Comms Business find out more about how channel companies are providing solutions for customers in the transport and logistics sector.

The transport and logistics sector has embraced technology over the past decade, with connectivity services and smart devices helping to unlock better ways of doing things.

For channel companies working with customers in this sector, keeping an eye on the opportunities, challenges and how the market is changing is vital.

Mobile solutions remain in demand, and these are becoming increasingly sophisticated as transport and logistics customers look to connect the dots between all aspects of their operations.

Adrian Sunderland, CEO, Jola, explained, “The increasing demand for reliable mobile data extends beyond traditional tracking to encompass broader applications that require precise control. This involves leveraging technology in diverse ways, supporting different requirements across the sector, such as optimising scheduling processes, connectivity for iPads in ambulances, backup for ticketing systems, Wi-Fi connectivity for passengers, and sensors to report on cleanliness.

“As we explore trends in the transport and logistics sector, it’s evident that the focus is shifting towards sophisticated solutions. While the tracking of assets remains crucial, smart transport networks are now delivering substantial benefits to passengers, operators, and local authorities. Urban services are becoming more efficient, effective, and safe, driven by the need for customers to track their deliveries and car hire companies to monitor both vehicle locations and driver safety.”

Sunderland discussed the benefits that can be delivered by advanced solutions. He said, “End-to-end solutions within the industry leverage advanced technologies like 4G routers and cameras. Tracking systems for trams, buses, and trains are becoming more sophisticated, accurately estimating and advertising arrival times while factoring in potential delays. These solutions often rely on 4G data SIMs, some with a fixed IP or delivered via a secure private APN.

“The evolution of IoT solutions within the logistics sector is undeniable. Warehouses are increasingly adopting these solutions not only to stay competitive but also to realise significant benefits in terms of manpower savings and cost reductions. The advent of 5G is further empowering companies, even in rural locations, to adopt new technologies that streamline and enhance workflow tracking.”

Kristian Torode, director and co-founder of business broadband provider Crystaline, also expects 5G to be a gamechanger for the sector. He said, “The logistics industry has historically struggled with labour shortages, rapid changes in demand, and poor tracking information. Fortunately, the development of 5G could provide the answer to these issues and more.

“Unlike older technologies such as barcodes and RFID tags, which can experience problems during scanning, 5G-enabled tracking could be the solution to better tracking of goods.

“A 5G-enabled device doesn’t need to be scanned and can report its location independently and in real time, allowing for more precise journey tracking with minimal effort. In fact, it’s possible to track the product right down to the shelf it is stored on, enabling more transparent and accurate tracking throughout the supply chain.”

Looking further into the future, Torode anticipates 5G could even power autonomous vehicles, bringing much more wide-reaching benefits for the sector.

He said, “A vehicle using 5G-enabled technology could drive autonomously for certain periods, such as on the motorway, giving the driver more time to rest without losing any time on the road. It’s even possible that future drivers won’t be in the cab at all. Instead, they could be driving the lorry remotely either from the office or the comfort of their own home, thanks to the low latencies offered by 5G.

“It’s clear that 5G isn’t just a gimmick — it can offer serious real benefits for logistics companies of all shapes and sizes. Offering improved visibility in real-time across all levels of logistics operations, 5G could be the missing piece in achieving a truly robust and joined-up supply chain.”

Predicting the unpredictable

In terms of the challenges customers in this sector are tackling, managing peaks and dips in demand remains a continual source of frustration. Channel companies can find opportunities through offering ways to tackle that issue.

Sue Michaelwaite, verticals manager, 8x8, discussed the contact centre solutions that transport organisations can require.

She said, “One of the biggest challenges facing the transportation sector, especially public transport, is dealing with the unpredictability of demand and level of engagement with contact centre staff. That can be a considerable problem and, even with data supporting you, it is hard to always predict accurately as you can be at the mercy of so many other issues, including weather, delays, and accidents.”

Michaelwaite pointed out other requirements for systems adopted by transport and logistics customers. She said, “Aside from that flexibility, other areas that need to be considered are having agility, scalability, integration, reporting, and a strong roadmap of investment. The system needs high availability, and a 24/7 service goes without saying as should the presence of strong integration with CRM systems.

“A lot of this also applies to the freight industries where companies want to be able to increase efficiency with a single admin console that lets them manage communications for geographically dispersed, highly mobile workforces.”

Simplifying operations

New technologies are helping simplify operations for logistics organisations. Lifesavers Scotland is a charity that works with the NHS in Scotland to deliver urgent out-of-hours samples, bloods or organs. Lifesavers Scotland is entirely self-funded, non-profit-making and is staffed exclusively by volunteers who take no income or expenses.

The charity’s operations were previously organised through volunteers’ own fixed and mobile phones together with paper records and rotas. However, the sudden onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and a large upturn in work brought new challenges for the charity.

It went from making 400 deliveries per month to 1,600 and needed a way to match volunteer vehicles to assignments according to location and urgency.

The charity worked with Gamma and was recommended the inbound call management platform Contact Path Geo. The solution is designed for multi-site, multi-department organisations and can route calls based on caller’s identity, location and appropriate manager.

Gamma offered the service free for one year and Contact Path Geo has proven to be invaluable for the charity. It helps coordinate the team of volunteers who have to fit their charity work around busy day jobs and family lives.

James Brown, volunteer, Lifesavers Scotland, explained, “Instead of me being on call 24/7 to handle changes, I can now set up everything at the beginning and at the end of each day. It’s taken a lot of the pressure off. The charity and the NHS no longer have to worry about the cost of calls and there’s no worries about being able to contact the right person. Somebody will always answer.”

Call Path Geo has also allowed Lifesavers Scotland to set up hunt groups, call groups and other options like IVR. Brown added, “It’s made life for everyone easier. If necessary, even if I’m out on a quick-response assignment I can pull over, make changes from my phone in just a few seconds, then continue.

“Once we know who’s working and who’s available on a particular day and time it’s really simple to configure everything for the day and yet still be able to make changes to accommodate last-minute alterations in shift patterns or driver’s availability.”

Serving transport customers

When asked what resellers and MSPs need to prioritise to serve the evolving needs of this sector, Jola’s Sunderland emphasised the importance of providing choice.

He said, “In serving the evolving needs of the transport and logistics sector, resellers and MSPs must prioritise offering choice and control. A wholesale supplier with a diverse range of connectivity options, from single to multi-network to fixed IP, is essential. Many MSPs have established robust relationships within this sector, understanding the challenges faced and the requisite solutions.

“End-users require continuous connectivity and control over their data usage to prevent data overage charges. Jola’s MSPs play a crucial role in managing global SIM estates through Mobile Manager, providing real-time data usage insights, alerts bolt-ons, and data pools. These tools enable efficient monitoring of usage, preventing bill shock.

“Additionally, the use of mobile data networks expedites start-up processes, eliminating delays associated with lengthy fixed-line installations.”

With many transport and logistics organisations having employees scattered around their operations, it can also be important to provide solutions that facilitate collaboration between employees.

Michaelwaite, from 8x8, said, “With a robust system you can easily enable international collaboration between employees, partners, and customers. This allows employees to share files on the go, stay up-to-speed using chat, and connect face-to-face with one-click video calls—all to support and respond to dynamic customer needs.”

Michaelwaite also discussed the importance of providing local calling services for global transport or logistics customers. She said, “Due to the global nature of many transport operators is ensuring that the offering can handle all the necessary local and national numbers and calling services.”

Ultimately, MSPs, resellers and distributors need to ensure they are supplying solutions that are easy to use and flexible. Michaelwaite explained, “Companies that want to work with this sector need to make sure that the offerings are easy to use, flexible, multiplatform to deal with all the communications channels people use these days, and scalable.”

This market report appeared in our February 2024 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.