Humanizing the Digital Revolution

Nine ways digital logistics can help companies make the most of people—and people make the most of their jobs.

Read a dozen white papers on digitizing logistics and issues such as visibility, interoperability and real-time connectivity take center stage. And rightly so. But one thing that’s often glossed over is the human impact. Though many have a mistaken perception that digital supply chains are all about replacing humans, these initiatives were actually created to make your job easier. So with that in mind, here is a by-no-means-complete sample of the ways digitized logistics processes can strengthen the human element of your organization.

1. Helping Employees Get More Done

By digitizing and automating everyday logistical functions such as shipment booking, status updates, instructions, etc., you can enable your team to eliminate time-consuming admin and get more done by a factor of ten, conservatively. This is great for the bottom line — fractionalizing overhead and operating costs, accelerating order-to-cash cycles and more. But it’s also good for the people, helping them add more value to the bottom line and maintain a stronger position within the company.

2. Enabling Leadership to Make the Most of Assets

Company’s leadership is entrusted with tremendous capital and assets, and judged stringently on the returns generated from these resources. Digital supply chains can help optimize asset deployment in dozens of ways including smart inventory strategies, faster throughput, streamlined facility utilization and reduction of overall operating expenses. Properly implemented, digital supply chains help your team reduce working capital by 15 to 30 percent.

3. Avoiding Trouble, Rework and Unnecessary Costs

One wrong address, code, currency or unit of measure can mean a costly butterfly effect of additional time, fees, opportunity cost and people to make it right. Digitizing logistics to get things right the first time can keep your people out of these ugly rework projects and focused on productive work. On average, manufacturers spend between 0.6 and 2.2 percent of the company’s sales on rework — so the stakes are high. On top of near-term costs and complexities, mistakes can also damage your team dynamic, causing conflict and leading to reduced engagement, collaboration and communication.

4. Creating More Interesting, Strategic Work

Repetitive, uninteresting tasks such as entering shipment data manually, checking inventory or reaching out to a third-party logistics partner regarding a shipment gone wrong can make life and work a misery. Digitizing these repetitive functions frees your staff for more challenging and interesting things and leaves room for professional growth. There’s no telling what people, departments or organizations will be capable of once out from under all that painful manual admin.

5. Upskilling, Training and Promoting from Within

What will employees do with all of these repetitive tasks off of their plate? Many organizations upskill these employees or even promote them to various managerial or specialty functions knowing they have front-line insights. Rather than entering shipment info or sales orders, representatives can spend time crunching the numbers on existing or potential logistical service suppliers, innovating processes, helping proactively prevent problems or collaborating with others on innovative ideas.

6. Measuring Logistical Performance More Accurately

Who is struggling? Who’s delivering strong value for money? How do you know? Whether considering areas of improvement for your team or for third-party service providers, good data makes all of the difference. Digitizing logistics arms you with solid numbers to help assess performance for either internal or external stakeholders.

7. Competing for Talent More Effectively

These days, the fight is on for the best employees. A digital supply chain environment can not only help you compete in the marketplace; it can also help you compete for recruiting talent. Intelligent, ambitious, fast-learning high functioners don’t want to hear that they’ll be spending all day trying to make sense of a hodgepodge of shipment or order info that they’re sure to mess up at some point. They want to work at a place that employs the latest technology, has a strong reputation for performance and gives them room to innovate, learn and grow with a diverse group of colleagues.

8. Ensuring ESG Across the Supply Chain

When your logistics efforts involve thousands of participants around the world, enforcing Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) standards across the supply chain is tricky. But digitizing across your logistics function means real-time sharing of data on everything from CO2 emissions to compliance with governmental trade policies or local labor laws. Giving your team this sort of data helps better execute on ESG goals and lets you steer clear of potential service providers who might not meet your requirements.

9. Helping Protect the Company Financially

No matter what a person’s role in the organization, everyone is better off when the company gets ahead, delivers on customer promises and grows the business. And digitizing logistics pays. That’s why the market for digital logistics systems is on course to reach almost $200B by 2025. Post-COVID, digital supply chains aren’t an avant garde thing on the forefront of experimental logistics; they’re basic self-defense ensuring customers and investors that you take logistics seriously. More digitization means more competitiveness, and greater job security for everyone in the organization.

So the next time you hear about digitization of the supply chain, try to remember its positive impact on your organization’s human resources and their utilization. Far from reinventing logistics to be a humanless, automated dystopia, this applied technology is actually helping us all get farther, faster than we ever thought possible in our work — and our lives. And there’s nothing more human than the desire to work together on a diverse set of challenges in an effort to get ahead.

Michelle Kilroy is Chief Human Resources Officer at Elemica. She manages the Elemica employee experience. She holds a dual BA degree in Psychology and Sociology from Loyola University, New Orleans, as well as an M. Ed. from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Georgia State.