock Door/Bay Assignment- Depending on the frequency with which goods arrive or depart from a given plant, it becomes critical to ensure trailers are always assigned where they must load or unload. This goes beyond a rigid assignment of docks and doors to a real-time dynamic assignment methodology, which empowers workers to react on real-world inputs from other applications like the SCM, ERP, or MES.

Inspection and Quality- Typically, the inspection of goods on arrival is done by the personnel responsible for handling the goods and transferring them to their spot in the warehouse or DC. Goods to be dispatched from a plant might be subjected to a PDI performed either by the quality team or by the dispatch-department personnel. In both cases, workers are generally equipped with paper-based forms and must physically fill in the data pertaining to the receipt or dispatch. The inability to simply click pictures and create records in the case of quality or safety non-compliance might become a terrible challenge for the plant personnel.

Other Challenges- Aside from the obvious challenges listed above, a few other problems persist when it comes to managing logistics. The reliance on paper-based forms and spreadsheets to fill data and trigger actions (maintenance, additional inspection, transfer to production/warehouse) leads to unwanted delays and the loss of valuable time. In the absence of a WMS, or if a WMS isn’t connected to logistics to the same extent it’s connected to trailer management, the movement to and from trailers is a black hole and may lead to inefficiencies even if the warehouse activities are well managed.

End-to-end digital connectivity, with a logistics application connected well beyond the WMS and SCM, should be a goal for manufacturers. In the current business landscape, a system that orchestrates logistics must be connected to market and supplier applications or at least have access to real-time changes. Intelligence through digital tools should also be a goal. Basic digital tools aren’t enough anymore; workers need to know the trends and possible configurations for a given situation in order to choose the most optimal outcome. Unless an application exists to deliver all of this, simply replacing paper with digital forms will never be the best way forward.   

Webalo Insights:

The Webalo Platform connects the worker frontline across the board in any given manufacturing ecosystem. It delivers optimized value while digitizing the existing operation and creating an intelligent workforce. With Webalo, the frontline workforce has the power of mobile-based apps that allow them to perform their tasks better while efficiently delivering value.

Since Webalo is an all-pervasive platform, it eliminates the challenge of connecting with other applications and bringing logistics employees up to speed in real time. Furthermore, the platform allows workers to use preset templates or create their own dashboards to manage and monitor all essential aspects of inbound or outbound logistics, as illustrated in Figure 2.  All of this is enabled on their integrated workstations and mobile devices, ensuring that data is captured and reported in real time and that it is used by workers to make better logistics decisions, ensure plans are followed, and address real-time challenges.

For manufacturers that own the delivery vehicles that shuttle between their production facilities and warehouses or DCs, it is essential to track and trace driver logs. With Webalo, drivers can check in and out on the same platform. Their logs can be pulled and analyzed and tasks can be assigned through the platform itself. Webalo also allows for the generation of yard reports.  This allows for efficient use of docks and bays and eliminates unnecessary waiting or delays, as illustrated in Figure 3. The ability to monitor driver logs and yard reports on the same platform allows logistics-responsible employees to cross-reference data and performance for both trailer and dock utilization.

Furthermore, the platform incorporates all aspects of trailer inspection and reporting coupled with bill of lading records and verification. Without this essential feature, logistics management would remain incomplete.

The platform also allows for the reconciliation of scanned packages to store locations, incident reports, and callouts. These are completed conveniently from departmental workers’ mobile devices, essentially eliminating the need for workers to ever be confined to a workstation. This ensures the maximum possible utilization of frontline manpower and logistics resources. .

While logistics might not be manufacturers’ top priority for digital transformation, the operational excellence team at Webalo recommends that manufacturers align and deploy a platform that empowers all frontline workers, including those engaged in logistics. The key benefits of deploying Webalo specifically in the logistics function are illustrated in Figure 5. However, these are only the primary benefits; there are also underlying soft benefits like ease of use, more time on hand to execute work, better results, and real-time intelligence delivered through the platform.

We advise manufacturers not to let logistics become the final frontier of their digitization efforts. They should take the Lighthouse Approach and deploy Webalo across the board to create a more digital, better-equipped, and transformed frontline!