Logistics Hardware.
Your software is only as effective as the logistics hardware used to house it. Don’t sabotage your own operations.

Software is married to logistics. From planning and business intelligence to dispatch, mobility, and telematics, software and apps guide the comings and goings of those in transportation and distribution every day. And while software is deeply integrated into our business activities, it is rendered ineffectual without the hardware that houses, displays, and enables communication for the programs we use. While hardware is sometimes relegated to “commodity” status, there are some qualities of logistics hardware in particular that stand out from the rest.

Logistics hardware should support a variety of applications

At one time, a fleet’s in-cab software needs were simple. Drivers needed one or two applications, and they could run each application on a separate, dedicated piece of hardware. Drivers now use GPS apps, inventory apps, Hours of Service apps, company-specific apps, dispatch apps, telematics apps, and the list goes on. Fortunately, hardware today packs more computing power into smaller packages; however, those packages must have the agility to multitask with bandwidth to spare. Otherwise, your driver will be sitting on the side of the road watching an hourglass spin, losing valuable minutes on each delivery.

Beyond the ability to manage software capacity, hardware today must be highly configurable. Gone are the days of simply placing a box in one’s cab and hitting the power button. Optimized settings allow companies to shave time off deliveries and pennies off each trip’s gas consumption. While many logistics app settings are managed through the software, the hardware that supports the apps must accommodate the needs of each individual driver, delivery, and software solution.

Logistics hardware should be flexible and scalable

Logistics hardware today must be able to handle varying sizes and types of companies. Skimp on hardware scalability and you may find yourself purchasing new tablets, scanners, printers, and communications hubs before the old ones fully depreciate. According to a University of Beira Interior study, “the most successful firms of the current decade and century are learning to become highly flexible, operationally integrated, and delivering [sic] value to customers, partners and alliances in revolutionary new ways that are not easily imitated.” Ignore the flexibility and scalability of your hardware, and you may be overlooking the most effective ways to differentiate your services.

Logistics hardware should make everyone’s job easier

One of the best things about technology is that it makes life easier. When it comes to hardware, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Making our lives easier. Easy installation. Easy upkeep. Easy use. And when the occasional problem does arise, easy to troubleshoot.

In transportation and logistics, hardware plays a very important role in making our jobs easier. By pressing a single trigger or scanning a code, hardware standardizes and automates complicated processes. Maybe it prints a paper BOL or receipt – or maybe it makes that paper unnecessary altogether. Whatever the result, when it comes to hardware, we would be wise to take Thoreau’s advice, and “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”

Logistics hardware should be reliable in varied and challenging environments

From bitter cold to relentless heat and humidity, petroleum haulers can be found working in production fields, among a battery of tanks, or in any number of distribution terminals, regardless of the weather, and they will have in their hands or on the exterior of their trucks various pieces of essential, weather-beating hardware.

Beyond weather, the hardware of a petroleum hauler must also be able to withstand harsh environments. Shock, vibration, even corrosive chemicals may be a regular part of a hauler’s normal working environment. Skimp on hardware, and you may find yourself sweeping up an expensive pile of glass, plastic, and integrated circuits.

Logistics hardware should be portable

Those who work in the transportation and logistics industry are on the move. They cannot be handcuffed to server rooms and various widget-meters the size (and weight) of a coffin. They often must carry their tools in hand. The hardware that drivers use to support their software solutions must be portable enough to move with the drivers. Whether it rides in the passenger seat or it’s bolted under a dash, logistics hardware must be happily mobile.

Logistics hardware should provide competitive advantages for your company

Unless your hardware sets you apart from your competition and delivers unique value to your customers, it’s white noise. Look at the tool in your hand or in your passenger seat or under your dashboard or on your bumper. Do these hardware tools work in concert to produce a synergistic result? Is the whole greater than the sum of all parts? If not, it may be time to make a change.

Did You Know: Your Source for PDI News provided by PDI, the leader in enterprise management software for the convenience retail and petroleum wholesale markets.