Digital trade documents
The central Cloud4Log platform which allows digital delivery notes and, potentially, all types of transport documents to be exchanged is due to be rolled out at the end of 2022. In this article, Oliver Püthe from GS1 Germany explains how the laborious handling of paper delivery notes along the supply chain could soon be a thing of the past.
The digital delivery note is coming
In times of increasing digitalization, the delivery and transport processes along the supply chain which still involve a great deal of manual work seem anachronistic. The problem using the brewing and drinks industry as an example: Deliveries of drinks to wholesalers or retail distribution centers are always accompanied by physical delivery notes. The carriers take the papers printed by the supplier on a long journey. During this journey, the documents are handled by many different people. They are signed off, copied and scanned, until they finally end up in the filing cabinet at the logistics company’s headquarters after the goods have been delivered or even in the wastepaper basket after being digitally recorded. This process wastes resources, requires a great deal of manpower, takes up a lot of time and is prone to errors.
Neutral and central cloud platform
The introduction of the digital delivery note can solve this problem and put an end to the time-consuming handling of paper documents. Cloud4Log, a central platform allowing manufacturers, logistics companies and retailers to exchange digital transport documents, is due to go live at the end of October 2022.
Cloud4Log is a joint project carried out by Bundesvereinigung Logistik (BVL) e.V. and GS1 Germany GmbH. Over 30 companies from industry, logistics and retail are currently involved in it.
The solution, which was developed by both project partners, is based on a neutral cloud platform. Via the platform, the digital delivery notes from all supply chain partners are available for the duration of the delivery process and another ten weeks beyond that. As a result, there is no need to print out, pass on, transport and acknowledge paper documents.
The process in detail
The shipper on the supplier side stores the delivery notes in the cloud. GS1 identification standards ensure that the digital document can be assigned clearly to the particular delivery. If the logistics service provider takes care of the load, the driver scans a QR code generated in the manufacturer’s outgoing goods department. All that is needed is a smartphone with a scanning function (via the integrated camera). The link to the digital delivery note is stored as a card in the driver’s smartphone wallet – a function which is already used for airline or concert tickets.
During transport, the digital delivery note documents can be retrieved at any time and can be presented during inspections. At the retailer’s incoming goods department, the digital delivery note is read in again from the cloud for further processing by scanning the QR code on the driver’s smartphone and can be signed off here.
Documentation in real time
Details of quantity deviations and loading equipment exchange as well as goods receipt documents can be attached to the digital delivery note in real time in the cloud. When the delivery note is acknowledged by the recipient and driver, it takes on a closed archiving status and can no longer be changed.
The cloud solution avoids having the delivery note on multiple digital devices of the carriers. As a result, only those directly involved in the process have access to the most up-to-date documents.
Open interface, simple technical connection
The neutral platform and the community approach are what makes the Cloud4Log solution so special. This approach ensures that the interest of everyone involved in the process are taken into account. An open, standardized interface allows a technical connection free of discrimination for shippers, recipients and logistics service providers. They can use existing application providers if they add the relevant functions to their systems. Digital transport documents can be exchanged between different supply chain partners via a central instance and enhanced with information according to a standardized procedure.
The platform’s open interface ensures provider diversity and prevents a single provider having a monopoly. The neutral roles of BVL and GS1 Germany as providers and operators of the solution ensure that barriers to entry are low and the service is available to players in all industries and markets. Existing company or sector-specific island solutions for digital delivery notes can be integrated.
Data security guaranteed
At the moment, T-Systems is developing the technical platform infrastructure and suitable front end solutions. With Cloud4Log, the data are processed via the Open Telekom Cloud (OTC). The partnership with the Telekom subsidiary ensures that data are stored and processed via a server operated in Germany and thus data protection and security in accordance with European laws. This was one of the key requirements specified by the project participants from industry, logistics and retail during the previous project to develop the digital delivery note.
Ease of use
The ease of use of the solution was another important requirement of the project team, as there are frequent employee changes at the ramps and at the transport companies. Those involved in the project feared that long training periods and the need for special hardware would make acceptance of the digital delivery note much more difficult. Storing data on countless different devices was also seen as a problem.
The practical trial carried out last year showed that the jointly developed solution for the digital delivery note meets these requirements and also takes into account the needs and expectations of users along the supply chain. For four weeks, 20 companies used a prototype solution for the digital delivery note with the help of a web app installed on the Open Telekom Cloud and using the GS1 standard GDTI (Global Document Type Identifier) for unique and overlap-free identification of the delivery note. In the process, more than 228 digital delivery notes were exchanged by the shipping companies for 160 transport consignments and 159 users were involved. The result: 68 percent of users questioned would happily continue using the solution for the digital handling of delivery notes. Users particularly liked the contactless handover of the document with the help of the QR code scan, the digital signature and the fact that there is no need to print the delivery note.
Delivery processes becoming quicker
The trial also showed that digitalizing the process resulted in far fewer corrections to invoices and credit notes. Furthermore, the forwarders no longer need to document delivery notes – this includes anything from scanning and archiving to the obligation to provide information. The 228 paper delivery notes saved during the four-week practical trial helped to make logistics processes more sustainable.
All in all, the practical check at the ramps once again showed the huge improvements which can be achieved with the digital delivery note. It is the basis for automation and genuine process efficiency. The digital availability of data ensures maximum transparency when tracking consignments, while real-time delivery reports speed up complaints and billing processes between the seller and the buyer. The manual work associated with handling transport papers, i.e. filling in documents, handing them out, transporting them, scanning them and filing them, is a thing of the past. This not only relieves the burden on staff in the incoming and outgoing goods departments. It also makes life easier for the drivers who, in the past, were responsible for transporting the documents.
Time plan and expansions
At the end of October 2022, the BVL and GS1 Germany would like to roll out the Cloud4Log solution. It will be ready for immediate use in many industries for the movement of goods from suppliers to retailers. The final version of the solution will also allow a machine-readable attachment to be attached to the digital delivery note. Information about the goods delivered can then be automatically carried over to recipients’ ERP systems and checked.
As a result, there is no need to check paper documents manually. This frees up significant personnel resources during the clearing process. At the same time, other potentially synergistic functions which will further increase efficiency along the supply chain are being planned. These include a so-called digital gateway via which drivers will receive all necessary information, e.g. the parking area and unloading gate, on their smartphones and a digital self-check-in service for drivers. The digital delivery note is an important step on the way to fully digital business processes in transport logistics. Companies that are interested will find further information and can make an appointment for a demonstration on the website www.cloud4log.de.
Handing out, accepting and processing paper delivery notes still represents a large part of the handling work at the ramps of breweries and retailers. A sector initiative involving more than 30 companies from industry, logistics and retail, led by the Bundesvereinigung Logistik (BVL) and GS1 Germany, is looking to introduce the digital delivery note in order to digitalize manual and time-consuming processes. After a successful practical trial last year, the Cloud4Log solution which was developed on a collaborative basis will be rolled out in December 2022. Via this neutral cloud platform with open interfaces, the companies involved in the supply chain can exchange delivery notes and other transport documents without having to print them out and physically hand them over. The solution puts an end to paperwork along the supply chain in the brewing industry and offers great potential for faster and more cost-effective logistics processes benefiting everyone in the brewing sector.
Would you like to find out about current trends on the beverage market and exchange professional information? Then we invite you to take part in the next drinktec, which will be held in Munich from September 12 to 16, 2022.
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