Taking you back to high school, or at whichever level you’ve heard about (depending with your age) Information Communications Technology, or ICT, can be defined as technologies that facilitate the reception, gathering and storage of information, as well as its analysis and transmission.
In this way, it can be considered a branch of information technology, with a bias towards unified communication and the systems that support it. With the steady forward march of technology, ICT becomes ever more sophisticated and efficient, with shiny new features being introduced, it seems, every other day. Call it dynamic!
The older, original ICT functions however, have aged like a fine vintage and like the music of Bob Marley or that of Kenny Rogers, continues to be relevant to date. With the supply chain management industry built entirely upon the concept of communication, ICT plays an invaluable part in ensuring the smooth flow of business.
Information technology makes communication with clients possible, a necessity that cannot be ignored in any industry, least of all ours where customers trust us to safely deliver their belongings. Through this communication, we are able to clearly understand our customers’ wishes to allow for better service delivery. It is also comforting and convenient for customers to be able to remain in touch with their service providers for the duration of business.
Logistics firms can also stay in touch with external contractors and suppliers for assistance as the need arises, for instance, for equipment hiring or purchasing, fleet maintenance services and the like. A smoothly functioning communication system also works in favor of logistics firms, allowing them to keep in touch with the industry in general, and be up to date with new regulations, tax requirements, export advisories and more.
Considering supply chain management as a business, well-oiled ICT is essential in placing and receiving orders, keeping proper stock records of remote storage facilities, keeping in contact with other branches of the company and of course, tracking progress of cargo.
With these classic hits here to stay and improving with time, the ICT sector offers us ever more imaginative new communication tools. Key of these innovations has been the advent of e-markets. These virtual market places are growing to become an essential part of business for small scale logistics firms across the globe.
One key type of e-market for small business owners is purchasing consolidation markets. These allow several alike buyers to add up their orders so as to make a bulk, cumulative purchase, enjoying bulk discount rates as well as higher bargaining power with suppliers than an individual buyer would have had.
Spot freight markets, also an e-commerce based feature, allows freighting companies to list available loads or capacity so those in need of cargo transportation can express their interest and purchase the service.
Application service providers, a breed of supply chain management e-markets, allows buyers to acquire e-technology related to the logistics industry at more competitive prices than major technology retailers, often with the option for custom-modified software. E-markets based on the laws of barter trade likewise exist, allowing supply chain managers to exchange goods or services for what they need, a useful option in cases where liquid assets and cash may not be readily available. For those with the financial muscle, e-auctions are also held, where buyers bid for desired merchandise, such as equipment or vehicles, or services such as shipping via water bodies, which may be out of reach for locally based firms.
Having considered both these viewpoints, I refer you back to my initial question: is ICT in logistics a well aged vintage paying homage to the past or can we think of it as freshly squeezed juice bringing excitement to the table? In this case, I’d have to say it manages to be both.