When we think about visibility and tracking in our daily lives, our consumer mindset probably turns on and we think of online ordering. We’re concerned with questions like, “Where’s my stuff?” or “What time can I expect my order to be delivered?” In a B2C environment, visibility is about tracking.
But in B2B, it’s so much more. Visibility covers the technology and tools you use for supply chain management. It’s about amassing data from all sources with intelligence and workflow to react in-line. How do you do that efficiently and in a timely way? How do you translate all of that intelligence into action?
A Surprising Answer
Having visibility into your own logistics, as well as offering visibility to your customers, is complex in the B2B world. It’s all about supply chain management, which encompasses:
- Customer service management
- Transportation/warehouse execution
- Exception notification
- Carrier/mode analysis
- Location load/unload performance
- Profitably by service/product
Visibility in these areas is more than just an understanding of what’s happened; it’s about taking action before small issues become big problems. Visibility is the “so what?” of your transportation data.
Translating and communicating everything that’s happening is a tall order for any supply chain software, but the answer to the problem may surprise you because it’s often overlooked: A modern, highly configurable transportation management system (TMS) that can act like a transportation control tower for your operations.
New Heights of Visibility
With so many logistical considerations to track, a TMS that helps you optimize with visibility-driven workflows will push you to new levels of optimization. With the right architecture, a TMS can integrate and manage different data types flowing in from multiple systems, shippers, carriers, mobile applications, financial systems, emails and portals. Now, you have a single point that provides full visibility into the flow of data and the tools to act on the data in order to achieve:
- In-line process improvements
- Automated exception management that lessens the need for manual intervention
- Proactive, advanced notification of issues
- Intelligent workflow creations that drive carrier management
- The creation of operational data for visibility
How does it work?
A TMS that acts like a transportation control tower can enable an intelligent “rally point” that brings together different sources, translates that data and automates or presents actions as appropriate. For example, it can relate and communicate many-to-many relationships, such as orders to shipments. When a customer asks, “Where’s the truck?” they don’t really care where the truck is; they want to know when they’re getting their freight. The TMS answers that inquiry at the order level because it has the power (backed by the intelligence of your TMS) to slice and dice the information many different ways.
Another example of the benefits of a TMS with visibility-driven workflows is when a carrier arrives on time but didn’t get in to the dock. As a result, your customer sends you a detention charge. With the power of a TMS that’s acting as your transportation control tower, you can flag that as an exception and fight the detention automatically. The extraordinary visibility into your operations opens up new opportunities for efficiency and automation like never before.
Integration is key
Data aggregation and communication are impossible if you can’t translate the data coming in. A TMS with visibility-driven workflows can read and translate vastly different data types and put them into the same format from which you can take action. This includes SOAP and REST transactions, API, EDI, CSV, X12 and others. With the ability to integrate with so many systems, your TMS enables you to meet your customers where they’re at, rather than force them to do extra work to fill the gap of your technology’s limitations. It’s also a far more cost-effective approach, as you have the ability to leverage what exists, rather than rip and replace with a solution.
Set Yourself Apart
In an industry where many services can appear commoditized, a TMS with visibility-driven workflows transforms the way you gather and translate intelligence so that you have a powerful tool that’s shareable with your customers and sets your services apart. Increase your opportunities for new efficiencies; meet each of your customers’ unique requirements with the ability to dissect data in myriad ways; and increase your own profitability with deeper insights, faster reaction times and better-informed decisions that impact your margins.
JP Wiggins is co-founder and vice president of logistics at 3Gtms, a global provider of Tier 1 transportation management software. There, he manages channels and partnerships. Previously, JP was co-founder and senior vice president of logistics for Global Logistics Technologies (G-Log); co-founder and vice president of product management at dx/dt; and vice president of logistics at Weseley Software.