Productivity anytime, anywhere thanks to a transformation in IT support

As remote working becomes a permanent option, companies are turning to logistics partners to keep workers provided for and productive.
IT experts supply chain_hero
02 November 2021 •

More than 18 months into the pandemic, IT support has become a key logistical challenge for companies trying to keep their staff productive, wherever they are.

This has moved what was once an in-house function to an external partnership, as tech giants turn to a logistics company like DHL to manage the life cycle of hundreds of thousands of workers' computers, from installing software to replacing broken mice.

“DHL Supply Chain saw the opportunity to integrate a suite of value-added services into the supply chain,” said Noel Singgih, Chief Information Officer at DHL Supply Chain Asia Pacific. The company has both trained and hired a pool of engineers able to intervene and provide technical support in the last mile.

DHL supply chain warehouse experts

With work from home set to stay, risks abound

The past year and a half has revolutionized work culture. Years-long plans to implement remote working were put in fast forward by IT teams all over the world—no doubt some of the unsung heroes of the pandemic.

Yet, even with workers separated for health reasons, work must go on. Companies have rapidly experimented and implemented a supporting infrastructure to keep employees connected and productive from anywhere, at any time.

Virtual collaboration platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, for example, have become essential for teamwork and everyday interactions. IT services giant Accenture went a step further and launched a fully immersive virtual office space, the Nth Floor, creating a semblance of interaction without the physical aspect. Such platforms might make it possible to never step into a physical office again, as they enable seamless interactions regardless of geographic separation.

In some key Asia Pacific markets, LinkedIn has even observed an uptick in remote job postings.

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This, however, is raising a new challenge for IT teams.

Threats to cybersecurity are more pronounced when working in public spaces, on shared networks, or mishandling confidential information. Some organizations mitigate risks with biometrics — voice, facial, or behavior recognition tools that verify those logging onto their systems. For example, voice calls can be authenticated in real time to ascertain one is speaking to the right individual, a more efficient and effective cybersecurity solution than asking verification questions.

How supply chains are adapting to remote working 

To address these challenges in the new norm, supply chain experts have moved to upgrade the invisible but essential support network that securely set up millions of home offices throughout the pandemic. The rise of service logistics consolidates capabilities, improving skillsets and solutions to service users downstream and even onsite.

“Technology companies used to send around teams of specialized engineers, but labor costs and shortages present challenges and delay servicing,” said Singgih.

“Throughout the pandemic, the accelerated shift to remote working demanded more widely distributed services and placed pressure on turnover rates for repair and replacement,” said Singgih. While employees previously had immediate onsite support for their IT needs, requesting replacement parts from home urges quicker fulfilment upstream to maintain service quality.

Service logistics is thus becoming a cornerstone for tech companies looking to stay ahead of the curve, with supply chains fitted for today’s work environment.

“As working from home or anywhere become the norm, the old concept of a centralized Helpdesk to support employees is becoming obsolete," said Singgih.

"DHL Supply Chain is leveraging our globally distributed presence of trained technical service teams to help companies build up the capacity and capability to enable sustained productivity across all their remote workers’ operations.” 

Bringing crucial IT support to your doorstep

Managing a more widely dispersed supply chain is not without its challenges.

Servicing end users at home is trickier compared to commercial addresses, due to factors such as sensitive time scheduling and limited access to resources.

“Basic troubleshooting can cover around 60 to 70 percent of cases. By upgrading our services, we have been able to cut down unnecessary returns and costs of sending specialized support for our customers,” said Singgih.

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However, setting up specialized units as close as possible to clusters of remote workers has allowed DHL to streamline standard IT processes and asset distribution or recovery, following a set of procedures agreed upon with the client. Installing required software on brand new laptops, for example, can be implemented in the warehouse, saving time and resources.

“In IT, we call this image installation,” said Singgih. “Our teams can configure the hardware according to the standards required by companies. The same goes for return management — our team can detect and assess the problem before following a preset process with our tech clients to fix, dispose of, or send equipment in for deeper analysis.

“In a remote work environment, these previously back-office processes are being brought into the front office, right at your home address.”

Supporting business continuity in APAC’s technology sector

As Covid-19 hit Asia Pacific hard in mid-2020, DHL Supply Chain faced the challenge of keeping two global tech giants connected to hundreds of thousands of employees region-wide.

One solution leveraged DHL’s service centers located throughout India. Asset services, support personnel and dedicated “milk run” vehicles were distributed across seven locations to cover employees residing in government-ranked tier 2 and 3 cities. The newly established local, inter-city and inter-state network enabled time-bound deliveries for business continuity with minimal downtime.

Another client required assembly and delivery of custom work kits across Singapore, India, and the Philippines. Within three months, an end-to-end delivery network was set up, comprising services such as asset tagging for device life cycle management, imaging rooms to configure devices, as well as returns and packing areas for activities like data wiping, refurbishments, repairs, and scrap management.

Following international safety and compliance standards, the end-to-end delivery network is helping to connect over 200,000 workers, with a global two to three-day service turnaround. Implementing Asset Life Cycle management also aligns with DHL’s sustainability agenda, reducing waste throughout the supply chain.

DHL supply chain warehouse operations
Service logistics breaks order fulfilment down and optimizes processes with designated areas and solutions for picking, imaging, staging, and packing before the shipment is ready to go.

Going full circle – service logistics promoting sustainability in supply chain

Finally, a strong benefit of service logistics is the creation of a more sustainable supply chain.

Evidence has shown that consolidating supply chain capabilities can help to reduce carbon emissions, especially in transportation, one of the largest culprits of carbon emissions.

Furthermore, being more involved in asset recovery and life cycle management has enabled logistics teams to implement end-to-end solutions that ensure data security while maximizing resources.

To get a sense of how much value is potentially available through asset recovery, consider that four to 10 percent of consumer electronic devices are returned, said Mark Watson, Vice President, Global Technical Services, DHL Supply Chain. Around 20 to 50 percent of those returned items can be characterized as “no fault found” and can therefore be resold.

“In Europe, for example, we help one of our business partners to grade and assess used mobile devices for second-hand usage or resale — effectively channeling them back into a circular economy,” said Singgih. “The expertise we acquired through this project and resulting systems can easily be deployed in any of our service logistics projects in the future, anywhere in the world.”

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