As football season is now upon us, I can’t help but notice the critical role that coaching plays in the on-field success of a team. A truly immense amount of thought and effort by a dedicated and sleep-deprived coaching staff fuels the performance of the players on a weekly basis.
Having come to appreciate this, I also can’t help but notice how similar the role of technology in the success of a logistics organization’s freight spend management is to that of the coaching staff of a football squad.
Sourcing & Procurement
In professional football, the preparation for a game starts immediately after the whistle blows to end the previous week’s game. A coaching staff gathers statistics and game film from their own game, and that of the team they are scheduled to meet the following Sunday. Coaches pour over every detail, searching for patterns and tendencies of both offense and defense and begin devising strategies to take advantage of opportunities that they recognize from their analysis.
Freight spend management begins with Sourcing and Procurement. Transportation sourcing and procurement requires the same exacting detail: taking current and historical data about lane density, freight spend, service commitment; identifying and researching incumbent and potential new suppliers that can service those lanes well; and creating and managing an RFP process to gather new pricing and using advanced scenario analytics against the bids to determine the right mix of carriers per lane to give your logistics team the best chance performance and price value.
The Game Plan
Routing Guide & Intelligent Mode/Carrier Selection
Just before game time, the game plan must be finalized. A list of plays, most likely to succeed, is prepared for a range of scenarios and distributed by the coaching staff to the quarterback and the leaders for the offensive and defensive units. Codes and terminology for each play must be internalized so that play-calls can be communicated and executed rapidly and without fail.
In logistics, this would be comparable to Routing Guide technology. Clearly defined routing rules should be communicated to your transportation team to prevent contract leakage (especially in light of the effort by your procurement team to provide those contracts [the “Game Plan”]) and ensure that individual transport decisions are made following best practices. These are ones that consider cost, service, and customer commitments. This should be readily available and accessible by the people who have to execute your plan. Much like the coach who has a laminated list of plays to be called, and the quarterback who flips up his arm-padding to reference and translate each play called from the sideline, a best practice would be to have a TMS or Routing Guide technology that can intelligently apply the routing rules to select, or at least recommend, the proper shipping mode or method.
Transport Execution & Invoice Settlement
Once the game has started, the coaching staff focuses on reinforcing the training and best practices. In logistics, this would be the role of your transportation management execution solution, whose role is to ensure that each transaction is performed according to the routing guide, and to repeatedly execute “the plan” for each shipment. Constant communication and collaboration between shippers and their transport partners is the “blocking and tackling” of logistics. When performed consistently, TMS functionalities like load tendering, appointment scheduling, status tracking, and document management drive cost efficiency for you and your logistics partners. Helping your carrier mitigate cost enables them to provide better service at a lesser cost. Automated freight bill auditing solutions that offer streamlined processes and flexible workflows eliminate overpayment of freight bills and reduce the cost of processing payment.
Key to any team success is the ability of a coaching staff to make adjustments at half-time to be able to analyze the results and make the necessary mid-course tactical changes to improve team performance. In a football game this requires looking at the first half statistics, and objectively reviewing on-field performance. It requires the coaching staff to make creative adjustments and act upon them decisively. Recommended changes might be drastic or subtle. Creativity and flexibility are the keys to turning around the team’s performance or proactively counteracting similar changes being planned in the other team’s locker room. Logistics and freight spend management require the same agility. Your team’s ability to rapidly adjust to market volatility, capacity shortages, and fuel price spikes help maintain cost control even in trying times. Logistics IT solutions that are self-configurable are best suited to making quick changes with minimal cost and effort.
Freight Spend Management Business Intelligence
After each win or loss, the coaching staff quickly gathers game film and statistical data, which allows for the thorough post-game analysis. The ability for the staff to “crunch” numbers on both game-by-game and cumulative season bases enables holistic analysis to drive actionable intelligence to impart to the coaches and players. In similar fashion, new data visualization technologies and powerful logistics analytics solutions are opening new insights for best-in-class shippers to find freight spend optimization opportunities and drive performance improvement. The freight spend data also helps feed a transport procurement team in preparation for the next cycle. In logistics and football, there’s always next week’s “game” to start work on (see “The Game Plan”)
Elie has been Director of Sales & Marketing, North America for Transwide since 2011, and been with Transwide since 2010. Prior to joining Transwide, Elie spent 6 years at Kewill, and 11 years at Neopost in various roles, including Vice President of its Logistics Systems division. In all, Elie brings extensive knowledge and 25+ years of experience in logistics, transportation management and IT solutions, spanning the TMS planning and execution, parcel manifesting and global trade management solution sectors.