Exciting new technology for logistics and the LTL sectors in 2019
Like construction, heavy industry such as mining & utilities, logistics & freight aren’t areas that have a reputation for being at the cutting-edge of technology. That’s not to do with the age of the industry itself (media and news services are similarly old, but are very technology-focused), but more to do with the practically-focused and physical (not digital) nature of the industry as a whole.
However, the image of freight and logistics might be blue-collar, but the reality is that technology is playing an increasing role in many aspects of companies in the sector. In some countries (Japan comes to mind), testing of fully-autonomous trucks is well underway, on-board tech like high definition dash cams and GPS beacons are common, and warehousing, stock, and freight movement software is commonplace right across the hub-and-spoke infrastructure of most carriers.
What’s more surprising is that the trends in software that affect most industries are having similar influence on carriers, logistics companies, and shippers, right across the globe. Many solutions designed with the industry in mind are now cloud-based, plus, most companies are turning away from monolithic enterprise-running applications. Instead, the tendency is to deploy specialist apps, and then link those apps into a coherent whole. Interoperability is the key in today’s software world.
That approach opens the way for practical solutions for pain-points specific to carriers, shippers, and wholesalers. One example is 3D scanning, which can better measure load dimensions — especially useful for smaller carriers and the LTL sector in general.
Warehousing systems cleverly combine hardware devices (especially handhelds) and software that communicates up and downstream of the supply chain, with algorithms that predict capacity peaks and troughs, and dynamically manage prices in real-time.
The underpinning mechanism that allows different systems to exchange data freely is called — to use a technical acronym — an API. Advanced programming interfaces are (typically) relatively static pieces of code that act as a simple, secure and standardized conduit for data to pass between software instances written by different companies, for different purposes.
With the exchange of data via APIs, proprietary systems can communicate on a level playing field. That’s great for businesses that use multiple carriers (full-load, LTL, and small parcel, for example) as costs can be calculated dynamically at a freight-bill level by a company’s software exchanging information with other systems owned or run by partners, contractors or 3PLs.
Suitably equipped, a company’s own information (carefully vetted) can be presented to trusted third parties, and the same mechanism works in reverse: APIs also offer a way for data to flow into the carrier’s own systems.
Keeping it in-house
The latest in technology available to carriers naturally has the majority of its positive effects internally, as you might expect. By deploying the type of solutions profiled below, businesses of any size can create maximum efficiencies, lower costs, and better bottom-line figures. That’s without having to expand capacity as demand rises. Today’s specialist software helps companies in several areas of operations that are specifically relevant in the sector:
– Discovering the real cost of freight moves, from origin to destination.
– Getting the best rates from multiple LTL carriers.
– Predicting when 3PL might need to be deployed and determining optimum rates for better margins.
– Discovering valuable metrics, like losses through unnecessary stop-times and poor cross-dock handling figures.
– Getting spot quotes for unusual load sizes.
– Utilizing chronically empty lanes.
– Optimizing backhaul shipping possibilities.
– Proper business reporting based on up-to-the-minute data.
– Having a single “source of truth”: the same hymnbook that everyone can sing from, right across the business.
The picture changes
Running a logistics business of any type means juggling many dozens of different factors. The interconnected nature of the industry means that there are variables beyond the control of even the UPSs of this world.
But what supply chain and transport companies specifically have on their side, thanks to technology, is an increasingly large pool of raw data. Sometimes the information is out there; it just needs normalizing — another piece of technology vernacular, meaning transforming data into a form that’s standardized somehow.
Systems at hubs, GPS data from truck fleets and hardware sensors up and down the supply chain add more information, on top of figures from software both internal, and belonging to others.
By applying smart software to work on the pools of data being collected, the logistics business creates for itself a coherent picture of all areas of operations. That means when fuel taxes rise, road tolls and truck part costs spike, and pressure from legislators mounts for more fuel-efficiency, the forward-looking carrier can thrive. After all, the considerable increase in online shopping (often for relatively lighter items) means more goods can fit on fewer shipments; so better margins. As long as businesses have the systems to capitalize on that type of trend!
With projected growth in the industry continuing to rise, the difference between competitors’ performances will be down to better management. And while never replacing human experience born of long careers in the industry, technology can provide the basis on which better decisions get made.
At Tech HQ we think the following vendors have something significant to offer to carriers of any size:
Freightview is cloud-based software that supports companies who use multiple carriers. Every day, pulling and and comparing rates is a massive time & resource drain, and Freightview solves that problem with its exciting and powerful platform. It then goes on to create the same type of savings further down the daily working processes journey.
It utilizes API technology to connect to carriers and allows users to get live price comparisons. After quoting, you can finalize bookings, too.
Then, rather than hand-off the complexities of billing, the platform also acts as a central store for all financial documentation. That means all invoices remain in one place, so your finance team can see and audit all “paperwork” and see its connection to LTL activity.
Juggling multiple carriers has often involved several spreadsheets, formulae and a great deal of slow, repetitive processes, like requesting quotes and finding that rates have changed (perhaps carriers are passing on costs without warning). Freightview technology means that because prices are live, all contracted rates update automatically, so users get accurate figures from their connections set next to one another on one screen.
To read more about Freightview on these pages and hear about its five-star service, click here.
In order to differentiate from its competitors, SMC3 is positioning itself as something of industry representative in the LTL space, with its educational activities in the sector soon to be joined by an LTL certification — confirmation of this area of logistic’s arrival into the arena where sophisticated software is now required to compete effectively.
The SMC3 platform acts as a centralized hub for managing all areas of LTL consignments, pulling together paperwork like Bills of Lading and delivery receipts into the same software “stack” where real-time consignment metrics are also stored.
The number of variables involved in LTL (and 3PL) management means that industry experience is now no longer enough to keep the competitive wolves from the door. The company has managed to turn its extensive expertise in logistics and supply chain to present solutions that fit the industry perfectly.
In short, SMC3 know your pain, and better, know how to alleviate it.
The SMC3 suite of products — among them RateWare® XL, CarrierConnect® XL, and BatchMark® XL — can be drawn upon and integrated via API connectors to suppliers’ and partners’ systems, creating a single-pane-of-glass view of the overall operations.
Learn more about SMC3 by clicking here.
The p44 solution is available for different market sectors in the shipping vertical. Shippers, carriers, and logistics service providers all benefit from the robust software systems, with specialist services like delivery truck temperature tracking in addition to more-common GPS tracking covered.
The systems automate as much as possible: for instance, companies can ensure notifications about ETAs (expected or amended) are sent out to other organizations up or down the supply chain, and this type of facility is available on the same platform as the rest of the system.
The company’s visibility extends beyond North America and over the majority of Europe, with plans to cover the more common trade routes across the globe in the pipeline too. But whether your consignments pass national or state borders, the platform’s performance remains unaffected, effectively lowering costs and providing the type of real-time data that lets companies fight off competition who are behind on the technology curve.
The unpredictability of logistics is particularly catered for by Project44, with reports and alerts of delays (at ports or customs posts, for example) pushed to expectant partners, following the credo that bad news is better than no news at all.
To learn more about Project44, click here.
*Some of the companies featured are commercial partners of TechHQ