I’ve written that IT is hard. I’ve written about the difficulties of automating your logistics business—the fact that you don’t have someone you trust 100%, that software projects fail big, that it’s risky to trust an IT person. And I’ve offered some thoughts on how to proceed.
But before examining how to automate, we should first ask: Why automate?
In the 1990s, sometimes people were asking me: “How should I go on to automate my shop?” This was the era when computers were becoming widely used (albeit most commonly without network). Everyone was talking about them, and shop owners would often wonder whether they should be using them. Upon crossing paths with a software professional, it was natural to ask how to automate.
My response to this used to be something along the lines of “use pen and paper”. Pen and paper is probably the oldest information technology we are still using. It’s reliable, everyone knows how to use it and how to fix it when it breaks, and everyone understands the implications of storing critical information with it. With computers, at that time, you might have some gains, but you’d become dependent on a provider with a support contract, and most of the time it wasn’t worth it. I believe many were relieved to hear such an answer.
A better response would have been “Why do you want to automate your shop?” The obvious answer is often wrong. For most shop owners, my 1990s answer might be correct. There might have been a shop owner who wanted to invest in enlarging his shop and for whom the business benefits of automation outweighed the drawbacks.
This still applies today. Why do you want to make a web site? Why do you want to integrate your TMS with your WMS? Why do you want to track your trailers? We need to ask these questions and compare the automation solution against alternatives such as having people do the work.