Virtually every business, government, and consumer is dependent on the transportation industry. The shipping branch of the transportation industry is in turn reliant on warehousing, and in terms of logistics services, warehousing relies on transportation for the delivering of their stored goods. These two very different industries have to work together to achieve their ultimate goal of customer satisfaction, and cloud computing can make it easier to collaborate while solving common IT problems for logistics companies.
Travel time figures for delays, vehicle safety, and maintenance are managed by multiple departments to create contrast reports. This means that there are many different people within one company analyzing various, exorbitant amounts of data, without storing it in one central location. Imagine if that wasn’t the case, if everyone within the company could have all the same information, whether new or dated, at anytime throughout the day. The cloud makes this possible.
There are cloud-compatible applications that pull data directly from specific devices, like GPS, and store it in one central cloud database, allowing users to quickly and easily access data. This can lead to swift adjustments by management if need be, which leads to better customer service throughout the company. It also reduces time spent by the IT department troubleshooting, patching, and rolling out new applications.
With resources easily added or deleted, companies can save money during seasonal spikes. For example, just as a shipping company might add additional warehouse employees during the holidays, they can increase their infrastructure only for a month or two to handle extra data and system use.
The warehousing industry relies on Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) that are a part of Supply Chain Execution software. WMS helps to control and track the movement and storage of materials within a warehouse by using automatic identification and data capture technologies, including barcode scanners, mobile computers, wireless LANs (local area networks) and in some cases RFIDs (radio frequency identification). It also processes the associated transactions that occur with shipping and receiving.
In order for any of this to run smoothly there is a need for real-time information; if the acquisition of information is slow, so is the completion of tasks. The main objective of this software is to provide these warehousing and storage companies with computerized procedures for management of their inventory, space, equipment, and employees, in order for them to cut costs and fulfillment times.
WMS and SCE software can easily be paired with the cloud, and will provide the industry with numerous benefits from doing so, including the consolidation and centralization of all company operations information. Many warehousing companies believe that there will be extra stresses and areas where issues can arise when using the cloud; however, many of these concerns are myths.
ERPO and SCM systems are often used in logistics companies to track supplies, shipments, and assets across national or global shipping, warehousing, and transport networks.
By placing these systems in the cloud, all departments and users can access a centralized location for essential tracking information. As your workloads increase and decrease (like during the busy holiday season), you can scale up cloud infrastructure to handle the additional loads.
If your in-house ERP or SCM system is outgrowing your IT infrastructure, you can also use cloud resources in a hybrid configuration to outsource storage or other single components of the overall system as needed.
If you're thinking about pursuing the Internet of Things in your logistics operation, the cloud is a perfect place for processing, viewing, and storing the vast data sets involved.
The IoT simply means sensors attached to everday object, connected to the internet, allowing alarms, procedures, and automation that would otherwise be impossible. It can help create more streamlined operations, like ordering shipping supplies when a warehouse gets low automatically.
If your organization is looking towards the cloud, make sure you think about the following questions:
Can your current applictions (ERP, etc) migrate to the cloud?
Are your users and executives ready to adapt to a new system or process? What training will be necessary?
Will you go private, hybrid, or public cloud?
Gartner says “heavily customized ERP implementations will be routinely referred to as ‘legacy ERP’”, with more general, loose cloud-based systems replacing them. Can your IT team customize a SaaS platform like Salesforce, or work on top of a plain Infrastructure as a Service platform?
The cloud can handle large amounts of data, to such a degree that it renders the necessity for deleting older files to clear storage space obsolete; however, reservations comprised of data availability, performance, reliability and privacy in the cloud still remain. For example, some believe that a loss of the network will cause a loss in systems, or that stored information can easily be accessed or corrupted by third parties.
As far as quality of storage goes, more and more Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) are providing rich, Tier 1 functionality. Tier 1 storage is designed specifically for mission-critical applications that need high performance, high availability, and extremely well protected data environments.
When it comes to the reliability of the cloud, most CSPs offer redundant data centers or connections where if one signal is lost, there is another ready and waiting.
With cloud solutions continually improving and offering added functional depth, flexibility, and capabilities, more industries are finding a growing need for it. The transportation and warehousing industries should welcome the cloud with open arms, for it can be a great tool for company communication and growth.