Logistics SaaS meets the Internet of Things in Singapore

Shamir Rahim

Logistics company IFL Pte Ltd is using an Internet of Things (IoT)-integrated logistics operations SaaS (software as a service) to help manage day-to-day logistics processes. Here, Shamir Rahim (pictured), CEO of Sypher Labs explains the necessity of such a tool in logistics.

One of the largest transporters of BMW car parts in Singapore and Malaysia, IFL employs more than 100 staff and drivers and has a fleet of more than 50 trucks – making it one of the larger family-owned logistics companies in Singapore. Like the other 30,000 logistics small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore and Malaysia, these 4th party logistics providers (or ‘4PLs’) perform the lion’s share of the industry’s delivery orders. A typical day includes hours of phone calls to drivers and countless spreadsheets for each operations process — a company’s fleet generally performs 500 jobs per day.

Facing rising costs and ever-increasing order volumes, IFL sought a way to:

  1. Automate daily logistics processes and trip planning
  2. Manage drivers and trip planning
  3. Move daily operations into the cloud
  4. Remotely track their fleet 24/7
  5. Have eyes on the ground during pick-up and delivery
  6. Monitor operational costs and fleet mileage

SaaS solutions are appealing to SMEs like IFL due to the fact that they are cash-flow friendly – customised ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems are almost exclusively for logistics giants who can afford high prices and upfront capital expenditure. Even so, most ERPs don’t readily integrate with IoT devices, making it impossible to tackle points 4-6 on IFL’s wish list.

Plugging logistics assets into the IoT

If job orders are the lifeblood of a logistics company, then drivers and vehicles are its heartbeat. Unfortunately, software solutions typically neglect this aspect. With IoT devices, drivers and vehicles are engaged as an integral part of operations. A 3-month trial phase conducted by IFL to evaluate the SaaS system was based on 25 trucks, operating across multiple offices. All trucks were equipped with GPS, and a select few with in-vehicle streaming cameras. In Phase 2, drivers will be introduced to a driver mobile app, part of the SaaS suite. Via the system, operators are able to push pickup and delivery instructions (aka ‘run-sheets’) to drivers in real-time. Subsequently, drivers can confirm their deliveries in real-time via the app’s electronic proof-of-delivery (ePOD) module.

Enhanced capabilities, improved efficiency

While IFL’s initial objectives were met, the operational and IoT data that the SaaS suite creates benefits other areas as well. For example, the SaaS system allowed operators to make adjustments to their schedules on the fly and push them out immediately to the drivers based on their GPS locations, accommodating the dynamic nature of logistics. Multiple operators can plan trips on the cloud simultaneously, an impossible feat before. Billing can begin almost immediately thanks to e-PODs. Previously, drivers collected hardcopy PODs after each delivery – thus operators could only confirm deliveries and begin invoicing after collecting these, a process that traditionally takes 1-2 weeks.

“It was tough to get everyone used to the system initially – it was a big change from how we used to do things. We used to have GPS, but it was always on a separate system. Now, I can view my fleet AND what they are carrying. My operators and I schedule trips at the same time. We can change truck deployment quickly – the ePOD is a real time-saver,” said Mr. Roslan, Operations Manager, IFL Pte Ltd.

IoT SaaS, the future of logistics

The integration of IoT and logistics SaaS is a marriage that’s long overdue, and is beginning to move into the spotlight due to Southeast Asia’s e-commerce boom. It allows ‘Mom and Pop’ logistics companies to stay current by wirelessly receiving, processing and responding to real-world data in a cost-effective way. The logistics data generated gives deeper insights into processes -empowering logistics on an industry-wide scale.

The author is Shamir Rahim, CEO of Sypher Labs

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