Supply Chain Monthly

Industry Spotlight: Meeting Increased Demands in Supply Chain and Logistics

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Industry Spotlight: Meeting Increased Demands in Supply Chain and Logistics

Supply chain companies face increased pressure to perform their services with the greatest possible efficiency and accuracy. Their customers are demanding, and failing to deliver on time is not an option. As a technology partner to many trucking and logistics businesses, we’ve identified key industry trends that help us develop the most effective solutions for our clients. 

Today’s shippers are savvy buyers, who typically work with multiple carriers and logistics firms. Many of their vendors provide enhanced capabilities, including electronic data interchange, electronic invoicing, real-time tracking and online reporting. 

So far, firms that lack these capabilities have been able to compensate for limited capabilities and win business based on high service standards. However, customers’ expectations are evolving and improved technology is increasingly becoming part of the definition of great service. 

We’ve partnered with many companies that relied on outdated technology to run their businesses. In some cases, there were multiple software systems, with each department operating in its own silo. Others relied heavily on manual processes to accept orders, dispatch trucks, track deliveries, manage invoicing and perform other critical business processes. This dependence on outdated technology caused inefficiencies that were costly to the organizations and frustrating to their employees.   

The most successful supply chain companies – those with the highest growth rates – look for opportunities to automate processes and implement technology that improves communication and collaboration among their office staff, customers, drivers and partners. These companies know that integrating databases, leveraging modern technologies and automating manual processes reduces their administrative overhead and lets employees focus on keeping their customers happy. 

One of our clients, CST, is a family-owned and operated trucking company based near Chicago, Illinois. Its four service areas include container and intermodal drayage, dedicated contract carriage, line haul, and warehouse services for air and ocean breakbulk. 

CST’s Warehouse Services for Air and Ocean Breakbulk involves receiving and shipping packages that come to the US via international flights. The firm tracks each shipment to ensure the package clears customs, arrives at its facilities and is divided for delivery - all within 12 hours of the plane’s arrival at the airport. This process must be strategically planned and efficient. CST’s dispatch team must allocate enough time to pick up the package from the airport, break it into individual shipments, and ship these out. 

The dispatch team manually entered information like shipping details and customs clearance into one master database. Its team members were working very hard to ensure its customers’ delivery expectations were met, and CST’s leadership wanted to streamline this process for its employees. 

With a custom-built system, the firm had real-time flight arrival information on hand for its dispatchers. When flight details are entered, an alert dispatches a driver to pick up the shipment. The system automatically calculates the freight availability time for different airlines, allowing employees to monitor customs clearance information and track dispatch drivers. The drivers are also able to view a package’s estimated processing time at the airport, a feature that estimates how long it will take to unload the plane’s cargo and helps drivers prioritize their package pickup. CST’s new system saved a significant amount of time for employees. With this system, CST meets its Total Quality Report goal of 90 percent. alligatortek also introduced a storage allowance system. After packages are received and customers are notified of their arrival, customers must arrange for its shipments to be sent out within 7 days. CST can now easily track and automatically charge customers that go beyond the 7-day limit. 

Another trend in creating operational efficiency is improved data management. Owners and executives are demanding more advanced reporting solutions that give them quick, easy access to meaningful information. In such a competitive industry, it’s imperative that managers have near real-time data so that they can continually provide competitive, profitable pricing and manage their labor costs effectively. 

Companies that are not 100 percent satisfied with their technology should perform a “gap” analysis, a project that identifies their businesses’ goals and compares them to what they can achieve with their current technology. This highlights challenges caused by ineffective technology or processes and identifies solutions to eliminate the gaps between their goals and capabilities. Using this information, a company can then prioritize its technology projects based on how each contributes to its bottom line, which will minimize inefficiencies while maximizing its return on investment. 

Technology is always evolving, so staying current and incorporating a sound technology strategy can create significant competitive advantages for your company. 

About the author:

Sid Bala is the President and CEO of alligoratek.