The supply chain has quietly become a mainstream topic in recent years. “The Amazon Effect” is a commonly used expression, high shipping costs are regularly discussed on earning calls by executives from some of the most recognized global brands, and the impact of tariffs, trade agreements and home delivery is covered by big media.
But by far, the most exciting topic we see when it comes to the supply chain is technology. From artificial intelligence to autonomous vehicles and future delivery methods such as drones and robots, supply chain technology has officially become ‘cool’. FedEx even recently unveiled an autonomous delivery robot on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
While those innovations are grabbing the headlines – and will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the supply chain of the future – the advancements are still being developed. And, in many ways, we’re still trying to distinguish hype from reality. But while those emerging technologies might be a few years away from delivering meaningful results, other tech advancements are impacting today’s logistics industry – you just can’t see them. One example: transportation management systems.
While TMS may not be anything new, these systems have continued to evolve and now deliver greater functionality than ever before. Let’s examine how next-gen transportation platforms are delivering real value to shippers.
- Optimized transportation planning and execution – Today’s logistics platforms enable shippers to better plan and execute every stage of the shipment lifecycle – from load planning and route optimization to carrier selection and freight tracking. This enhanced ability to automate and optimize end-to-end transportation operations is helping shippers improve operational efficiencies, reduce freight costs and better position themselves to navigate a dynamic transportation market.
According to FreightWaves’s Brian Straight, “The ‘old-school’ TMS used to provide tracking information and some basic functions such as rate and customer information. Modern systems now incorporate all aspects of the supply chain…It is these incremental steps in the supply chain where so many shippers are now finding value.”
- Data-driven decision making – A recent study by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals found that 98% percent of 3PLs and 93% of shippers feel that data-driven decision making is key to supply chain activities. And today’s logistics solutions enable companies to access and analyze critical data from across the entire supply chain. Advanced reporting capabilities allow them to examine every aspect of their operations, including carrier performance, freight costs by lanes, driver wait times at each facility and much more. These insights help shippers better understand the state of their supply chains and enable them to make smarter decisions to improve performance or reduce costs.
And the continued development and integration of machine learning into today’s logistics platforms is helping companies to better access and analyze large amounts of data and then leverage it to achieve better transportation planning and execution.
- Real-time visibility – According to Gartner’s recent “Wants and Needs” survey of supply chain leaders, visibility ranked as the highest priority. But that shouldn’t be a surprise. Greater visibility helps shippers better mitigate and manage supply chain disruptions, make faster decisions and enable enhance communication with stakeholders.
Today’s transportation platforms give shippers a holistic, real-time view of their supply chains. This enhanced ability to monitor the end-to-end movement of goods in real-time is not only beneficial for providing status updates to customers, but helps shippers identify shipments that may be disrupted due to weather, construction or other factors, and proactively make necessary adjustments.
According to Transplace Vice President, IT Customer Solutions Steve Barber, “While GPS technology for trucks has been around for 30+ years, visibility solutions have matured and continue to evolve, and forward-thinking companies are leveraging this technology to deliver real business value. Today’s shippers now have access to a universal managed transportation platform that can locate a shipment in real-time – but also, more importantly, make data actionable once the information is received.”
Modern Transportation Technologies are Driving the Supply Chain Forward
Futuristic technologies are fun to talk about and debate how they will change how we do business over the next 5, 10 or 20 years, but we can’t overlook how current, behind-the-scenes advancements that are impacting our world today. Analytics capabilities and route optimization algorithms may not be great for late-night TV, but they are some of the innovations found in today’s TMS that are already delivering real-world results and helping drive the supply chain forward.
Author: Stephen Dye, Account Director, Outlook Marketing Services