Supply chain is an industry slow to change. Large shippers still use Excel spreadsheets to plan their operations, and even the most beneficial logistics technology is sometimes looked at warily. If it isn’t broken, these stakeholders reason, there’s nothing to fix.
Logistics isn’t alone in this hesitancy to embrace technology, but the benefits of injecting agility into current processes, creating automatic procedures instead of relying on manual work, and streamlining operations can be profound. The evolving logistics issues brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, increasing port congestion and the continued acceleration of significant and devastating weather events are wreaking havoc on supply chains around the globe. Logistics technology brings agility, orchestration and advanced planning into the mix, so stakeholders can weather the current supply chain issues and react quickly to opportunities and disruptions as they appear.
In the current supply chain technology community, companies have focused on TMS applications, but it is no longer enough to simply integrate transportation processes and technologies in a TMS. Stakeholders need agile solutions to handle the speed and volatility of the “new normal.” Transportation’s explosive growth, the complexity of the networks and frequent capacity constraints have created an environment that requires a true digital operating platform for transportation.
Supply chain technology that is “beyond TMS” adds an array of necessary components. Agility allows stakeholders to make changes on the fly, correcting shipment plans to overcome logistics disruptions and take advantage of opportunities. Users should also be able to access a carrier network to find cost effective capacity when needed. Finally, users should be able to focus on the sustainability of their transportation choices starting with the order.
An easy way to think of it is the system should be able to use any system to plan, track and adjust. The planning stage means that users can plot routes using variable lead times, cost implications and intelligent historical data, monitoring changes as the scheduled ship date approaches. Tracking seems straightforward, but it’s important to make sure any technology offers end-to-end visibility and continuously updated ETAs that check that orders are traveling on time, providing notifications when orders may be late or early. The adjust metric should allow users to make corrections to shipments, viewing recommended alternate modes, carriers, service levels and routes to bring shipments back on track.
The convergence of TMS and logistics visibility is here. Working without that convergence creates a yawning gap between the capabilities of standard TMS applications and the latest shipment visibility capabilities. Supply chain planning and adaptability to logistics disruptions is the major challenge facing the global supply chain.
COVID changed everything. Visibility became so much more important, and it became clear that shipment transparency wasn’t all that was needed: visibility must stay tied into execution, all the way back to the order, so stakeholders not only always know where their goods are, but they can change course as needed. Visibility and execution working in tandem gives supply chains agility; efficiency is no longer enough.
Technology can help drive mission-critical goals that apply to every supply chain stakeholder. Supply chain orchestration can help remove waste from the global supply chain, streamlining processes while enabling agile reactions to logistics problems. This waste reduction plays into the quest toward a greener supply chain, a goal that will become even more pressing in the years to come. This can all be achieved by linking supply chain stakeholders together on a global, neutral platform that allows all parties to share a cloud-based single version of the truth. But this link can’t simply consist of the major transportation and logistics players; to truly achieve the next level of supply chain technology – agility, optimization and visibility all rolled into a single platform – even the smallest trucking companies and logistics firms need to be involved. Democratizing technology for the mom-and-pop transportation companies adds their capacity to the system, propping up the supply chain ecosystem while it allows them to compete on a global level.
To become part of the next wave of supply chain technology, stakeholders should look for a multimodal digital operating platform transforming the transportation management system status quo.
Glenn Jones is global vice president of product strategy and marketing for carbon-neutral supply chain technology provider Blume Global. He has a proven track record of growing businesses by building and leading R&D and product marketing organizations to define, develop, position and sell highly innovative and high value enterprise solutions delivered in the cloud. He was formerly the COO of Sweetbridge, the CTO of Steelwedge Software and also held leadership positions at other supply chain software companies including Elementum, E2Open and i2 Technologies.