Author: Nikolay Dragomirov, Ph.D
Automation of logistics administration processes
Methodological description of an Innovative class or educational game
(A standardized template for instructions to teaching staff)
The game demonstrates the capabilities of modern information systems and technologies for facilitating and automating routine logistics tasks, in particular the administration of logistics processes. These activities can be covered in whole or in part by the theoretical Office automation systems. Nowadays, the office is a place where employees work. As they perform their activities, they very often have to carry out uniform and routine operations, which can be largely automated. This type of system is intended to aid people namely with these tasks so that they are able to focus on the more complex ones. It is also the basis of systems that aim to support document management and communication between employees and individual points in the organization. The objective of the game is achieved by demonstrating various possibilities for automated routine office operations and illustrating the advantages of their automation.
The game aims to demonstrate the advantages of systems in automating activities by solving typical tasks in two ways – manually and through the use of automated systems.
No special requirement for the group size.
1 – 1.5 hours that can be reduced or extended.
For the game to take place, it is necessary to first introduce the players to the nature of routine operations in the management of logistics activities. The emphasis should be on the fact that they can be, amongst other things, different types of information processing and transfers between varieties of systems. For example, connection between e-mail and cloud storage, excel data bases, calendar, messengers, social networks, forms, team collaboration platforms and etc.
During the introduction, it’s necessary to highlight the main points in the capabilities of products such as Google (sheets, calendar, Gmail, drive, analytics, forms, etc.), Slack, Trello, Dropbox, CRM, and market automation in general. The list can be expanded according to specific needs. After the introduction, it is necessary to explain again the importance of proper integration of these and other similar products and to elicit the importance of a high degree of automation.
There are many possibilities for completing the game with a specific platform. Some of the possibilities are to use platforms such as:
Depending on the specific needs, other platforms can be used; at the moment, almost every solution offers a trail version that is suitable. It is advisable to introduce a schematic diagram of how the processes are organized this way. Depending on the case, another diagram for a different product can be developed.
It is important to emphasize the connection and sequence of the process, as well as the need to follow it without changes.
It is recommended to start with an easy task, such as the integration between e-mail and database, as shown in the figure.
This requires integration between Gmail and Google Sheets. Upon receiving a new e-mail, it is necessary to add e-mail of the sender and e-mail subject in the database. To this end, the steps in the Zapier product are:
- Each participant registers an account, preferably Google.
- Create Zap – trigger event has to be defined – GmailàNew e-mail à Continue
(the systems will ask for connection with the Gmail credentials – allow the systems to read the e-mails. Trigger test is recommended, the system will ask for this.)
- Define action event after the trigger – Select Google Sheets. The systems will ask what the Action Event is. Choose: Create spreadsheet row. (The system will ask for connection with the Google Sheets credentials – allow the systems to manage Google Sheets.)
- It is important to create a new spreadsheet with predefined headers – in this case we need headers 1 – e-mail and header 2 – subject.
- The next step is to link spreadsheet headers with the e-mail parts. Email header with From Name and Subject header with Subject.
- The final step is to test the connection. If it is working, it could be turned on, and it will read the incoming e-mail and will record a new row with data for every one of them.
For the purpose of illustrating the differences between the automated and manual approach, it is possible to boost the game element and have some of the participants perform the process manually, while the rest do it automatically. To this end, 2 collective e-mails are created for each group, respectively, and a time limit for setting up the system is set. The organizer then starts sending identical e-mails to the two groups at a certain interval, for example every 2-3 minutes, which in a few moves leads to errors in the manual processing part.
The utilized system in this case is very intuitive, and the only recommendation is to follow the guidelines of the system itself. It is advisable not to disclose all the steps at once, but to move on to the next one after the entire group has completed all previous steps in order to avoid lagging behind.
After the task has been successfully completed, a discussion with questions should be held:
- What is the difference between manual and automated execution of this simple task?
- In which case will we achieve higher productivity?
- What do you think about the mistakes in manual execution?
- What about the expenses?
The task can be significantly extended according to specific needs. The teacher can choose possible scenarios from:
Also, according to the specific needs for a game element, the participants can be divided in different ways.
The article is part of the development of a study on the application of the game approach in logistics and transport training (Output title O4) under the Erasmus+ strategic partnership project “Building an innovative network for sharing of the best educational practices, incl. game approach, in the area of international logistic and transport”, Project number: KA203/HE25/13.09.2019