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IT crucial for increasingly mobile logistics workforce

28 August 2014

JP Norman, head of technology & governance at Amicus ITS discusses the trend towards an increasingly mobile workforce in the logistics sector and the importance of securing your IT infrastructure.

The logistics industry has to be one of the best examples of a sector that has embraced technology to such an extent that it is now hard to imagine how it functioned before the advent of computers and GPS. Today, technology is weaved into the very fabric of every company involved in the effective and efficient delivery of goods, and with advancements in technology continuing to evolve at pace, the challenge for logistics operators is how to harness its potential for competitive gain.

The power of technology provides users with the ability to make decisions in real time and respond instantly to changing market demand and supply conditions. Multi-purpose, ruggedised mobile devices allow warehouse workers to be agile and productive, accomplishing various tasks and processes, such as picking and packing, with greater efficiency and accuracy. It can also enhance the safety of the workforce by predicting and mitigating incidents, failures and delays.

High tech equipment is also being employed in the management of fleets, drivers and their shipments. On-board or in-cab computers are now commonplace inside trucks, helping perform processes from signature captures for proof of delivery to calculating driver hours of service and even keeping track of trucks themselves.

Technology is being adopted at every turn within the logistics industry to improve operational efficiencies, reduce operating costs and enhance competitive differentiation. And as the logistics workforce is inherently mobile, it is no surprise that mobile technology is now one of the most important IT considerations.

A mobile workforce
Mobile working is being driven by simple, accessible and pervasive technology, such as smart phones and tablets, that free people up to work anytime, anywhere under the aegis of Enterprise Mobility Management. Mobile devices allow the workforce to perform many of the daily tasks, which until recently would have confined them to the office. Today people can access transport management systems, track shipments and assets, and access reports and business intelligence from wherever they are in the world from their mobile device.

People are increasingly using their own personal devices, rather than using company issued technology, primarily because they are already familiar with their own device and have become an expert at using it. This trend has given rise to the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) phenomenon.

There is little doubt that BYOD is enabling people to perform their jobs more efficiently, however, as convenient as it may be for employees to have information at their fingertips, it is not without risk from a corporate management point of view. The challenge of maintaining visibility and control of the ever-evolving collection of mobile devices and the consumer apps associated with BYOD can be time consuming and difficult to balance alongside other IT demands.

Securing your IT infrastructure
Businesses can take advantage of BYOD with a strategy to reduce security risks and financial exposure. An effective strategy will help balance the risk and the benefits of a BYOD policy with a strong programme to help it effectively manage company information, provide secure access with password enforcement and encryption technology, backup, file sharing, protection of data and remote lock and wipe when employees lose their mobile devices.

Companies are now developing specific Enterprise Mobility Management (formerly referred to as Mobile Device Management) policies for employee and corporate owned devices, which will help protect company and personal data, applications and access.

Logistics firms must also consider the impact of device failure, since downtime on devices on which people rely, threatens service, performance and profit – as well as leaving employees literally "in the dark”. Companies should have in place a 24x365 solution enabling support personnel to address potential service issues or security breaches quickly and efficiently.

There is also an increasing security threat from cyber attacks - one of the fastest growing areas in crime.   Cargo thieves are gaining intelligence by hacking systems to gather information on the whereabouts and contents of shipments.

Breaches in data security can take many forms and have serious repercussions. This has become more apparent than ever with the continued explosion of BYOD and cloud-enabled solutions. What is clear, is that as technology continues to be an integrated and indispensable tool for our everyday working lives, the issue of security will dominate the agenda.

For further information on implementing a mobile device policy or to arrange a free onsite IT security and support review for your logistics operations, contact Amicus ITS on 02380 429429 or email enquiries@amicusits.co.uk.