Clearly, getting a handle on transportation issues is a critical success factor for Rick's company and companies in scores of industries. As the Aberdeen study points out, when best-in-class companies are evaluated against the Pressures, Actions, Capabilities and Enablers (PACE) framework, they are characterized by a mix of strategic action, strong organizational capabilities and the adoption of technology enablers. Unsurprisingly, three of the seven enablers cited — visibility system from a freight forwarder, visibility system from a third-party logistics provider (3PL) and transportation tracking systems — are transportation-related.
What to Look for in a Logistics System
Once you determine your need for more effective logistics management, what do you look for in a solution? In our flattening world, four criteria are paramount.
Your solution must create and support a community consisting of players who don't necessarily spend their entire work day at a desk. These players include employees who knit together shipping arrangements with a 3PL, the 3PL themselves, suppliers who ship to your specifications and customers who may play a major role in specifying routes and carrier choices. Your solution must reach them wherever they are. It must require virtually no training to use.
This community is fluid, with players entering and leaving continually. It's also increasingly technologically savvy. Tomorrow's supply chain and logistics leaders — and even the guy on the loading dock — have grown up with online gaming, Nintendo and laptops with WiFi cards. They are accustomed to, and demand, point-and-click, drag-and-drop, and intuitive navigation. Universal data access and sharing have profoundly affected every aspect of our lives, informing the business solutions we adopt. Think about it: Mapquest and Yahoo Maps, the soccer mom's gold standard, have replaced paper maps and push pins as the most widely used business routing tools. Every aspect of the logistics solution you choose must offer the same hyper-accessibility and ease of use.
Your solution should automate logistics activities across all carriers, freight modes, and regions. Whether delivered as a managed service, on-demand platform or combination, this solution should offer a flexible, workflow-based approach to enforcing optimized global shipping plans at the execution level. In effect, it should bridge the gap between the planning and optimization of TMS and real-world logistics activities.
Automation should extend to all aspects of the shipping cycle, from shipment preparation, bidding and bid analysis to shipment scheduling, track and trace, and contract/vendor relationship management. An automated platform eliminates searching for carrier-specific shipment information, for example, by allowing authenticated users to log on and make choices based on role, nature of shipment, destination, import/export regulations, hazmat requirements and packaging. Direct request/response integration allows shippers and carriers alike to benefits from faster data exchange, more accurate data entry and real-time pick-up and delivery information.