Naveen Kumar Head, IT, Apollo International Limited

Enterprises across business verticals are leveraging information and communications technology (ICT) to achieve greater efficiencies in their day-to-day operations. A robust IT and telecom infrastructure is required to communicate not only with customers but also within the organisation. To ensure effective communication, manage operations, improve productivity and increase efficiency, logistics enterprises are stepping up their investments in their ICT infrastructure. Leading enterprises in the logistics industry discuss their IT strategies, emerging technology trends and future plans for IT infrastructure upgradation…

What is the company’s telecom and IT blueprint? Please mention the wide area network (WAN) components, last mile access technologies, and enterprise, mobility, security and software applications?

The company’s IT set-up includes an active data centre and a disaster recovery data centre located at a different site. The data centre set-up is equipped with application layer redundancy and hardware layer redundancy for business-critical applications. These applications are also co-hosted on the cloud. A secure middle layer integrates the applications as and when required.

Meanwhile, the telecom infrastructure set-up is placed in active and standby modes across different geographies. Our entire IP-based telecom set-up is enabled with session initiation protocol (SIP) and is open for integration with any SIP-enabled system. We have an automatic call distribution application that maximises routing, helps in resource selection and improves overall productivity. Further, virtual call routing allows businesses with multiple sites to maximise resource utilisation across all locations. The telephony set-up also includes a quality monitoring system for regulatory compliance.

What new IT initiatives has the company taken recently? What advantages has it derived and what were the implementation challenges faced by the company?

There is growing adoption of technology in logistics. We have developed a mobile application, along with a web platform, which is being used by customers to track shipments. Further, the use of computing devices like mobiles and tablets, and the introduction of 3G and 4G technologies are enabling logistics companies to track shipments and provide real-time updates to customers, thus enhancing customer service satisfaction to a greater extent.

We are using wireless technologies to establish connectivity in areas that lack wireline connectivity. Meanwhile, to overcome challenges related to lack of bandwidth, we are betting big on desktop virtualisation. Going fully digital is also a priority, and efforts are being made to give our customers a platform to avail of our different services across all channels. In addition, we have recently introduced a mobile app for tracking shipments. We are continuously focusing on the digitisation of data and various delivery platforms such as the web, mobile and tablets. We are also spearheading digital initiatives in areas related to compliance, risk management, workflow management, customer life cyc­les, and data security.

Working on projects with our partners and customers, one of the key challenges that we have faced is the integration of new technologies while co-developing web services or mobile infrastructure solutions. There are also issues regarding security.

What is the level of adoption of applications such as customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management and sales force automation in the logistics industry?

In the logistics industry, CRM helps an enterprise to service customers by providing information on product/pricing/service offerings, managing order bookings via customer calls and the internet, and providing similar abilities to collection agents for business growth through an internet portal.

Automated driver messaging and route plan information are seamlessly integrated with the CRM application. CRM logistics management optimises the pick, pack, ship and receive processes. In the near future, our customers can take advantage of CRM self-service to order a pick-up and manage billing and account-related activities online. The CRM assignment manager also helps balance the volume of work assignments and the available resource pool and delivery personnel to meet customer expectations.

What are the company’s plans regarding telecom and IT network upgrades?

We are exploring analytics to manage and analyse the huge amount of customer data available, which would help us offer enhanced products and services.

We will be focusing on adding an extra layer of security to our multilayer security architecture. In addition, the company aims to strengthen business continuity planning and disaster recovery by building an additional cloud environment and creating a virtual platform.

What are the key emerging technology trends in logistics enterprises? What are the upcoming communication technologies in this regard?

The logistics space is embracing the mobile movement, especially for transportation. In fact, many logistics managers have already “cut the wires” and have become more mobile in order to improve productivity, make the transportation process more efficient, and enhance customer service. Mobile transportation applications include GPS navigation, real-time despatch management and scheduling parcel delivery, tracking, proof of delivery, telematics and customer service engagement. Mobility is also being increasingly used for functions such as fleet service and maintenance, fleet management, and port and yard management.