Not surprisingly, the boom in e-commerce has driven more transportation and logistics (T&L) companies to invest in technology. With everything from warehouse automation to visibility tools, these firms are racing to meet demands of shippers and consumers.

But diving headlong into a tech investment could be costing these companies more than they know.

A new survey from Internet of Things management solutions company SOTI found that integration problems between legacy systems and the modern systems needed to meet current demands could be costing T&L employees up to two days of work per month.

“The pandemic put a spotlight on the need for an integrated technology strategy,” said Shash Anand, vice president of product strategy at SOTI. “While we are seeing a clear investment in technology from T&L companies, we are not seeing a cohesive strategy for the implementation of new tech to counteract the repercussions of the pandemic. It is crucial for T&L decision-makers to understand that by not taking these factors into account, their organizations are wasting time and leaving money and productivity on the table.”

The survey, Mobilizing the Delivery Workforce: State of Mobility in T&L 2021 Report, interviewed 550 IT decision-makers across eight countries.

“The delay due to mobile device downtime has led to 98% of global employees losing valuable work hours,” SOTI said in a release announcing the report. “Nearly one-third (32%) state that the main cause of downtime that cause shipping delays is the lack of IT support to address mobile device downtime issues and self-serve applications that allow drivers to diagnose and troubleshoot device issues independently while they are on the road.”

Across all the countries, T&L companies are losing an average of three hours per week per employee due to technology-related problems. The global average is 14 hours per employee per month. It found the average downtime due to integration issues ranged from 11 hours per month in Mexico to 17 hours per month in Canada. The U.S., U.K., Germany and Sweden all recorded 15 hours per month of downtime.

The survey also found that many companies must revert to pen-and-paper processes when technology fails. The most frequent examples of this cited were:

45% said staff are updating multiple systems manually. 
31% said legacy tech is not fully integrated with new systems. 
29% said that information is not shared across all systems used. 

Common problems include a lack of updated information across all systems, cited by 28% of respondents; a lack of staff training on technology usage, cited by 26%; and systems that are not being updated frequently enough, which was cited by 24%.

“There is a clear disconnect from the technology that T&L companies recognize they need to the seamless adoption into their existing infrastructure,” said Anand. “With an integrated mobility and IoT management platform, T&L companies are not only able to increase speed but also minimize costs and ensure transparency in the delivery channel.”

The survey also confirmed findings in previous SOTI surveys. Among respondents in the new survey, 78% said they are exploring new ways in which to handle customer returns and 73% said they are working with retailers to improve the returns process.

This data tracks with a SOTI Bricks to Clicks report that found last-mile delivery remains the most inefficient part of the entire e-commerce supply chain for 59% of U.S. transportation and logistics companies. Yet for the consumer, that piece remains a critical part of the online buying experience.

In a survey of 6,000 consumers conducted by Arlington Research for mobile technology platform SOTI during Q4 2020, 67% of consumers said they wanted real-time visibility into the location of their Christmas gifts from the moment the online order was processed. Delays in delivery exceeding two days turned off 38% of consumers, who said they would look elsewhere for the product in those cases, and 57% said they were frustrated with the returns process for online orders.

“Almost half of consumers abandoned online purchase because they didn’t trust the site [would secure their data],” Anand told Modern Shipper at the time, noting that 57% were more trusting of well-known brands.

SOTI provides technology that helps protect data privacy as well as improves the shipping process, including returns. “Delivery [and returns] is not only an option but a must,” Anand said. “Sixty-three percent of consumers would like the returns process to be easier if not automated [entirely]. This is an opportunity for retailers to perfect their game.”

Anand said retailers should evaluate technologies and look to use cases that will show how the technology works in real-world applications. This can include mobile devices, RFID, scanners, wearables and drones.

“There are many companies that have gotten this right and they are doing extremely well and thriving in this economy,” he said.

 Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

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