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Comment: Covid accelerates the move towards digitisation

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Peter Millichap, marketing director at Teletrac Navman, on how digitisation has been the saviour for many businesses during the pandemic.

Peter Millichap, marketing director at Teletrac Navman

Covid has affected every aspect, layer and nuance of our society and largely to the detriment, but some of the change has the potential to be positive. It’s caused a fundamental shift in our industrial landscape, forcing fleet operators to look again at the benefits digitisation can bring.

Every industry has had to deal with huge amounts of disruption but the transport and logistics sector has been hit especially hard and had to keep operations going throughout. In fact, its contribution to the health and wealth of the UK has been essential. The demand and supply of goods has undergone a fundamental change; lockdown has excluded consumers from the high street, turning them towards online shopping and as a result, retail habits are suddenly changing. This change will alter the look of our high streets for ever and our roads will see an ever-increasing number of delivery vehicles.

Covid has also brought with it a greater responsibility for the health and safety of staff; the need to create safe working environments and embrace the concept of home working, flexible hours and the adaptation of many roles in order to minimise exposure to the virus. However, whilst office-based staff may have seen the greatest changes, delivery drivers have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic and for them, the role has remained largely unchanged on the surface.

Such a sea change requires technology to keep businesses agile and ahead. With every technological development there will always be early adopters; those keen to jump in with both feet to gain immediate benefit and advantage over their competitors. Nevertheless, there will also be those who are sceptical about the benefits and therefore reluctant to adapt their ways of working and make the necessary investment. Covid has forced everyone to reassess their business and at the most basic level this has meant moving away from a reliance on paper-based system – not least because this can be an efficient way to spread the virus! Those businesses without digitisation have had limited access to information about their operations, even less ability to analyse that information and a restricted ability to share it with key stakeholders and decision makers. As a result, they will have struggled to react quickly when the situation has changed; lockdowns imposed, travel restricted, workforces locked out. Within the Covid-modified environment, those reluctant to change, or lacking the ability to react quickly to change have sadly paid the price.

The reasons for resisting change are numerous: a belief in tried-and-tested ways of working; speed of working as processes are well practised; concerns about the interruption of workflow during transition period; the need for, and expense of, training; insecurities about working with technology and the cost of investment.

Every single one of these reasons has paled into insignificance because of the pandemic and the adoption of technological solutions really has become a ‘do-or-die’ situation.

Digitisation has been the saviour for many businesses during the pandemic as it manages not only the collection of huge amounts of data but the analysis, interpretation and decision-making based on that data. This has enabled businesses to be fully aware of the landscape in which their fleet operates, the impact of any changes to it and the best next steps to take. Covid has forced a process of natural selection, with businesses well informed and fleet of foot due to digitisation surviving, whilst others (maybe slower to react) have been overcome by the tsunami of the pandemic.

However, it isn’t just Covid that is remodelling the landscape. Concerns about the environment; diminishing natural resources; Brexit; and higher customer expectations have all had a huge impact and will continue to do so. Technology itself is developing in leaps and bounds and those embracing the digital revolution will be the ones that thrive.

The good news is there are solutions available that enable a seamless interface between supplier and customer: access to and analysis of data, greater visibility of vehicles, stock and personnel; faster and more validated decision-making and an enhanced ability to adapt to change. The systems themselves are also highly adaptive and can be tailored to a company’s particular needs and adjusted when those needs change.

Covid has driven a speed of change within the industrial landscape previously unheard of and has clearly demonstrated the benefits technology and digitisation can offer in combating this. The first to act will be the first to reap the benefits, gaining competitive advantage due to tighter control of their business. Even without Covid, the ROI is robust. With the effects of Covid, it is undeniable. The industry has been forced into a new era with the fleet of foot, lithe, tightly managed businesses the ones that will prosper.

There’s no turning back; the need for technology is unavoidable and it will be the lynchpin of success.

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