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ULD

CNA
mediacorp brandSTUDiO

Text Melody Tan

Photography Joseph Nair

Customer interactions became more fulfilling and productivity increased when United Logistics & Distribution took its transportation arm digital

Set up five years ago, United Logistics & Distribution (ULD) offers its customers – who are mostly business owners and small e-commerce merchants – comprehensive logistics solutions, from freight to warehouse storage and last-mile fulfilment.

In the early days of the business, its service comprised a common routine. First, staff would receive phone calls or emails from customers to schedule cargo pick-ups and deliveries. They would then use pen and paper to chart out a route for its drivers to follow before dispatching them to conduct the deliveries.

While the drivers were out, office staff had to handle constant calls and texts from customers, who wanted to know when they could expect their goods to arrive.

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ULD used to chart out routes on a paper map.

However, as the business expanded, the number of customer calls and messages increased to such an extent that its staff could no longer cope. Even managing director Benson See and general manager Tony Leong felt that the time spent assuring customers and ensuring that deliveries were running smoothly had begun to affect their personal lives.

“To be honest, I could not really enjoy a good time with my family when we were on holiday. I was constantly worrying about work, and I had to dedicate at least an hour a day to check on the scheduling, my employees, and my customers. It was exhausting and worrying,” said Mr See.

As larger competitors began using tracking systems, ULD’s customers also began to request for a convenient way to track the delivery of their packages.

Said Mr See: “We received a lot of feedback from clients who wanted to track their orders easily without having to call or email us.”

Mr See started searching for a digital system that could put ULD on par with the bigger players by automating the delivery process as much as possible, freeing him up to focus on the company’s growth.

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An electronic proof of delivery offers real-time updates of when deliveries are made.

BETTER VISIBILITY WITH A NEW SOLUTION

Mr See decided to utilise a transport management system that automates laborious tasks such as delivery scheduling and route planning. It also allows deliveries to be tracked using a mobile application which generates an electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) after.

In the past, PODs were slips of paper forms signed by recipients upon delivery. However, drivers would often misplace these paper PODs or forget to get the signatures of customers when they were in a hurry. This led to some customers refusing to pay for the service, as they claimed no deliveries had been made.

“The ePOD is real-time data that our company, our drivers and our customers get at the same time. After the recipient signs, the driver takes a photo and we all receive copies of the proof of delivery. Any time you want a copy of the ePOD with photos attached, you can simply log into the system and retrieve it. It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” said Mr See.

Local e-commerce business SgDumbbell, which sells home gym and weight training equipment, is one of ULD’s long-term customers that has experienced its changes in operations after digitalisation was implemented.

Co-founder of SgDumbell, Ms Yi Shuen, felt that going digital benefitted ULD’s already-high service standards: “The digitalised transport management system improved the reliability and efficiency of ULD’s service. Delivery efficiency is especially crucial for e-commerce businesses, because it affects our customers’ overall shopping experience.”

For merchants like her, delivering goods on time and in good condition leads to improved customer satisfaction and increases the chances of getting repeat business. More importantly, more accurate delivery windows also mean customers spend less time waiting for deliveries.

REAPING THE BENEFITS

While both Mr See and Mr Leong were enthusiastic about the benefits of going digital, the drivers at ULD initially feared that being tracked via a mobile app meant that the bosses did not trust them.

“We were concerned that they would think that way. But if we could utilise technology to help us become more efficient, what is stopping us from using it to our advantage?” said Mr See.

He added: “As this business decision had an impact on everyone in the company, it required some time to educate our employees and to allay their fears and concerns before we rolled out the changes.”

The drivers soon grew to appreciate the new system as the artificial intelligence (AI)-infused software’s automated route planning greatly reduced errors and man-hours.

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Drivers receive notifications directly on the transport management system, reducing the confusion caused by handwritten delivery orders.

In the past, the use of handwritten orders meant that parcels were sometimes sent to the wrong location due to illegible handwriting. Drivers would have to spend time waiting for the correct delivery address and make extra trips to deliver parcels to the correct location.

By utilising the software, fuel costs have also been reduced significantly as time-effective delivery routes are now automatically planned out.

Explained Mr Leong: “Previously, our drivers only knew where or what they were going to deliver on the morning of the scheduled delivery. Now, they are able to know where they are going one day in advance, which helps them manage their time better.

“They are definitely happier, and we are able to handle more deliveries due to the optimisation of the delivery routes, which in turn helps saves time, diesel and maintenance costs.”

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With the transport management system, different customer orders scheduled for delivery to nearby locations can now be easily taken on by one truck. Added Mr Leong: “You can slot in additional requests, such as pick-ups and redeliveries. If the truck is nearby, you can just schedule it in. In the past, we had to liaise with different account management personnel to handle the additional requests."

It also became easier to maximise the amount of cargo each vehicle could carry. Previously, the number of items a truck could hold had to be calculated manually by an experienced staff member. The transport management software automates this process such that even a new employee could supervise the loading of a truck with just a few weeks of training. This has allowed ULD to use its manpower more efficiently.

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The transport management software makes it easier to maximise the cargo loaded onto each truck.

CHANGING OVER TO DIGITAL METHODS

Now that the barrage of customer calls and texts has largely stopped, Mr See is able to focus on building more constructive relationships with customers and players within the logistics community, in order to develop ULD’s long-term growth.

“I definitely encourage my peers to digitalise their businesses,” said Mr See. “It’s always good to digitalise, move forward and get a better share of the market, which is too big for one company to take on. From a logistics and SME (small-to-medium business) perspective, it’s important that we lend strength to each other.”

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ULD general manager Tony Leong (left) and managing director Benson See feel the firm has benefitted from digitalisation.

Internally, the transition to the transport management system was eased by the software training provided in the package ULD purchased, and regular talks with employees about the importance of building a tech-savvy company culture.

“The good thing is that my guys are open to change as we are a young and growing company,” said Mr See.

Said Mr Leong: “Many transportation companies are changing, but there are some that still use traditional ways of managing trucks instead of going digital. We saw an opportunity to be one of the first few to embrace digitalisation and have never looked back since."

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