Mobile Device Management: The Supply Chain’s Unlikely Hero

A simple digital upgrade may be your company’s affordable solution to avoiding the major challenges associated with a supply chain crisis while remaining ELD compliant — mobile device management.

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You don’t need to be a logistics expert to know that the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the supply chain. Shortages, delays and higher prices are frustrating for both consumers and manufacturers. In one consumer survey, 91% of respondents said they now consider the supply chain when making a purchase, 45% of small businesses have reported domestic supplier delays and large businesses across sectors have cut production forecasts for the coming year.

Introduced in 2015 and enforced in 2017, the electronic logging device (ELD) rule is a congressional mandate intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers and to make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status data.  With many large trucking fleets as members, the American Trucking Association (ATA) supports the mandate as a way to regulate the approximately 3.5 million truckers on the road today.

According to the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, 90% of the trucking industry is made up of small business trucking companies with 10or fewer trucks and without as many high-tech resources as larger companies it can be challenging for drivers to maintain compliance. This coupled with the pandemic’s strain on the supply chain is having a ripple effect on the logistics industry and truckers in particular.

It’s clear that our supply chains need an upgrade if we’re going to make it through the next global calamity. A simple digital upgrade may be your company’s affordable solution to avoiding the major challenges associated with a supply chain crisis while remaining ELD-compliant — mobile device management.

Mobile device management (MDM) allows IT administrators to control, secure and enforce policies on smartphones, tablets and other devices within their organization. Put simply, MDM makes it easier for logistics organizations to keep all their digital devices running at the same speed and their organization functioning, no matter what gets thrown their way. As digital devices combine the roles of calendar, cash register, and personal computer for many businesses, MDM can help logistics operators set up software across their company, coordinate transportation and delivery routes and timing, protect customer and vendor data, and more. As this pandemic has shown, we cannot allow the world’s logistics and supply chains to simply grind to a halt. To borrow a phrase from the Postal Service, the mail must go through.

When drivers are working from various locations, keeping them up to date with the latest company policies and procedures, coordinating time with IT to configure and update devices, and ensuring they obtain necessary certifications can be difficult. Think about all of the time drivers lose to meeting with IT to keep their devices updated. MDM allows these device updates to be made remotely. Need a copy of a compliance certificate? MDM allows it to be transmitted and downloaded instantly without bringing a driver off their route. Drivers can access virtual training and tests with mobile applications that are installed remotely on each device. Important documents and information about laws and regulations can be delivered directly to drivers’ devices without interrupting a route.

Part of bolstering our supply chain will be making sure drivers don’t have to be taken out of action to remain in compliance with the ELD rule. With ELD, the U.S. has seen an estimated $1.5 billion in savings on paperwork and an untold number of crashes, injuries, and deaths prevented annually. A similar mandate in Canada has already taken effect and will begin being enforced in January of next year. Logistics companies would do themselves a favor to factor the mandate into their operational planning while minimizing its impact on drivers’ ability to do their jobs.

Mobile device management can help in several ways: one of the most important will be helping truckers avoid legal trouble. Without a device that’s properly logging data and in compliance, drivers can face penalties at both the state and federal level. By keeping devices secure and free from tampering or misuse by drivers (or anyone, for that matter), logistics companies can be sure driver and vehicle information is being captured correctly and devices are being used as intended. Transportation and logistics operators have enough points of failure to worry about; misuse of or tampering with devices doesn’t need to be one of them.

Having an MDM solution will also ensure more consistent, on-time output. The kinds of actions a driver does hundreds of times a day — say, writing down service logs with a pen and paper — can and should be automated. It saves the driver time and it saves the company time. This kind of automation has other benefits across your organization as well, not just for drivers. According to the Zapier report ”The 2021 State of Business Automation”, almost 95% of all workers say they perform repetitive, time-consuming tasks and two out of three say automation has made them more productive. By automating repetitive, low-value tasks that require little effort or skill companies can implement greater accuracy and with less risk. The report also shows they can implement better customer service with less human error, too.

As we modernize our country’s trucking fleet to meet new requirements and make it more resilient against upheaval, technology should be seen as part of the solution. Those who worry automation will lead to job losses need not be concerned. Author Josh Kaufman has proposed the Paradox of Automation, which dictates, “the more efficient the automated system, the more crucial the human contribution of the operators. Humans are less involved, but their involvement becomes more critical.” Nowhere is this truer than in the supply chain, where one person and a machine can do the work of dozens, but only if both are doing their jobs. People will always show up to do the job; mobile device management helps them do it better, benefiting everything that relies on that initial job being well done. The disruptions of the past two years have made the question all the more urgent: If not now, when?