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GPS Tracking Is Making Supply Chains More Profitable During COVID-19 Crisis

Key takeaways for future-ready leaders:

  • A robust supply chain is key for successful businesses.  
  • Technologies like real-time GPS tracking are the backbone of a strong and profitable supply chain.
  • Future-oriented businesses must adapt to fluctuations in market conditions.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic will change the way businesses function. 
  • A technology-backed business is future-ready.

The COVID-19 pandemic has propelled immeasurable loss of life, revenue and resources around the world. The United States reported its first cases five months ago and the Trump administration declared the COVID-19 a public health emergency in January 2020. This was followed by the announcement of a national emergency in March. But even as of May 2020 the pandemic shows no signs of retreating. In fact all our states are reporting their highest number of affected cases so far. The crisis and its resultant loss of revenues for companies have left thousands of people jobless. With the unemployment rates in US skyrocketing to 14.7% as of April* and the inevitable stock market crash that followed, warnings of an impending recession across the United States have been sparked. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta recently fielded a Survey of Business Uncertainty. As part of this survey businesses were asked to predict how they saw the COVID-19 related developments impacting their revenues. The answers revealed that when they were asked this question in the first week of March, the companies expected their sales revenues to fall at least 6 percent—which itself was a glaring figure. However as we entered the second week of March and the impact of the virus continued to increase, companies saw their margins dropping further and estimated a negative sales hit of up to 12 percent—which was double than the estimates of the previous week and a massive blow to most companies. While the survey continued to be on ground, the numbers plunged even lower.

There are many unknown and unpredictable factors surrounding the COVID-19—from the number of people it will eventually impact to the changes it will bring about in the economic landscape of the world—thus making it difficult for businesses to project how it will affect their operations and revenues even in the short-term.

Thankfully there is some hope for leaders who are willing to adapt and employ the right tools.

While this economic downfall is forcing many businesses to either shut shop entirely or struggle to survive, some companies have been leveraging technologies and strong supply chains to fight against the tide. What’s more is that they are strengthening these aspects to build a future-ready business that no virus can bring down. 

In order to understand how businesses combine the forces of technology and supply chain, let us first see how they work. 

A well-oiled supply chain is what keeps a business running and is largely responsible for its success or failure. This holds especially true in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic that has left businesses all around the world in turmoil. 

A robust supply chain management (SCM) process can help boost profits by maximizing production, enabling optimal use of resources, planning efficient transport, and thereby increasing customer satisfaction. 

But SCM is like a complex machine comprising many cogs that have to work in sync with each other at all times. To understand this better, let us think of each cog as a job that needs to be completed for the supply chain to progress—so, finding the best raw materials is one cog, their transport to the factory is another cog. Similarly, the storage of raw materials, the product manufacturing process, the packing of goods, and their final haul to the customer are some of the other cogs that help run this machine. 

Once we understand this, it is easy to see that a glitch in any one of the cogs can bring the entire machine to a grinding halt. Let us take the example of a trucking company that has been given the task of transporting essential medical supplies from a central warehouse to hospitals across the country during the COVID-19 crisis. Now imagine any situation that could typically occur enroute—a truck could run out of fuel, a trucker could drive down the wrong road without realizing it, they could be caught speeding or could simply be idling at one spot without purpose. In any of these cases, the delivery of the medical supplies will get hindered; resulting in delayed treatment of the patients and in some cases the loss of lives. For the fleet owner, this would mean negative feedback from the client and possibly cancellation of future business. 

So how can a mess like this be avoided? That is where technology steps-in. 

In the past few decades, technological innovations have been helping businesses create seamless works flows. This is done by ensuring that the people, products, and processes (the cogs!) work well together and more importantly that they have access to a world of instant data every step of the way. One of these technologies commonly used by businesses is the real-time GPS tracking of assets during transportation. (Yes, the trucking company in our example should have used it too!) 

Let’s take a look at how implementing the right tracking solutions during transport can benefit businesses:

  • SIMPLIFY PROCESSES

GPS tracking provides end-to-end monitoring and accurate traceability of assets at all times, helping managers in streamlining operations. This also helps in identifying and improving the inefficiencies in their process by getting synchronous data on exact locations of a truck, helping reduce the idle time, and also ensuring quick response in the event of an incident or breakdown while on the road. This information in-turn gives businesses key operational insights that help them in scheduling the delivery of materials, optimizing warehouse capacities and even planning shipping cycles.

  • ENHANCE EFFICIENCY

The best part about tracking systems is that they give you insight not only into what is being done wrong but also what is being done right. 

With the help of GPS tracking systems like the MA Hardwired Silver, fleet managers as well as the company that owns the goods can track the movement of their assets on a real-time basis and even get information about the driver’s efficiency, the best routes, and least idling vehicles. This information can then be used to make the next transport cycle more efficient or to recognize a driver for a job well done!

In addition to this, fleet owners have reported that truckers whose vehicles were tracking enabled have shown an increased sense of ownership and responsibility towards their jobs and are lesser likely to go off-course during transit. The tracking system not only helps the drivers to better understand their task and the required results but also gives them an opportunity to self-correct and improve at their jobs without having to be micro-managed. 

The end result is productive employees, quicker deliveries, and rising profits! Who doesn’t want that?

  • REDUCE COSTS

A fleet tracking system helps monitor every move (or no movement, for that matter) of the assets at all times. But how does this help reduce costs?

It is quite simple. For one, a vehicle that is just sitting in the garage or warehouse is an investment that is not making money. When a company has a clear view of its entire fleet of trucks, they can plan their shipping more effectively.

The other aspects come in to play when a vehicle is in transit. A good tracking device will feed the observer data like fuel efficiency or the time spent idling with the engine on. This information can help companies put a stop to fuel wastage and reduce the cost of transportation. Advances in tracking technologies have also made it possible to track driver behavior—to monitor, for example, how frequently the driver hits the brakes and at what speeds—so that companies can understand the patterns of wear and tear of tyres, break-pads and engines to plan vehicle servicing or even pull-up a driver for rash driving.

Tracking also helps identify vehicles that go out of designated areas or those that are caught for speeding or other traffic violations, thereby helping companies put an end to these practices—reducing the expenses and adding a ton of money to their profits instead! 

  • AVOID PRODUCT MISPLACEMENT AND GREY MARKETING

Once goods leave a warehouse, their safe passage and delivery to their final destination are the responsibility of the trucker and the fleet owner. But the roads are full of dangers; sometimes unforeseen and at other times, deliberate. 

By tracking both live and historic data, fleet managers can catch and eliminate suspicious uses of their vehicles by employees. For goods owners, GPS tracking of third-party distribution channels and micro-tracking of goods from the origin to their destination provides visibility into fleet operations, dispatch and arrival timings and even route analytics. Thus, helping managers avoid surprises and streamline the flow of products to reduce waste, misplacements and delays.

The use of superior tracking technologies allows fleet owners and company managers to get custom notifications for events like vehicles driving away from their allocated area or spending unscheduled downtime at a particular spot. This not only helps the fleet owners get their trucks back on the designated road quicker but also prevents the goods from being redirected to unorganized or grey markets instead of their planned destination. 

These features are even more useful in times of pandemics like COVID-19 when the uninterrupted supply of things like medicines, medical equipment and even essentials like food is of paramount importance. During such times, underground dealers might be looking to hoard medical supplies or food products. A fleet carrying these goods might easily get redirected to these marketplaces before reaching its official destination and end-up not supplying the essentials where they were intended to be. But a robust tracking system can prevent such a situation and ensure the safety of the goods and timely delivery of all assets. 

  • AVOID PAPER LOGS

Modern fleet tracking solutions transform complicated daily operations into hassle-free click-of-a-button tasks. Right from scheduling jobs to tracking the deliveries and asset quality, it can all be done on a computer or handheld screen. 

This change is helping companies fast-track operations by eliminating time consuming paper logs. Electronic logs provide in-depth insights and also ease the hassle of vehicle and fuel tax calculations and audits, optimizing resources by reducing dependency on manual labor and the factors of human errors in data entry and analytics.

  • DELIVER ON TIME

Every business wants to be certain about receiving and delivering their goods on time. That is why future-ready companies are turning toward in-time tracking and intelligence tools for gaining visibility of their inventory, whether stationary or in transit. 

Advanced GPS tracking systems help organizations monitor everything from the speed to the movement of goods from warehouse to the shop floor and eventually to their customers. 

Modern tracking tools that are used to provide real-time ETAs are helping companies by improving customer experience, minimizing the impact of unexpected delays, speeding-up inventory turnover, and increasing their bottom lines. Happy customer-Happy Business! 

We have seen so far that the benefits of GPS enabled tracking are immense. But how does this specifically help business in a world riddled with COVID-19?  

We cannot argue that one of the obvious consequences of the COVID-19 is the economic shock to companies—both large and small—but progressive leaders will see that it can also change the way businesses will function in the future. Any company that hopes to ride this wave (or even survive it) will have to be forward-looking and build learning, technology, and flexibility in their future plans.

It must be noted that in these times of economic uncertainty, bottom lines can benefit from technology only if businesses force themselves to evolve first. The COVID-19 crisis has made most businesses acutely aware of the challenges and trade-offs that affect their increasingly complex, competitive and often vulnerable supply chains. A future-ready leader will understand that at any point in time, a supply chain that is backed by GPS tracking technologies stands a better chance of optimizing processes, staying lean, managing costs, and perhaps most critically, responding instantaneously to even minor fluctuations in market conditions or demand. 

When it comes to using technologies like GPS tracking for optimizing processes as well as navigating the new tools and best practices for supply chain management, the time to do it is NOW because the new world is ‘Living Digital’ and every business must be a part of it. 

One of the most exciting opportunities for the merger of digital tracking and supply chain can be seen in the massive uptick in the demand for delivery services: be it home-delivery services or business-delivery services during the novel virus crisis. One can argue that some of that demand will subside in the wake of the crisis, but surely not all of it.

E-commerce and digital platforms have been adding millions of new users to their database—these could be people who have only recently discovered the benefits of going digital or people who have perhaps resigned to the fact that e-commerce is the new way of life or even be people who are in it for the sake of convenience and will continue to do so even in the post COVID-19 world. Add to this, the number of people who will continue purchasing online simply because of lingering concerns about their health and safety should they step out to buy groceries or sit in a restaurant to enjoy dinner.

The shift toward online purchases coupled with demand for onsite delivery is changing consumption patterns around the world—and yes, it requires a rapidly evolving supply system and tracking technology to fulfil its demands.

The COVID-19 virus has also generated a surge in the demand for public healthcare and medical infrastructure—presenting large-scale business opportunities that can benefit by leveraging the strengths of GPS tracking and an efficient supply change. The requirements for continual supply chains of critical medical-care equipment such as masks, ventilators, testing kits, laboratory equipment, and even medicines can be greatly helped with robust tracking to meet the high demands and ensure that the right assets reach the right destinations in a timely manner and without damage.

The novel COVID-19 virus has propelled tracking into almost every business’s routine. In the freight and trucking industry itself, businesses that have been investing in GPS tracking technologies are seeing smoother transitions into remote working scenarios.

Just think about it… When it comes to tracking or even checking vehicles in a lockdown and social distancing scenario, lesser mobility of people means lesser ability to physically check the assets yourself. Lockdowns and work from home orders may mean that your staff may not be able to come to work and therefore may not be available to check the assets either. In such times, businesses that have implemented tools allowing remote access and GPS tracking of vehicles are able to function and perform at a much higher rate than the companies that spend their time trying to access their sites and get relevant data from them.

Today, companies whose supply chains and operations are not backed by GPS technologies are struggling, while businesses that are tech-ready are profiting by:

  • Getting the power of live data to make informed and in-time decisions.
  • Increasing the accountability and responsibility of staff by providing them information online and being in touch with them remotely.
  • Eliminating the dependency on manual and paper logs.
  • Automating record keeping for planning and audits.
  • Reducing instances of human error in tracking and record keeping.
  • Lowering the dependence on manual labor on-site.
  • Accessing data any time and from anywhere through remote servers.
  • Speeding tasks and therefore increasing the number of jobs completed by employees.
  • Checking fuels costs by ensuring assets follow pre-planned schedules and are utilized to the best of their capacity.
  • Cutting the carbon footprint of the company by optimizing all resources.
  • Inspecting the machine’s health, engine temperature, fuel level etc. despite being at a different location.
  • Tracking movements and ETAs and correcting them to avoid delays.
  • Keeping a check on vehicle misuse.
  • Receiving alerts for issues such as vehicles entering restricted areas or dropping goods at unscheduled stops.
  • Ensuring on-time deliveries to and from the warehouse.

Beyond comprehensive visibility into vehicle operations, GPS service providers often come with the added attraction of robust management tools that are useful for enabling fleets to complete more jobs in less time. Companies can also have the advantage of insightful, in-time information from the data-rich reports provided by the GPS tools to improve operational efficiency. At the same time features like the dispatch tools, real-time traffic monitoring, and route analytics can help operators boost their own performance and that of their vehicles too. Likewise, customizable alerts (such as incident occurrences, being pulled-over by a cop, jumping a red light, or stopping for too long at an unplanned location) and route analytics tools also help fleet managers improve driver productivity and fuel efficiency.

Interestingly, owing to the COVID-19 situation, perks of GPS tracking technologies are also gaining recognition in social welfare spaces. Tech giants of the world are utilizing GPS platforms to build apps that can be installed by citizens on any device and once the user opts to get tracked, the app acts like a map to assist the user in the tracking COVID-19 infected individuals around them. These apps not only show the location of the positive tested people but also their movement and the change in percentage of the cases per geography.

It is increasingly evident that technologies that are enabling rapid gathering or live information sharing are the way of the future. It does not matter then whether you are an individual with a cell phone or a company with millions of dollars at stake.  

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