It’s 2017. Have you updated your logistics and supply chain management operations? Or is yours still a pen-and-paper organization, relying on emails and paper invoicing? Do you spend hours or even days calling companies to get freight quotes? Do you manually track all carrier contacts and carrier partner’s you need to make a scheduled load succeed? Digital technology is changing the face of business and industry operations — and that includes those in the freight and transportation sectors.
Many small to medium sized shippers still do business the old-fashioned way — relying on manual processes — and are slow to adapt to technology changes. However, the industry is experiencing a digital evolution, and experts believe the industry will soon be fully digital.
Going digital: the big picture
As digital technology and automation reach more areas within the supply chain, TMS, sensor data from radio-frequency identification (RFID) and GPS devices along with social media, news, event, API’s, and weather data is becoming increasingly accessible — leading to greater efficiencies and reduced costs. But cost-cutting is not the main focus of the supply chain. The focus is based on how fast supply chain professionals move products from production to consumption, or product velocity. Every stakeholder within the supply chain has an impact on that velocity. Having the right tools and software to take advantage of the available data is crucial for these stakeholders if they want to avoid becoming bottlenecks.
Tools and software benefits
Transportation management grows more and more complex every day, as does its importance. The impact of transportation is a key factor organization leaders look at when searching for their next acquisition, distribution center, channel partner, co-packer, and so on. Fierce competition and a still-struggling economy are forcing savvy company leaders to work smarter, which means using technology to simplify and streamline business processes, including freight management.
Digital supply chain management is more connected, intelligent, scalable, and rapid than traditional supply chain management. With the right software systems in place, logistics professionals can leverage the proliferation of available data to create new synergies, make better decisions, rapidly build and scale new offerings, expand into new markets, and react more quickly to customers.
Depending on your needs, you can opt for just rate shopping or modules that focus on a specific area of supply chain management and logistics. You can even move to comprehensive end-to-end systems that handle all aspects of freight management from order management, rate shopping, load planning, and route optimization to auditing, and business analytics reporting as well as workflow optimization and customer relations management and everything in between. The ideal software is affordable, easy to implement, and provides options for on-premise deployment or as a hosted service. It should provide easy-to-use intuitive screens and dashboards to allow easy management and execution — and it should integrate into your current ERP systems and processes.
Ready to go digital?
If you’re still relying on outdated, manual pen-and-paper systems or are still calling for freight rates and booking loads manually, you can change all that. Is there a communication gap among support staff, warehouse personnel, and customer service or is your organization divided into functional geographic silos that don’t share data? You’re likely ready to leverage the extensive data available and increase visibility and the automation efficiencies that a digital transformation offers to improve efficiencies, reliability, effectiveness, and cost savings. But where do you start?
- Many in the supply chain management sector understand the importance of going digital but have not yet jumped in out of fear of how and where to start.
- Begin by analyzing where you are, where you want to go, and how much of your existing systems and processes you can retain. Do you simply need to start from scratch?
- Analyze your supply chain partners’ needs and capabilities so you can share data across platforms.
- Determine what software model you will use: on-premise, hosted on-site, or hosted software as a service (SaaS).
Although you can’t afford to waste any time getting started, keep in mind you don’t have to go in alone — and you don’t have to do it all at once. You can take small but steady steps in replacing your old systems with experts by your side to ease into the future of digital logistics.