2) Focus on Your Core Business with One Phone Call Resolution
Look for carriers that offer integrated, seamless service. Can the same person who handles quoting and invoicing also service your freight across all transportation modes, alleviating the need to contact different departments or companies to fill your order? The ability to move dynamically across modes of transportation is a key benefit of using carriers that offer a broad range of services that can be accessed in one phone call. Ideally, the tactical efforts involved in moving your freight should be invisible.
3) Minimize Your Risk Exposure
The larger the supply chain, the more vulnerable it is to disruption, especially as relationships between suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and customers become more and more complex. Shippers must ensure that they've anticipated all of the risks that could impact their supply chain, including those outside the walls of the carriers with whom they are working. Every entity that touches your freight should be adequately insured. Choose carriers that have audit measures and/or an integrated risk management program in place.
4) Plan for Geographic Reach
Purchasers with large transportation budgets and several distribution centers typically buy centrally to achieve regional or national reach. Know whether carriers have the specific geographic coverage to serve you and your customers. Even if you are not purchasing from offshore vendors today, it is likely that at some point in the future you may consider carriers that offer experience dealing with the complexities that arise in import logistics.
Do your multi-mode providers have a strong presence throughout North America and Europe? Do they conduct business at or near key ports? Are the carriers' operating centers and brokerage field offices close to customers' facilities? If your organization is doing business in Mexico and Canada, how familiar are the carriers with cross-border procedures? Do they have relationships with reputable customs house brokers and freight forwarders?
Cross-border shipping is a complex process. Carriers lacking solid relationships at key ports and across borders could significantly impact your bottom line.
5) Leverage Technology
Transportation managers are busier than ever, so handling tracking, booking, problem resolution, payment and other tasks online is very beneficial and time-saving. Carriers that provide no touch access to information, such as via the Internet or electronic data interchange (EDI), enable shippers to resolve problems at one central point, while offering instant visibility into their supply chains. Those who provide exception management and proactively alert customers to potential problems before they arise bring even greater value to the shipper.
6) Align the Equipment with the Job
Ensuring that carriers can accommodate your freight with the appropriate equipment is important. Do the carriers have access to equipment across multiple modes? Can they source trailers and containers, as well as trailers that can ride on railroads? Is the equipment specified to handle your freight requirements? Do the carriers have access to leased or other equipment in order to manage unexpected surges in volume? With the right equipment, carriers can leverage volume across multiple modes, providing better rates, improved service and low-cost transportation based on your transit requirements.
7) Find the Right Railroad Relationships
As capacity continues to force shippers to explore different modes, shipping over the rail is critical to meet increased customer demand. Find out which railroads your carriers have relationships with, and ensure that those networks provide the reach that you require. The more rail relationships each carrier has, the more flexibility you will have to shift freight between the rails in response to increasing over-the-road costs and changing rail service.
In all, by examining your organization's level of flexibility and shipping volume, you can effectively determine if a multiple mode solution will work for you. And, by diligently examining the capabilities of multi-mode carriers, you can find providers with the broadest mix of transportation solutions, as well as the best equipment, strongest reach, most reliable technology tools and the proactive customer service required to meet your needs. This type of provider can offer many benefits to the shipper, including additional capacity, extended geographic reach, improved (value) pricing, better reliability and greater service levels.