Building Logistics Software For The Future: Choosing Platforms.

If you invested in logistics technology a decade ago, you probably lost the shirt off your back, but that has recently changed with cloud computing, IoT, and blockchain. A lot of that has to do with the companies like Amazon continuously disrupting the market, and other companies like Flexport becoming a unicorn with a $1B investment from Softbank.

COVID times have pushed supply chains to the edge of economic prosperity, being the hunting field for investors. Dave Anderson of Supply Chain Ventures says that recently they look at around 300 startups a year. Once high-end software becomes the need of the hour for your logistics company, you should decide where to stick: buy ready-made software or build from scratch. Let’s weigh the options.

How is Bespoke Software Different from Ready-Made Software?

Let’s define the terms from the start:

Ready-made software is something you can purchase, install, and begin to use instantly, like Jira or Photoshop. Such programs are made for general use and aren’t supposed to adjust to your needs. Also, you’ll never own such software.

Bespoke software is a product delivered by the development team particularly for your business and based on your company requirements. It can be modified and updated at any stage of the software lifecycle to meet changing business demands.

  • Framework: As commercial software is targeted at a wide range of consumers, it has a unified design and a standard frame. The main disadvantage here is that it might not meet your company’s unique needs or won’t be able to distinguish your products/services. A ready-made solution may oblige you to change your workflow to fit in. 
  • Cost: The cost for ready-made apps is divided among many users, while the bespoke solutions are paid by the Product Owner. That’s why prices for commercial software are significantly lower than for the development of custom software.
  • Updates: In the case of ready-made software, be prepared to pay for future updates. Unfortunately, you can’t regulate the price and amount of such updates and may end up with an outdated product in case of non-payment. On the other hand, bespoke software updates are shaped according to your budget and needs.

How To Choose a Framework

  • Analyze your workforce availability and pick a framework according to available human resources.

What developers do you have on your side? Suppose you have to decide on a front-end technology, and you have two strong Angular developers. In that case, you should probably work with those. Moving fast can be valuable, and it’s an advantage to have people who are in their comfort zone instead of learning new technology. Also, actual knowledge of the ecosystem is an additional benefit.

Another approach is to discuss your technology with a generalist. Because if you talk about your project with a Node.js expert, guess what they’ll recommend? 

  • Analyze the challenge.

The chosen technology should depend on the problem you’re solving. Are you a technical innovator, or are you building an innovative business solution? If Facebook is built with PHP – that doesn’t mean you should use it too.

Some things are better function with one language than another — for example, Python is excellent for computation and statistics. The majority of software projects can be addressed with a variety of technology stacks. Only a few tasks require specific approaches to succeed. 

  • Examine IT trends and adopt a long-lasting technology.  

Be aware of industry trends, but don’t select them blindly. Check websites like hotframeworks.com, trends.builtwith.com, and Google Trends to understand where various technologies stand, in terms of popularity over time.

Some huge companies – including Facebook, Netflix, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Reddit – use React for their front-end to scale and handle millions of views per day. Apple Music, LinkedIn, and Square use Ember to convert their native applications.

  • Look for support as the framework should be actively backed by the community or a tech giant for mitigating risks. 

Every technology embraces an ecosystem composed of people and tools. Facebook and the open-source community keep investing in the growth of React, and Google is behind Angular. This means that there should be long-term vendor support until the drop (yes, this happens). But the bigger is the community, the bigger is the chance that things will stay around for some time.

  • Read the Docs for better immersion. 

Choose frameworks with plenty and actual documentation. Start with checking the technology’s webpage for how-to videos and blog: how are updates handled? How easy is the update or to migrate? Have there been incompatible versions (like Angular 1 & Angular 2)?

As a modern developer, you should adopt a mindset of a constant learner and continually improve the delivery model to meet your customers’ increasing demands.

The synergy of front-end, back-end, and accelerators such as cloud, open-source tools, DevOps, and security will give you the edge you need. But in many ways, the most critical accelerator is your mindset.  

How To Choose a Technology Stack for Supply Chain Software: Erbis approach.

Aftermarket validation, the most complex part of the project is selecting tools. Often clients turn to our software development company with a vision of what languages and frameworks they want to use. This would be helpful if they were IT engineers, but they aren’t.

Our 10+ years of experience in custom software development allows us to share our thoughts on the topic.

Framework features that matter: 

  • multi-threading & concurrency
  • scalability & clusterization
  • persistence and ORM
  • transaction support
  • inversion of control and dependency injection concepts and practices
  • batch, scheduled and async processing
  • aspect-oriented programming
  • convenient and standard ways of REST services development 
  • security management inside business logic. 

Java

Over the last decades, Java and Java-based frameworks have been a top choice for complex systems development. Java-based back-end applications possess good qualities in extensibility and supportability. Sophisticated TMS and ERP systems may serve for decades, with the owner’s intellectual property well protected and maintained.

Mature Java application frameworks like Spring or Jakarta EE (former Java EE) include all features listed above to build complex logistic solutions.

Java Script

In the last few years, we’ve seen a rise in JS frameworks on the frontend – and, consequently, on the backend. Using the same language on both sides helps to consolidate the team and balance human resources between tiers when needed. Adopting feature-driven development, you can omit bottlenecks when the frontend waits for the backend, and vice versa. 

Choosing popular JS frameworks will probably speed up the creation of your MVP, but sacrifice the functionality Java has. JS frameworks are still getting these functionality implemented, but they’re not mature enough to rely on when developing the Supply Chain management platform. 

Python

Another player on the market is Python. It is an up-and-coming language that has the power to push Java to second place in this decade. Python’s Django framework holds many of the mentioned above features for developing supply chain software. If you want to put on Python for the perspective – this might be the proper choice.

Conclusion

Things are changing quicker than they did 20 years ago. Your chosen technology will probably stay with you for 5 to 10 years: this is a long time, but you need to prepare to switch technologies when the need arises.

That’s why you should think granular, in little packages. To avoid putting eggs in one basket, we at Erbis consider separating services, back-ends, and front-ends into smaller applications and microservices. Contact us (link) to discuss the bespoke solution that can solve your supply chain’s particular difficulties or benefit from a ready-made solution from our partner.

4 Major Logistics Challenges with Solutions Offered

A global pandemic has changed the world of retail irrevocably. In response to COVID-19, an unprecedented number of shoppers have made purchases online for the first time. Among them are old and rural consumers that will continue to adopt digital. Changes in consumer behavior will be lasting and many will maintain new digital habits in a post-pandemic world.

So get ready for the new e-commerce normal. You have little time left to update your supply chain management for improving business and providing seamless consumer experience. Below are the major problems of logistics companies.

Problem 1. Predictability

Of course, each shipper wishes to satisfy the customer. But don’t get wrong with false promises. You should be hyper-accurate with the word given. Treat it like an oath. It’s far better to indicate a 2-3 day delivery period than say 2-day and to lose.

Recent surveys show that getting an item to a customer when expected is more important than getting it as fast as possible. We’d prefer a tomorrow delivery at 7-8 pm rather than today’s from 2 till 8 pm. That makes sense, right?

Solution

Make your Service Level Agreement consistent and coherent. This is where setting realistic customer expectations becomes essential for retention and loyalty. No need to show all the backstage, as a customer wants to measure the result and get what he’d expect to for his money. In this case, the trend to increase delivery speeds at all costs can surprisingly lead to unhappy customers. The same will provoke the unexpected calls after ticking off ‘don’t call me’.

Problem 2. Supply Chain Visibility

Supply chain visibility is control over your business thanks to information. It has a direct impact on revenue growth, cost cut, and reduces invested capital. Though achieving it remains an elusive goal. Supply chain networks, technologies, regulations, and business models are continuously changing. So are the rules for success. It’s a moving target with no silver bullet for it. 

Logistics visibility software is worth investment only if companies also spend time, money, and resources to walk their supply chain, from start to finish, with their own feet.

Solution

It has never been easier for organizations to adopt automation software solutions as it is now. Cost-effective cloud-based solutions make automated field processes accessible now for smaller budgets and fleets. 

You can rely on dynamic data, which puts you in control with accurate information about suppliers, carriers, systems, and customers. Such kind of visibility data reflects rates and pricing and enables intelligent routing, automated pickups, proactive tracking, and automatic payment reconciliation. You have no right to say: “I can’t afford to automate my field processes for financial reasons.” That’s not true anymore.

Problem 3. Last-mile delivery

According to statistics, delivery executors have to make as many as 150 trips for every 100 deliveries. Such difference occurs due to fuzzy addresses, unresponsive customers, heavy traffic, or last-minute cancellation. Last-mile delivery is considered as the most important and painful element in the logistics and supply chain business. It is the key to customer satisfaction and makes up the lion’s share of delivery costs. So, if done right, it can save a ton of time and money which in turn can make your business both efficient and profitable. As such, the segment becomes the first place to implement new technologies.

Solution

Since increasingly more consumers are looking for different delivery methods, last-mile delivery has become an option for retailers looking to add value to their services. To deal with this, you need to look to AI-driven technologies that analyze big data in real-time and adapt the delivery process accordingly. 

Consumers themselves would like to check up where their parcel is. The most friendly solution for that is crowd-sourced deliveries which allow them to open a mobile app and order coffee to the office, change order details, and contact courier if needed.

Problem 4. Software Development

Although there are a variety of logistic software startup companies targeting a last-mile niche, it becomes difficult for large-scale retailers and delivery companies to incorporate such tools into one consistent system. Ready-made software demonstrates real-time data without any forecasts while the ability to predict the delivery time as accurately as possible. 

Solution

In most cases, large companies using third-party logistics services (3PL) for the last mile delivery must develop their own software solution meeting the needs of clients, retailers, and carriers.

For example, customers opt for flexibility and easy returns, retailers try to mix in-house and 3PL delivery services, while carriers struggle for cutting costs and safety.

To understand where to start, it’s better to prioritize challenges and estimate the solution cost, including a ready-to-use one and those, need crafting. We at Erbis can become your reliable partner for creating an utterly polished product.Look through latest supply chain solution developed by our team for one of the leading global logistics provider: Latest supply chain solution