Main content

Digital transformation among fleets and physical operations is now an unstoppable juggernaut

Philip van der Wilt Profile picture for user Philip van der Wilt Samsara June 27, 2023
It's all change for transportation and logistics operations - and data is driving the change. Philip van der Wilt looks into the technological shifts underway.

Global transport and logistics, lots of boxes and transportation fleet made of vans, trucks and an airplane © Franck-Boston -
(© Franck-Boston -

The last three years have seen unprecedented upheaval to supply chains and the businesses that keep the wheels of the global economy turning.

Those that have survived and come out the other end have weathered unprecedented economic, political, and environmental challenges. They have emerged stronger and more resilient to face the future.

What’s more, this new-found optimism has coincided with a sea-change in their approach to technology.

Last year, Samsara’s inaugural State of Connected Operations report revealed a “tipping point” in the digital transformation of physical operations — those vehicle fleets tasked with building roads and bridges to the lorries and vans that ensure supermarket shelves remained stocked year-round.

This year’s State of Connected Operations report observes that the tipping point has now taken a back seat with the sector embracing digital technology and data-fueled insights at break-neck speed.

So much so, there are “monumental technological shifts” underway that are turning organizations into fully connected operations with centralized, real-time visibility that empowers them to operate more safely, efficiently, and sustainably.

Data is fueling decision-making for business leaders

The shift from “tipping point” to the rapid uptake of enterprise systems isn’t just the adoption of telematics. Or telematics 2.0.

As the report makes clear, the industry is at the beginning of a data-fueled transformation in a sector traditionally under-served by technology. And it’s being driven by an understanding that data fuels competitive advantage.

According to the survey of 1,500 physical operations leaders from across the globe who contributed to this year’s report, nine in ten (90%) say having accurate real-time operational data is critical to decision-making in 2023. As such, two-thirds (67%) plan to increase their technology budget this year.

The fact that technology budgets are set to increase — especially during the current macroeconomic climate — indicates the confidence fleet leaders place in digital technology to modernize physical operations.

For those that have already invested in technology, half said it led to increased safety (50%), and improved compliance (50%), with more than four in ten reporting higher revenue (43%), and increased net profit (43%).

Business leaders are responding to tectonic shifts brought about by macroeconomic headwinds and the rerouting of global supply chains. But there are also changes much closer to home that have prompted a major rethink.

Jobs are changing in response to advances in technology

A majority of business leaders (56%) — and an even greater majority of connected operations leaders (66%) — revealed that improving workforce productivity with new technologies is a critical priority for their organization this year.

Almost all (91%) plan to use automation to modernize their operations by 2024 with more than half (55%) of employees working in the field planning to ditch pen and paper by 2025 and rely, instead, on digital workflows to carry out everyday tasks.

And in a nod to the rapidly changing workplace, one in six operations employees is expected to be doing jobs in 2025 that don’t exist today.

Exactly how this will look in the next couple of years remains to be seen. But what’s clear is that business leaders are zeroing in on data, connected operations, artificial intelligence (AI) and how it can impact their operations.

While there is plenty of hype around generative AI, business leaders understand that there is more to the technology than writing emails. For physical operations, AI can organize and analyze massive amounts of data from sites, vehicles, assets, and employees while out on the road.

Investing in technology is a driver for growth 

What’s increasingly apparent is that the sector — everything from logistics and construction to transport and complex supply chains — is turning to connected technology. One of the key findings is that having emerged from a turbulent three years, firms are now investing in their long-term future.

Some businesses are investing in technology to boost recruitment and retention of staff in recognition that wages, bonuses and perks are no longer enough to attract top talent. Instead, employers realize that staff are demanding access to technology to make their jobs more rewarding.

Elsewhere, other organizations are investing in technology as part of their transition to electric vehicles (EVs) as they work to make their businesses more sustainable.

And it goes without saying that one of the key drivers for investing in technology is down to the bottom line, with business leaders around the world embracing solutions that not only connect their existing tech stack, but their workforce as well.

According to the report, those at advanced stages of digital transformation are 6x more likely to report exceeding their financial goals by 25% or more.

While according to last year’s State of Connected Operations report, almost all (91%) organizations reported increased profit as a result of investing in digital technology.  Even those in the beginning stages of their modernization reported that their initial investments had paid off (86%) — a clear indication that these investments deliver ROI even in the early stages.

For those eyeing business process transformation but unsure where to start, the advice is simple. Look for processes where paper is still used — make it digital — and see firsthand how the benefits of digitization can make a real difference.

The changes currently being made to businesses across the globe aren’t just tinkering around the edges. This is digital transformation at scale that is connecting the real world with digital applications. If the advances chronicled by the first two State of Connected Operations reports are anything to go by, it’s shaping up to be a truly transformative decade in physical operations. And it’s unstoppable.

A grey colored placeholder image