On almost a daily basis, logistics analysts are called on to explore new ways to solve tough transportation challenges, whether as part of a new business opportunity or in redesigning existing business. And while virtually every scenario is unique, finding the right solution almost always begins with the same question: “What if?”
Answering the “What ifs” is the reason why we model. It enables the analyst to build an accurate, profitable solution that reflects the realities of a world that is full of traffic jams, potholes and human error. Yet, most modeling work must be completed within a fixed, and often unreasonably short, period of time. The analyst also must be able to shape the data from each of perhaps scores of modeling scenarios into a cogent, accurate, actionable presentation.
Have you given your analysts the tools they need to thrive in this environment? Are you faced with the need to invest in additional people and related resources simply to keep pace with the increased demands of your customers? Do you feel more or less exposed to potentially costly variability in your outcomes? More simply, do your analysts have the tools necessary to efficiently, accurately and confidently move from “What if” to “What’s next?”
Right tools, right outcomes
It seems as though Microsoft Excel is still every analyst’s best friend. And while Excel does everything we tell it to do, we must direct each and every step along the way. As a result, Excel certainly does not help address the time constraints associated with most modeling projects, nor can it replace the analyst’s years of knowledge and learned behavior. Therefore, relying on Excel as your modeling solution means starting every project from scratch, with all of the wisdom from your years of business success still locked away in the analyst’s head. While Excel-based modeling certainly is more effective than scratching it out by hand, it falls far short of the demands of today’s transportation marketplace. Furthermore, once your analyst has invested dozens of hours developing a solution, the results are often presented in multiple complex and confusing spreadsheets that might raise more questions than they answer.
Perhaps you have graduated to an Access or SQL database or written your own software to automate some portion of the analyst’s work. While this adds value and potentially helps save time, it is based solely on the knowledge and experience of your own team rather than the ever-expanding set of industry best practices.
For these reasons and dozens more, a vast majority of the industry’s top 25 3PLs now use commercial modeling software.
Play to your team’s strengths
You have presumably built your company around a unique set of characteristics that appeal to customers. The use of commercial modeling software can help you enhance this competitive differentiation by establishing a strong foundation for each modeling solution and then enabling your analysts to focus more of their energy and creativity on addressing each customer’s unique requirements. In short, 80 percent of the work is based on logic learned through an unparalleled pool of industry experience, and the final 20 percent highlights the unique expertise that only your company can provide.
Need to account for volume segregation and pooling, specialized equipment, commercial restrictions, multi-pick-multi-drop, private fleet radius, specific lanes or territories, DOT restrictions, slip-seating, and endless known or potential variables? Modeling software will account for known variables while offering interpretive input fields to account for things no one has even thought of yet.
Want to compare multiple carriers or modes? Need rates? Commercial modeling software enables you to connect to any commercial rating engine or create your own rating table.
Need to validate the cost of every change you make based on a managerial or operational constraint? Utilize modeling software as a decision assist tool to show how much money, miles, resources or hours each of these constraints will cost you.
Hard facts, hard numbers
Make no mistake; commercial modeling software is helping leading 3PLs achieve step-change improvements in modeling efficiency, accuracy and business profitability – all while enhancing, rather than sacrificing, their competitive differentiation. We have seen multiple organizations reduce by as much as 90 percent the time invested in complex modeling solutions. Operational improvements are equally impressive, with users often achieving total and empty mile reductions of between 5 and 20 percent.
Commercial modeling software also offers the most accurate and configurable measures possible. With drive times based on maps with built-in commercial restrictions and a flexible acceleration/deceleration curve, plus multiple mode considerations and all resource and time variables accounted for, you can be confident in “real world” results.
Imagine being able to make your best people more effective in everything they do. That’s the ultimate benefit of commercial modeling software. By giving them the right tools, you will enable them to focus more time and energy on tasks that directly impact your bottom line and turn more “What ifs” into tangible business wins.
Brian Larwig is General Manager, Appian Software at TMW Systems. With 10 years of transportation management experience and a background in Analytics, Operations Research and emerging technologies, Larwig has made organizational analysis and efficiency the focus of his efforts in logistics. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from Oklahoma State University.