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GIS is a Powerful Business Tool for Managing Transportation and Logistics

Matt Ball on July 9, 2012 - in Transportation

A modern corporation must keep on the move – not just figuratively, but literally – to be successful. That’s why transportation and logistics professionals all over the world have embraced geographic information systems (GIS) technology as a powerful tool for managing, planning, evaluating and maintaining their operations.

It is an art to get the right things to the right place at the right time and each corporation’s transportation and logistical needs vary. This includes business travel for executives, managers, sales and service personnel, as well as the shipping of materials to customers that can spend significant time in transit.

All of these activities involve logistics and a constant shifting of locations. Therefore, GIS technology becomes the ideal tool to make operations run smoothly and efficiently.

“Through utilizing real-world GIS techniques, spatial modeling and GIS packages such as Esri’s ArcGIS, these tools can aid a company in decision-making so that the business runs efficiently without compromising on quality customer service. This enables them to realize a significant cost savings in the process,” says Dr. Devon A. Cancilla, dean, business and technology at American Sentinel University.

Beyond a list of maps and highlighted routes, GIS helps a company pull together important disparate information to better manage what it does at each location. This is done by integrating data from geospatial content such as maps, images, applications and other geographic information commonly used for planning, deploying, operating and optimizing transportation and logistical systems.

Here are a few more examples of how GIS can be critical to any operation and why anyone with a business degree should learn more about the technology and how to apply it to get the most out of their IT investment.

A timber company transporting logs to South African plantations kept running into the same problem: its trucks had a difficult time navigating turns.

South African logging roads incorporate turns that are too sharp to allow certain types of truck configurations to pass. The use of GIS technology allowed the timber company to calculate for forest density, vehicle capacity and vehicle turn radius to determine how to bring wood to market at the lowest cost.

A company could apply this same approach to service personnel when calculating estimated lengths of certain types of repair calls, individual capacity of technicians to perform types of work (perhaps based on experience) and normal and overtime pay rates. GIS technology provides company executives with relevant data to arrange workloads and routes to balance the number of technicians with work capacity and costs.

Lasko, Slovenia uses GIS to solve a different problem: reduce the cost of mandated transportation of children to school.

Planners determined the optimum locations of bus stops to reduce costs by keeping the number of stops to a minimum while still reducing the distance children had to walk to arrive at a bus stop.

When applying the same methodology on a larger scale, companies can use similar techniques to construct a distribution network and appropriate placement of warehouses within clusters of customers.

GIS systems can also allow the aggregation of more accurate data, like real distances rather than estimates that might cause optimization programs to work inaccurately, or actual travel times based on traffic lights and road capacity instead of undifferentiated distances.

It isn’t hard to imagine taking airport locations, historic weather patterns and statistics of on-time flight performance to help get employees to a series of stops on time, minimizing the number of missed meetings because of transportation delays.

Dr. Cancilla says that spatial modeling tools will continue to play an important role in solving problems and overcoming business challenges and that GIS technology will have a diverse purpose in the future of transportation and logistics.

“By utilizing GPS-enabled smartphones to track transportation routing and scheduling, and using high-resolution cameras to upload photos of road hazards in real-time, GIS technology provides company executives, dispatchers and customer service representatives with access to the most up-to-date information in user-friendly formats to ensure operations run smoothly,” says Dr. Cancilla.

He points out that both the private and public sector have heavily invested in GIS and it is expected that this market for GIS will continue to grow – along with the need for GIS-skilled professionals.

Learn More About American Sentinel University’s GIS Degrees
American Sentinel is one of the few higher education institutions to offer an accredited, online Bachelor of Science Geographic Information Systems degree. The bachelor’s program prepares students to analyze, interpret and effectively communicate spatial date while providing insights into GIS to solve workplace problems.

Learn more about American Sentinel University’s GIS degrees at http://www.americansentinel.edu/online-degree/bachelor-degree-online/bachelor-gis-degree.php.

Matt Ball

About Matt Ball

Matt Ball is founder and editorial director of V1 Media, publisher of Informed Infrastructure, Earth Imaging Journal, Sensors & Systems, Asian Surveying & Mapping and the video news site GeoSpatial Stream.

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