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Digitalize workflows: Finally work paperless

How workflows become truly digital

In forwarding agencies, there are many tasks that are processed with a vast amount of paperwork. They consist of work steps that are not yet fully digitalized. Those logistics companies that take the handover of paper as an opportunity to review their processes will unerringly discover the potential for digitalization in their processes. Mobile apps and automated workflows offer them the best opportunity to leverage such potential and establish paperless working.

Over the past two decades, logistics companies have improved the efficiency of their business processes with digital solutions. In addition to electronic data interchange (EDI), they have also been using mobile applications for years, especially for the last mile. Nevertheless, paperless processes are still a distant goal for the management of most companies. Because apart from the already implemented standards such as loading lists, delivery receipts and departure checks, there are still too many non-digitalized work steps. These are characterized by the fact that documents are printed out, information is noted by hand and files are physically handed over. This means they are not easy to speed up, but they are easy to recognize. A good opportunity for the introduction of paperless working.


Identify potential for digital workflows

These active actions reveal where there are opportunities for further digitalization. Consciously identifying them offers an excellent starting point for process improvements. This also requires the creativity of a company’s own employees to find digital shortcuts for complex work processes. A brainstorming with the following guiding questions helps to identify the digitalization potential as completely as possible:

  • For which processes are paper documents transferred?
  • For which activities is the phone in use?
  • What information is sent by e-mail?
  • What work needs to be documented manually?
  • Which data is not directly recorded electronically?

These questions make it easy to identify the pool of analogue processes that are not yet integrated into the digitalized supply chain. In this way, companies discover work steps that they can still simplify and accelerate.


Automate manual processes with workflows

With the results of the brainstorming, logisticians have the appropriate starting points for an in-depth analysis of the areas and processes concerned: Which recurring processes are conducted manually? How are they integrated into the logistics chain? What higher-level task do they serve?

  • Control
  • Monitoring
  • Reporting
  • Documentation
  • Settlement

Based on this classification, the appropriate solutions, and systems for the digitalization of processes can be determined. Mobile data terminals (MDT) and apps adapted to them come into question for operational tasks. With the software, manual processes can be transferred into digital workflows, for example the recording of working hours or expense reports for truck drivers. The apps also use position data and checklists. Users can use them for order-related communication and rely on specialized applications for special tasks. In this way, digital workflows speed up data collection and forwarding. In addition, they integrate tasks into the digital value chain and thus create a noticeable optimization of workflows.


Using creativity to model workflows

Some apps for mobile processes provide the option to create a workflow through no-code programming in an editor with drag-and-drop functionality. In this way, such apps open all the functions of the MDT for use in the digital value chain. This makes them suitable for a creative competition among employees to identify the best possible use of the devices in the digitalization of manual processes: What is the quickest way to complete tasks with the least effort? Those who frequently perform the work steps themselves are particularly apt to develop alternatives that make work noticeably easier. Logisticians who want to make their processes more efficient should therefore definitely rely on the imagination of their team to model mobile workflows by an efficient use of technology.


Driving digitalization forward with mobile workflows

The key to significant work simplification in logistics lies in paperless processes. Those who develop them based on the suggestions of their employees will experience two big surprises: The processes that can be digitalized and the extent to which efficiency increases as a result. Those who release paper processes can even reinvent their own company in the process. Because mobile workflows create an almost fully digital process chain and enable a start to automation.

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