Shippers can optimize transportation networks by leveraging visibility data

by Jeff Della Rosa ( 102 views 

Visibility in the supply chain offers more than just where a specific item is within the supply chain, a logistics professional said. Visibility also offers data that can be used to prevent or predict future transportation issues and to mitigate problems.

On Thursday (July 6), Chris Scharaswak, senior director of product development and innovation for Ryder System, spoke about improving transportation management systems in a webinar hosted by Transport Topics, a publication of trade organization American Trucking Associations.

“It all starts with evaluating your transportation network,” Scharaswak said.

He suggested asking a series of questions to determine a company’s needs, such as understanding if a dedicated fleet is needed, knowing the specific freight requirements or whether reducing empty miles will improve revenue.

He said visibility is sometimes oversimplified. It encompasses all events that take place between the origin of the shipment to its destination, and this information can be used to improve the transportation network. Companies must understand their existing networks, before designing their supply chains. Understanding consumer demands are also important.

“Trying to stitch this all together can be very complicated,” Scharaswak said.

And plans don’t always go as planned. The supply chain can be impacted by external issues such as the weather. On top of that, rules and regulations have to be taken into account.

“Visibility increases adaptability and agility in the supply chain,” he said.

Data gathered can be used “to drive continuous improvement. Advanced analytics can predict issues and minimize risks. He suggested shippers follow a four step process.
• Understanding carrier portfolio
• Understanding how to mitigate rate increases
• Optimize network
• Route reengineering

Tools are available for companies to use for predicative and prescriptive analytics, such as from MicroStrategy, Tableua or Microsoft. When deciding on which tool to use, he said it’s important to make sure it’s applicable for the company’s use and it has a good user interface.

Scharaswak said Ryder offered its third-party logistics service to a North American grocery retailer operating 100 trucks with an average length of haul between 700 and 1,000 miles. It reduced its fleet size by 50% and its annual transportation costs fell to $28 million, from $32 million. The company was able to do this after establishing a “good transportation network” and “collecting the appropriate data.”

Visibility is the first phase to improving a transportation network, allowing users to track on-time performance, reports and load validation, he said. Visibility provides for flexibility, cost savings, transparency and waste reduction.

“Third-party logistics providers can help achieve visibility goals,” he said.

But for many companies, logistics are not at the top of mind. These providers can also bring IT solutions, like end-to-end visibility. RyderShare is Ryder’s solution to the market, Scharaswak said. It tracks loads, provides temperature control monitoring and notifications of when a trailer door is breached.

When asked whether logistics companies will work with companies hesitant to outsource their transportation, he explained that they are selective, but they will work with such companies. When asked if a company must outsource their entire transportation operation, he said they don’t. They can select a specific region to as a pilot program before determining whether to outsource more of their transportation needs.

Scharaswak also spoke on the trends he’s following over the next five years in the transportation industry. Some of those include the “need for speed and need for real-time information,” regulations and technology. The need to continue to reevaluate transportation networks is another important trend. Disruptors in the industry include the use of 3-D printing, the “uberization of freight,” alternative fuels, autonomous vehicles and asset sharing.