3 Ways to Create a Contactless Supply Chain

While the transformation of an entire industry is no easy task, shippers, retailers and carriers can implement practices with their top supply chain partners driving the process and technological changes required for pick-up and delivery.

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Creating a contactless supply chain seems elementary. Grocery store pickup and food delivery services thrive on contactless frameworks and were far before the pandemic forced them to. Now, at the height of the global pandemic, implementation of contactless solutions, including pickup and delivery, seems indisputable. So, why is it taking the supply chain industry so long to adopt such an obvious solution?

Here are the facts. Big-box retailers, for example, can roll out contactless grocery pickup at every retail store nationwide. The supply chain, however, cannot conform to the decision of one. Instead, it must count on thousands of shippers, carriers and retailers to adopt an industry-wide standard, making the transition to contactless delivery more complex and difficult to achieve.

While the transformation of an entire industry is no easy task, shippers, retailers and carriers can implement practices with their top supply chain partners driving the process and technological changes required for the pickup and delivery to become completely digital.

Standardize electronic Bill of Lading

From ship to semi, shipping and receiving has modernized in ways that benefit shippers, carriers and retailers. And yet, one of the most important documents in the entire logistics industry has remained the same -- the Bill of Lading (BOL). While its purpose is to protect the needs of three major parties in a shipping transaction, physical BOLs fail to protect drivers, slow down transactions and impact the overall efficiency of pickups and deliveries. Additionally, the use of paper BOLs place drivers in hazardous situations, requiring the need for face-to-face interactions during a time when theyre discouraged. 

Digitizing paper BOLs is the next step in modernizing the logistics industry and enabling contactless pickups and deliveries. By providing an end-to-end solution for shippers, third-party logistics (3PL) providers, carriers and retailers, the industry benefits from overall visibility, efficiency and sustainability. Furthermore, electronic BOLs restores the health and safety of the supply chain, allowing drivers to remain in their cab as they continue to receive and provide necessary information. Once the go-to form of communication, paper BOLs will soon be replaced with electronic BOLs, creating a standard for the industry.

Simplify driver workflow

Drivers are subject to ensuring paperwork travels from Point A to Point B, and once processed at Point B, returning to Point A, all while tracking mileage, reporting dwell time and performing inspections. Oftentimes reporting is inaccurate or paperwork fails to return to the carrier, thus hindering payment, maximizing duplicate data entry and increasing the probability of company-wide audits. Drivers, while an integral part of the supply chain, should not hold the risk of impacting a company as a whole.

By pairing digital driver workflow with a companys telematics and transport management software (TMS), drivers are able to provide real-time information, increasing accuracy and minimizing further company risks. Additionally, the minimization of paperwork decreases in-person demand, further protecting drivers and administrative staff from unnecessary exposure.

Implement mobile capture

Considering contactless delivery is not an industry-wide standard, drivers are apt to meet shippers and retailers who have yet to adopt contactless solutions. Until the industry adopts a standard unique identifier, set of data elements and a way to easily share information across disparate systems, paper will always be the common denominator.

Implementing mobile capture is an effective interim solution while the industry works together to standardize. Scanning paper BOLs ensures physical paperwork is delivered faster, regardless of the various practices drivers may encounter on the road. Furthermore, drivers of all abilities can upload digital copies with the point of a phone and click of a button. By utilizing mobile capture, drivers are able to take a photo of the necessary paperwork immediately, lowering the risk of misplacing physical paperwork and expedite invoicing. 

The last industry-wide standardization of the supply chain took place at the conclusion of World War II. At the time, standardization of the container (pallets, pallet handling and storage systems) re-shaped the way the supply chain operated, making it more efficient for those involved. Now, more than 75 years later, the supply chain calls for the next industry-wide standardization with the introduction of contactless delivery solutions, moving away from in-person interactions and paper transfers. As the height of the pandemic continues, individuals across the globe count on the supply chain to keep grocery store shelves stocked, all while keeping the hard-working individuals of the industry safe.