Going Mobile - Apps & the logistics Industry

Posted by Cathy Morrow Roberson [1] on Apr 7, 2014

Apps now represent 86% of the time users spend on their mobile phone - What does this mean for the logistics industry?

 
I don’t know about you but my mobile phone is loaded with apps and the number seems to grow on a daily basis. I keep tabs on breaking news, tracking packages, chatting with friends and for the latest Starbucks coupon. The use of apps continues to grow and according to app analytics provider, Flurry, apps now represent 86% of the time users spend on their mobile phone versus 14% on mobile web use.
 
The use of mobile apps is also on the increase within the B2B market. According to 2012 data from Forbes and Google, over half of business executives in the U.S. said that within the next three years, they plan to use mobile devices as their primary business platform as opposed to PCs.
 
Frost & Sullivan's analysis seems to confirm this increasing use as well. According to its 2013 North American Mobile Enterprise Applications report, based on a survey of decision makers, 48% report their companies already deploy one to 10 apps for employees on mobile devices
 
Indeed, this probably also holds true for much of the supply chain industry as well.  More logistics providers are offering apps. For example, CEVA’s app allows the customer to track airfreight, ocean freight and US import brokerage shipments. Along with tracking shipments in real time, signature of recipient upon delivery is also available on the app. DHL Global Forwarding’s Cargo Mobile Tracking is similar to CEVA but also includes a six month shipping history and location finder for the nearest DHL Global Forwarding office and contact details.
The trucking industry has embraced mobile apps as well. This is perhaps due to changes it is undergoing such as increased regulations and driver shortages. As a result, going mobile is helping to improve safety and compliance, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction. 
 
Transportation management system (TMS) companies such as MercuryGate are offering such apps that include capabilities as tracking loads as well as reports, rates and capturing signatures. 
XRS Corporation’s app provides functions such as electronic hours-of-service logs, speed management and CSA risk scorecards, as well as fuel savings and driver productivity data. 
 
Not surprising startup companies are popping up to also provide solutions to this growing market. One such company is KeepTruckin. This startup provides mobile and web based electronic logs and fleet management platform. Drivers can track their progress via the electronic logs and receive alerts if the logs have HOS (hours of service) violations. It also tracks vehicle inspection allowing drivers to select defects, mark them corrected and have a mechanic sign off on corrections. The logs can then be signed, emailed or faxed to dispatchers.
Keychain Logistics is another company focusing on the trucking industry. Keychain Logistics is a marketplace that connects shippers with independent truck owner-operators. Its aim is to cut out the broker or middle man. According to the company, it has 1 in 500 trucks in the US signed up and allows users to find loads based on their current location and schedule. 
 
While the transportation industry has definitely embraced apps so too has the warehousing market. Apps from companies such as Lettuce and jumpStock offer inventory management solutions. In fact, Lettuce, which focuses on retail and e-commerce, takes it a step further and also manages vendors, orders, shipping and payments. jumpStock focuses on the healthcare industry and also provides specialized solutions such as label creation, proof of delivery, create and receive orders and can be integrated into an existing ERP system. Both companies charge a monthly service fee.
 
Not to be outdone, the large ERP providers are also getting into apps. SAP, for example has a whole host of apps that can make one’s head spin – sales management, inventory management, transport tendering, tracking shipments, quote management, business intelligence are just a few of the numerous apps available.
For sales teams, the popular Salesforce.com tool has also gone mobile with numerous options to manage CRM, analytics and reporting, quotes and more.
 
Accenture notes that 60% of professionals indicate that mobile technologies improve their productivity and as a result, the use of apps will continue to grow. However, what does this mean for the supply chain industry? Improvements in efficiency and the ability to quickly respond and intervene in unusual circumstances certainly but also intangible benefits for the worker including the flexibility mobile offers and perhaps improved job satisfaction.  
While wireless email remains the most used app, rest assure, more and more different types of apps are either available or in progress.  However, with so many apps already in abundance, which app is best and how secure each is will probably be on the minds of many when deciding which to use.