Smart Phone? Smart Logistics!

Martijn Graat
Martijn Graat

If you go outside (especially when in a city) and you look around, you will without a doubt see somebody looking at the screen of their mobile. Maybe they are texting or looking up a number (how old school), but chances are high that they are busy browsing the web, doing their e-mail, updating their Facebook or tweeting.

Take Your Business Mobile

Smartphones are everywhere and companies tend to go to where the people are, so a lot of them went smart (read: mobile) as well.  There are several ways to go about this.

  • Make your website mobile-friendly: Next to being a marketing tool, there can be several functionalities on your website, that you want available for mobile users. I’m thinking for example of tracking & tracing, reporting sections, or rate calculators.
  • Go social – Marketing: Social networking accounts for 50% of all mobile internet traffic. [Source: Airwide Solutions, via ReadWriteMobile, November 2010]. This makes Social media a great marketing medium and it is being used as such by more and more companies. UPS has been an extreme example of that. In 2010 they’ve used almost any available social media channel for their  New Logistics Campaign. They’ve sponsored articles on blogs like Mashable, went active on Facebook and Twitter and even did flash mobs (e.g. Chicago and Beijing) which were then posted on YouTube.

UPS Flash Dance Chicago

  • Go social – Business:  Con-way Inc. started tweeting relatively early in January of 2009 (the UPS corporate twitter account went live in June of 2010), and they decided to use Twitter for doing Business in June of 2010 when their subsidiary Con-way Multimodal launched their Tweetload twitter account, tweeting available loads. To create the TweetLoad functionality, Con-way Multimodal IT professionals designed a patent-pending application that extracts key information on available loads from the company’s load board, and uses it to populate individual load tweets viewable by TweetLoad followers. The application checks and transmits any new loads every 15 minutes to keep information up to date for carriers following it.

“We’re always looking for ways to make Con-way Multimodal easier for carriers to work with and through Twitter and Con-way TweetLoad, we have found an innovative channel to continue in that direction,” said Tyler Ellison, president, Con-way Multimodal. “Twitter is where the carriers are, and Con-way TweetLoad enables us to reach them by pushing shipment information directly and automatically to any carrier who wants it, even on mobile devices.”

Con way Tweetload

Con-way Tweetload Screenshot

  • Mobile Applications (Apps):  Most apps (until recently) were targeted to consumers; FedEx and UPS have their own mobile applications for iPhone and Android. Main feature: Tracking and Tracing. But there are also companies who have released business applications. Take for example the Total Quality Logistics (TQL) application, first released for Android, and later for iPhone and iPad as well. Owner/operators and carriers can search for available loads by mileage radius, equipment type, load date, and destination city/state. Users also have the capability to search for available loads according to their SmartPhone GPS Locator’s current location. Search results are returned based on entered criteria and include load details for each available load.

As TQL Carrier Project Manager Eric Olson tells LogisticsMatter:The idea was a response to the needs of the carriers and where we saw the industry heading. More and more transportation companies are offering driver management, TMS, or customer-oriented apps, and we received a great deal of feedback from our carrier base asking us to help make it easier for them to do business away from a traditional office. We felt that with the capabilities of today’s smart phones we could come up with a way, and that developed into Freight Finder.

Freight Finder was a collaboration between our IT department, marketing department, and carrier facing departments. It’s one of the most exciting projects we’ve worked on in a long time…. It’s a credit to our IT and Marketing departments that they were able to so quickly shift from more traditional projects into something as modern and different as Freight Finder. We also had some of our carriers test it out and they provided extremely valuable insight that we were able to incorporate before releasing the finished product to make it more useful.”

TQL Freight Finder

TQL Freight Finder Screenshots

Smarter Phones

Smartphones are getting smarter every day. Mobile internet connections and processors are getting faster, screen resolutions and graphics are getting better, Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities are being added, and even 3D is coming to your phone. These are exciting developments that can lead to very interesting applications in Logistics and Supply Chain.

What applications are you using on your smartphone, that enhance your Logistics and/or Supply Chain operation? And what developments do you see that will lead to new mobile applications?

NEXT BLOG POST – Supply Chain and Mobile Technology: the Subway Shop

PREVIOUS BLOG POST – @LogisticsMatter: 2010 – A Year in Tweets

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