These days, you don’t need to have a huge logistics budget to leverage leading-edge technologies that will improve the efficiency and performance of your company’s operations. Logistics technologies are being developed with new upcoming technologies, but without the price tags associated with the common business applications.
Nearly every large and small company has access to advanced enterprise technology that used to be only accessible to the largest businesses. The four major technologies that have become essential tools for mastering any company’s supply chain or logistics operations:
1. Configurable Business Process Management
Daily, logistics leaders execute hundreds of processes and activities within their freight operations, many of these, manually. Business process management technology leverages code-free tools to enable businesses to automate flexible freight processes. These configurable tools help companies more efficiently to execute, track freight orders and control how carriers are managed and paid.
2. Business Rules Engines
All businesses have unique requirements and behaviors within their freight operations that impact accuracy, corporate goals, and customer service levels. Technology that’s capable of using business data and configurable business rules to automate decisions based on customer specific needs drives efficiency. For example, if a consignee’s terminal closes from 12–1 p.m. and does not accept pick-ups during this time, a TMS with a business rules engine can provide only the carriers that meet those specific delivery windows and standards when rating and procuring transportation. This leads to higher customer satisfaction and a significant decrease in biling and retention fees, which ultimately saves in overall transportation costs.
3. Cloud Integration: the present
An important component to process automation is integrating all critical business systems, like ERP (enterprise resource planning), WMS (warehouse management software), OMS (order management software) and shipper TMS (transportation management software), to gain full visibility and data exchange. An enterprise shipper and broker TMS will have pre-built integration adapters for the most common business applications, along with professional service teams that will assist with integration.
Integration platforms using a broad set of web service and EDI application programming interfaces (APIs) create a robust exchange of real-time information, as well as increase the speed and accuracy of purchase orders, acknowledgments and shipment updates.
For example, leading enterprise TMS solutions often integrate movement orders from a WMS or OMS and receive data on planned movements far in advance. This allows true managed transportation providers to lock in capacity ahead of actual shipment dates.
When you connect your systems, you gain full visibility into your supply chains through a control tower of combined vendor, customer and operational data. Ultimately, integration and automation helps businesses go-to-market faster and outpace the competition.
4. Predictive Analytics: an important key
Mixing (and using) big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, predictive analytics evaluates current and past data to make predictions. Through predictive analytics, companies can shift from reacting to events to proactive decision-making because predictive analytics helps businesses manage disruptions, reduce downtime and effectively plan and budget logistics spend and operations.
When you combine data points from manufacturing production and order processing with carrier capacity and performance, you’ll gain a better understanding of the ideal combination of carriers and services to meet your needs. With predictive analytics, you’ll discover answers to questions like “How many orders can we service within budget for a given set of lanes? or What will our freight spend look like in two to five years based on production goals?”
Leveraging Improvement and Optimization Technology
Fortunately for all of us in the logistics industry, you don’t need a Fortune 100-sized budget to use these emerging technologies. Instead, partner with a 3PL or TMS provider that offers a proprietary and configurable TMS leveraging these technologies. We are currently working on our own TMS and, for example, arms companies of all sizes with business process management tools, business rules engines, integration tools and predictive analytics capabilities to help drive efficiency and cost savings into supply chains. And all at a price point that’s affordable for any company.
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