Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Software failing to impact logistics sector fully, says Continental

Steve Rogerson
December 20, 2016

Software is the new wheel of industry, but in the logistics sector this wheel is evidently not quite turning properly yet, according to this year’s annual mobility study from German automotive tier-one supplier Continental.
The looked at logistics companies in China and Germany and found that an abundance of very different standards, interfaces and systems was creating a lack of clarity and excessive strain on the market. As a result, more than half of the logisticians surveyed fear the industry could get left behind as digitalisation progresses. A fifth see no opportunities for the sector in digitalisation. Meanwhile, nine per cent of logisticians even say they cannot think of anything relating to digitalisation happening yet.
"Too expensive, too big, too sluggish, too dependent on data centres, not mobile-compatible, not user-optimised, stand-alone solutions," according to one summary of criticism levelled at the services on offer.
"For us, that means we have to make our own adjustments and find software for every customer," said an expert. “The attempt to standardise a wide range of transport management software failed catastrophically.”
It is believed that providers need to offer uniform, suitable standards and compatibility irrespective of the manufacturer.
"We expect neutrality and universal applicability,” says a quote in the study. “That incorporates being open to other manufacturers as well. We value independence. What we want are neutral third-party providers focusing on logistics and real-life situations."
Only a quarter of respondents have software for fleet management on their wishlists. The top priorities are fuel-saving technologies and advanced driver assistance, with two-thirds in favour of each. However, tracking for individual goods or software for logistics management are also rated as important. Their importance tends to be considered greater in China than in Germany.
Slightly less than half of companies do not use such software at all; this applies to small companies in particular.
"Fleet management is not yet in place,” said a fleet manager. “However, it is highly relevant to mixed fleets of purchased and leased vehicles, as well as those of subcontractors."
Software applications that directly involve drivers enjoy significantly higher acceptance. Some 61 per cent of logistics experts surveyed regard software for road performance as very important, the figures rising to 66 per cent for software to be used by drivers and 85 per cent for software to aid driver comfort and convenience. However, roughly a third of companies do not use such applications. Where applications are used, they overwhelmingly meet with satisfaction.
"It is important to us to monitor a vehicle's consumption,” said an expert in the study. “We are concerned not with keeping an eye on the driver as a person but with tracking the driving situation." Another added: "More intuitive solutions, graphics or signals that show how I could drive more effectively and simultaneously provide encouragement for the driver to do so as well."
The expert expressed interest in applications that improve the flow of data between truck, trailer and platforms.
"Drastic improvements and better solutions are required here, otherwise the actual realities of transport will thwart progress,” says the study. “For example, the way in which real-time information is processed is poor, and too slow. Manufacturers retain important vehicle data in external telematics; this means the analyses are suitable only for their own vehicles and do not function satisfactorily for third-party brands or in interaction with third-party brands."
The logisticians see intelligent interlinking of all process stages as a particularly important task. "Individual process stages are currently being optimised,” says the study. “The final mile is already very well interconnected. However, efficiency and, in particular, benefit to end customers still need to be reinforced."
Special attention is paid to the security of customer and company data, as well as that of vehicles and the goods themselves.
"We transport a great deal of valuable goods,” says the study. "We need to ensure security at all levels."
Commercial vehicle manufacturers are very conscious of this.
"At present, communication is something of a one-way street from the truck," says an expert from a manufacturer quoted in the study. “In the future, data transport in the truck will be increased and, by then at the latest, software security will become enormously important. If a truck can be deliberately shut down from outside in the future, for example, it must not be possible for risks to be incurred in the process.”
This is Continental’s fourth mobility study. It surveyed logisticians, forwarding agents, fleet operators and long-haul drivers in Germany and China. The focus was on the challenges faced by the logistics sector as a result of digitalisation and connectivity.