2 min read

Automate those reports

Automate those reports

Imagine you are running a shipping line. Thousands of people work for you. Your ships are all over the planet. You own massive data centers to keep track of your cargo. Your employees spend countless hours preparing reports. Those reports are almost immediately deleted when they arrive in inboxes.

The logistics industry is full of a surprising amount of high-touch tasks. Tasks that require a significant amount of time to complete. Most of these reports could easily be automated. (I personally believe that most of the admin tasks in a shipping company could be automated). Yet, most still require hundreds of keystrokes and clicks. Why don't we change? I can't tell you the exact reason or multiple reasons these easily automated, high-touch activities still exist. I have a few ideas.

The most obvious is job protection. I have met many people that complain about the reports they have to do. When I suggest automation, they always turn white. They usually say something to the tune of "well, that's all I really do here, so if it was all automated, then I'd lose my job." I disagree. I believe that automation frees up our day-to-day, so we can focus on aspects of our work that truly matters.

Another reason that left me speechless was "it's management's policy." There has been an ongoing issue with ships coming to Seattle from Vancouver, Canada. US Customs hasn't been getting their required notifications before the ship arrives. This means ships are waiting days to begin unloading and loading cargo. I've been scratching my head to figure out why and until now. The trip from Vancouver to Seattle is about 6 hours. These shipping companies' policy was to send out these notifications and reports 8 hours after the ship departed. That leaves a 2-hour difference where the ship is in Seattle, but the company hasn't bothered to send their records. These records contain vital data to keep their business running smoothly. When asked why they are late: "it's management's policy." These records and reports would be easy to send automatically when the ship leaves a port. Days of lost productivity could be recovered if they were received on time.

I don't believe that most reports need to be made at all. Most are a compilation of data, taken from one source and send to another. They create clutter and noise in our inboxes. At best, they provide a snapshot of an important metric. Most reports could be summed up in a dashboard, ready to display information on demand. For those reports that absolutely need to be sent, let the computer send them. To focus on the larger picture and solve complex problems is what makes work fulfilling, not sending another report.