Business is a lot like the weather: unpredictable. We can forecast as much as we'd like, but we're never 100% certain about how the sky might change. Your supply chain is no exception. Even if we have contracts and consistent revenue, what happens when a surprise load lands in our laps? What happens when all trucks are booked? How many times do we let real business opportunities slide because we lack the capacity?
How much has it cost us over the years?
Quickly building new carrier relationships is difficult. While we can find new capacity in a flash, trust is a different story. Are they punctual? Are they safe? Are they responsive? Without a pre-existing relationship, there's no way to truly know.
So if we can't predict the weather...
If we can't predict surprise business...
If we can't trust new carriers...
What can we do?
When it rains, we grab our umbrellas. We make sure we have the right tools for the occasion. Tools that give us give us peace of mind, allowing us to handle the unexpected. The transportation industry deserves the same: Tools that prepare us to take on surprise loads and book carriers with confidence.
So where are they?
Carrier databases exist, but they don't work the way the industry does. We're forced to search for carriers by city or state, but that's not specific enough. We're left making calls to figure out which lanes they drive, what their safety record is, and if they're even in business anymore. If we manage to find a carrier who can handle our freight, the question of reliability pops up again. Are we going to risk it? An un-vetted carrier can cost us our reputation and future contracts. A lot is at stake. We're left making forecasts without certainty, unprepared without tools. In the end, we're back where we started, with all of the excess labor we've put into looking for new capacity costing us more than it's worth.
Building Better Solutions.
New technology is entering the transportation industry every day to address our capacity insecurities. But what features actually make a difference? What features actually help companies prepare for the unexpected? Over the past year, our team has worked with different transportation companies across the nation to brainstorm solutions for capacity shortages. Our question was simple:
How might tech reduce the manual labor and guesswork involved in building new carrier relationships?
Here's what brokers, shippers, and 3PL's came up with:
- Databases searchable by lane, instead of by city, reducing the time it takes for them to single out viable carrier options.
- Hybrid databases that integrates with their existing carrier network, allowing them to compare new capacity to their historical data.
- Smarter scorecards that include the safety history and reputation of any carrier in depth, helping them book with confidence.
- Algorithms that alert them to carriers looking for backhauls, so they can match loads efficiently and move their goods affordably.
These are just a few features software companies can provide as the transportation market continues to expand. On the flip side, brokers, shippers, and 3PL's eager to adopt new technology should focus on what features will help them take on new business, business they may have lost in the past due to technological constraints.
By helping tech companies understand common capacity problems and creating software expectations for the supply chain, newer, more focused solutions can be built that prepare the freight industry for the unexpected, regardless of the forecast.
The Long Haul is written by Parade, exploring the evolving relationship between technology and the transportation industry.
[Photo: Associated Press]