The logistics industry has made significant progress utilizing data in recent years; transportation management systems have brought order to the chaos. Data is more organized and available in historical and real-time formats. Management has become automated and visualization tools make it simpler to understand.
Yet, there is still a void in how successfully most businesses use this information to facilitate positive change for shipping. Well-catalogued and organized data still goes unused, particularly in mid-market scenarios.
It’s essential that data be used to solve real problems; it has potential to drive optimal behavior and better decision making. Alas, technology is not the end-all-be-all solution and implementation of findings still requires human interpretation.
For instance, historical truck rates, distances, weights, and performance may be recorded and sent to shippers in a spreadsheet from their 3PL, even visualized with analytics software, but the next step of discerning trends and behaviors from this information can prove intimidating.
This is where people most often get stuck or delayed in the process. How can this data be used proactively to refute chargebacks, identify optimal routes, pinpoint overspending, or uncover growth potential?
As 3PLs continue to evolve and play a more consultative and partnership role to shippers, it will be their responsibility to push shippers along the transportation data progression. 3PLs need to add value with data interpretation and implementation. Providing averages and pricing is not enough. Delivering spreadsheets or charts to an inbox is not enough.
Additionally, data should be used to solve both immediate and future issues. Real-time data can help identify opportunities for corrective action on things like late shipments or mode choice. Deeper analysis can then identify optimal, best-case scenarios for shippers. Logistics service providers can then help to drive behavior and establish optimal order minimums, network configurations, and/or production schedules.
3PLs of the future will be expected to partner with clients and do all the above; collect, deliver, manage, automate, visualize, interpret, and implement data solutions.
Andrew Lynch is co-founder and president of the Zipline Logistics, an award-winning North American 3PL that specializes exclusively in the transportation of retail consumer goods and food and beverage products. Starting his career in carrier procurement and management within a Fortune 100 logistics company, Lynch has held positions of responsibility in all areas of third party logistics. He is currently responsible for relationship management, data analysis, organizational alignment, and overall strategic direction for his company and its client base.