To remain competitive this year, companies in the materials handling and logistics industries will be forced to act to optimise efficiency, improve business processes and advance the customer experience, says technology solutions provider Jasco Enterprise service portfolio manager Ian Summerfield.
“Companies that are operating in the industry can overcome the challenges by adapting to a more digitally active environment. Those that grasp and use disruptive technologies first will undoubtedly lead the way in the future.”
Summerfield notes that many new technolo- gies are emerging in the data mining sphere, which are making an impact, forcing organisations to adopt them. Integration of old and new technologies will also play a role, especially in an economic climate where the focus on cost saving is still significant.
However, he points out that, in terms of processes and systems, mining and engineering companies operate across South Africa, often site independent. Such companies have to start centralising their processes and systems, which will have quite a big impact on their processes.
Summerfield says any function that can be streamlined to save costs spent on logistics will become attractive, with the outsourcing of those that are noncore, particularly information technology (IT), becoming more prevalent. This makes more time and resources available for mining and engineering firms to focus on their core functions.
“From a business-sector perspective, we find that the larger organisations whose primary functions have evolved little over the past few decades tend to be less reliant on this technology.”
He points out that the mining, engineering or construction industries – which typically rely more on workforces and processes – tend to be somewhat more resistant to change and find adapting more challenging than the more agile and increasingly technology-dependent industries like the media, automotive or materials processing.
Engineering or mining organisations also find the changes required by a digital economy to be more strenuous and taxing, he says.
The biggest challenge facing businesses in adjusting to the changing digital economy is the need for specialised skills, which, Summerfield points out, can divert an organisation’s attention away from its core business function. Many new technologies and systems, which need to be adopted to digitalise, require skills that an organisation may not have.
“These skills need to be constantly reinforced or topped up and the knowledge maintained to keep pace with the rapid changes in technology – an expensive and time consuming endeavour,” he says.
Summerfield says businesses that can quickly leverage new and emerging technologies can stay abreast of the competition. With the current trend of adaptation leaning towards customer experience, organisations that can meet existing and potential customer demand in productivity-enhancing ways have a competi- tive edge.
Adapting to the Digital Economy
Summerfield explains that the first step in adapting to the digital economy is to engage with a reputable service provider that offers managed services and can deploy a business analyst to assess the needs of an organisation.
“Once the assessment is done, a plan has to be drawn up in line with the organisation’s current and future business goals. This plan might include technology options and trends, which might provide the foundation for cost savings, business optimisation and customer experience.”
The managed services and level of logistics agility provided by experts from the company that has done the assessment will match business needs, avoiding unnecessary costs and services, and maximising benefits.
“Jasco Enterprise is at the forefront of the digital economy; companies can witness a huge downward cost with improved customer experience by adapting to the trends and using the data analysis of the new era,” Summerfield states.
He points out that adapting to the digital era means companies can focus on customer- centricity in an environment where customers seek out organisations that offer service excellence. Service offerings in the digital era are transparent for customers, as they have access from inception of service to closure through a variety of communication platforms, and the existence of first movers that offer such transparency means adopting transparent service offerings is inescapable.
“Centralising and outsourcing digital adaptation mean that organisations can, for example, leverage data analysis to assess their requirements, improve quality control and adjust their services as required. They can tailor their offering to meet customer needs and improve their interactions with their customers.”
Summerfield points out that organisations which have embarked on the digital journey are likely to show the strongest growth in the coming years. “We are also likely to see growth in the hospitality and education sectors, owing to the ongoing interest in digital technology in these areas.”
He says Jasco Enterprise will continue to focus on, for example, the finance, telecommunications, logistics, education, gaming, property management and medical industries for future growth.
“We have already expanded our reach into Africa with the opening of offices in Nairobi, Kenya; and Dubai, in the Middle East,” he concludes.