If there's one industry that generates a lot of paperwork, it's trucking. The piles of paper include bills of lading, registrations, inspection reports, insurance documentation, receipts and accounting files, just to start.
There seems to be no end and it has become a commonly cited pain point that bogs down daily operations. Efficient document management is quickly becoming a vital survival strategy.
Investing in a digital platform and practicing digital transformation can and will mean different things to different companies, but at its most basic the approach involves getting away from paper-based methods in favor of digitizing paper processes. Instead of collecting a bunch of pieces of paper, you will be gathering electronic files that are much more optimal to record, track and share across departments and with whichever team members might need them.
Just think, if you are on a time-crunch for a sensitive piece of information, would you rather be rifling through multiple filing cabinets with a small heap of paper building around you or doing a super-quick digital keyword search for all relevant records?
Then, when you locate what you need to communicate, do you want to have to run it down to the dispatcher's office and then return to refile it, or attach a copy in an instant chat or email with the appropriate data point? Hint: there's only one right answer!
Digitization, then, opens avenues of transforming files and the processes based on them to grant more access, shareability, visibility, control, storage and ease of use and manipulation. Trucking companies that perform an audit of all the paper they generate and manipulate are likely to quickly become overwhelmed. The benefits of going digital in such instances can become quite obvious.
Efficiency, flexibility and agility are often great corporate results once you start getting on the digitization train. One perhaps not immediately apparent advantage is setting up the business for the future. Leveraging the huge volumes of data generated by businesses today is a critical component of growth and success for most companies. This will be especially true for trucking businesses as they continue to grow telematics implementations.
Some important considerations here are:
- Digitized data and files remove much potential for human error when entering or manipulating figures. So-called spreadsheet management requires team members to hunt through, copy and paste from multiple data sources and patch together marginally usable files. The process is inefficient and time-consuming. Since errors lead to more errors, cleaning up these mistakes represents a desirable outcome.
- Turn spreadsheet management into operational intelligence efficiencies. Digitization creates trackable, reviewable data points along every step of your operations. This makes it easy to gain key insights into each facet of the business. In industries such as trucking, with literally so many moving parts, it's easy to get bogged down in details. Operational intelligence output can be set up to display in dashboards that cut across the entire organization so that leaders can get an instant feel for and view into what exactly is going on in the business.
- Avoid management in the rear-view mirror. This is what happens when you try to make real-time decisions based on outdated data. By the time you have old data in hand, an important deadline has passed, or factors have changed that would have affected the decision, or a driver is already out on the road who should have been rerouted.
Applications are virtually endless. Here are a few to consider:
- Optimize predictive analytics and alerts - Superior operational intelligence enables you to make better estimates and predictions that will be more in line with actual outcomes. Better anticipate driver behaviors, get in front of potential liabilities to mitigate risks. A proactive communication alert will help you head off potential issues such as an upcoming physical exam or some other compliance event. When the system is set up with a deadline, interactive alerts (for instance, ones that come with an actionable workflow attached) can be sent to drivers and escalated to other team members and managers along the dispatch chain until satisfied.
- Enhance Onboarding - High on the list of pain points for most trucking companies is the three-headed monster of recruiting, retention and training. High training costs and times, massive turnover and the phenomenon of drivers looking for the best corporate culture and employee experience - any good experience, really - should drive organizations to commit to highest quality onboarding practices. Here too, digitization pays off. Automating processes, moving the function to a digital platform and paying attention to digitizing paper efforts to replace the long physical HR paper trail can help improve matters. For example, a digital interface can let new team members read policies online, do e-signatures on electronic employment documentation and carry out much training virtually. When handled this way, their easy first experience with the company becomes a positive interaction.
- Speed your financial cycle - Trucking fleets often operate on cash, and it takes up to 7 days to gather the information to send an invoice. In some cases the payment collection cycle can take up to 90 days. Obviously, the faster you can get payment, the better your financial situation will be. Billing, collections and pretty much any accounts receivable function are rife for digitization. It's possible to speed up the invoicing cycle to two or three days, and one-day turnarounds are not unheard of - such a rapid increase can unlock the potential for receiving payment in a timelier fashion.
Digital transformation holds the key to all this and more. Digitization can improve even the most daily basics of mobilizing a fleet, getting routes right and cutting empty miles, making operations effectiveness much easier and more achievable.
Trucking represents a superb opportunity to travel the digitization road to become more efficient, competitive and successful. Good luck with turning the wheels on your own digital transformation journey!