Using Technology and Automation to Do More with Less

Using Technology and Automation to Do More with Less

With more companies announcing massive layoffs, the need for advanced supply chain management technology is growing at unprecedented rates. Here’s how your company can use this technology to do more with less.

After weathering the early impacts of the global pandemic fairly well, companies that use bulk and break-bulk freight are now preparing for uncertain economic conditions that could extend out further than initially anticipated. In fact, we’re seeing companies across all industries announcing new layoffs and furloughs as part of this belt-tightening exercise. 

In June, BP announced plans for 10,000 layoffs, equating to roughly 15% of the oil supermajor’s global workforce. According to Forbes, the move came after a three-month pause in redundancies out of respect for the stresses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In planning cuts, BP joins other industry giants like Chevron and Halliburton, which are cutting some 6,000 workers each, as well as many smaller companies like Marathon Oil and Occidental Petroleum.  
Walmart has also laid off hundreds of workers in departments including store planning, logistics, merchandising, and real estate, Forbes reports. Those cuts don’t factor reorganization within its roughly 4,750 U.S. stores to consolidate divisions and eliminate some regional manager roles.

The List Goes On

The list of high-profile organizations that are reducing payrolls right now includes Daimler, which is expected to cut 30% of its global workforce; oilfield services company Schlumberger, which is cutting roughly 21,000 jobs; United Airlines, which furloughed 3,900 pilots; and AT&T, which laid off 3,400 employees.

 According to Forbes, some economists estimate that more than 40% of these layoffs could become permanent. For example, one MIT professor calls the crisis an “automation forcing event that will fundamentally transform the economy.”

 Here at IntelliTrans, we’ve been deliberately planning for an event like COVID—and the resultant economic impacts on enterprises and their supply chains—for decades. We were alarmed as anyone else when the pandemic emerged, but we quickly pivoted to helping companies “do more with less” during this difficult time.

 The break-bulk shipper that was forced to lay off the employees who tracked shipments and contacted carriers, for instance, is now managing those functions through IntelliTrans’ Global Control Tower. This switch took place within hours (versus the weeks or months that it takes to install and implement new software), and the shipper is already seeing the benefits of its decision to automate.

 With more companies dealing with urgent staff and inventory issues right now, the automation trend will only accelerate. “This pandemic has created a very strong incentive to automate the work of human beings,” Time reports. “Machines don’t fall ill, they don’t need to isolate to protect peers, they don’t need to take time off from work.”

    Putting Advanced Technology to Work

    By leveraging IntelliTrans’ advanced supply chain platform, companies can effectively address the people and process challenges that they’re having right now while also preparing for future success. IntelliTrans’ Global Control Tower provides high levels of supply chain transparency; aggregates, completes, and enhances data from a variety of sources; offers visibility into and execution of different aspects of the supply chain; and generates data-driven alerts and analytics that ask deeper questions and deliver meaningful insights.

     By leveraging tracking information, the Global Control Tower provides analytics that measures key performance indicators (KPIs) like fleet cycle time, origin/destination dwell time, lane and hauler performance, back orders, freight spend, load optimization, and more. With their rate, equipment, lease, tracking, and invoice data in a central repository that’s accessible 24/7, companies can position themselves for success in any market conditions.      

    5 Ways Global Supply Chain Transparency Improves Customer Service

    5 Ways Global Supply Chain Transparency Improves Customer Service

    Here’s how global supply chain transparency helps companies attract new customers and keep their current buyers happy.

    When consumers buy from companies that provide high levels of supply chain transparency, they’re willing pay anywhere from 2% to 10% more for products. That statistic comes from MIT, which talked to consumer about issues like the treatment of workers in the product supply chain, the seller’s efforts to help improve those conditions, product ingredients, materials used, and where products come from.

    According to MIT, all shippers should be thinking about two different aspects of supply chain transparency. They are:

    • Visibility: Accurately identifying and collecting data from all links in your supply chain.

    • Disclosure: Communicating that information, both internally and externally, at the level of detail required or desired.

    Put simply, when they know what’s happening “upstream” in your supply chain—and when that information is communicated both internally and externally—customers aren’t afraid to shell out a bit more money for their orders. This mindset has made its way into the B2B space, where bulk and break-bulk companies are being asked to provide more information and data about their processes, products, and policies.

    We’ve Come a Long Way

    In addition to wanting to know that their products have been sourced responsibly, and that the people making them are being treated fairly, customers also want to know exactly when and where their orders are at any point in the supply chain. This puts new pressures on B2B companies, which weren’t part of the initial “Amazon-incited” push to get orders fulfilled and out the door within hours (or even minutes) of receiving an order. Over time, the same expectations made their way into the B2B space (after all, business buyers are also consumers themselves).

    Consider this: Twenty years ago, manufacturers could ship out customer orders on the day that they promised to ship those orders. It didn’t have to be on the same day that the order was received. It just had to be on the day that the customer was expecting the order to ship. Customers were happy, they received their orders within their expected timeframes, and they came back for more when they needed to reorder.

    Fast-forward to today and the scenario couldn’t be any more different than it was in 2000. Today, companies are expected to hit 30-60-minute fulfillment windows. Credit the customers’ “lean” inventory approaches with creating at least some of the urgency, for without a lot of stock to pull from, buyers are pushing more inventory back to their suppliers.

    5 Ways to Put Transparency to Work

    The good news is that with good global supply chain transparency, shippers can meet these demands, hit those tighter delivery windows, and maintain their own profitability levels. Here are five ways transparency supports all of these goals:

    1) Accurately answers the question, “where’s my stuff?” Your customers know that the technology needed to track their orders from point of origin to destination exists, so why wouldn’t you put it to good use? Challenged to meet smaller and smaller delivery windows, shippers need a global supply chain transparency platform that tracks the information and distributors in real-time, and with little or no human intervention.

    2) Utilizes actionable information. Today’s shippers have to be able to map out their supply chains, and collect information on practices and performance that provides insights about potential risks, opportunities for improvement, and information gaps. They can then turn around and use that actionable information to make incremental customer service improvements. “A company may need to track and profile units, batches, or lots of finished goods moving through the supply chain to ensure source of origin and chain of custody,” HBR points out.

    3) Helps identify problems quickly. Global supply chain transparency helps managers quickly recognize operational inefficiencies and work to rectify these problems. So, rather than waiting for a report to come out at the end of the month, supply chain managers can detect and react to issues immediately. This helps enhance B2B customer loyalty and establishes the shipper as a proactive organization that gets things done (versus waiting for things to get done).

    4) Saves on transportation costs. It’s not unusual for bulk and break-bulk cargo users to run out of product and not realize it until it’s too late. Shippers wind up having to jump through hoops to expedite shipments and get products into their customers’ hands as soon as possible. With good supply chain transparency, the same shipper would have fair warning about the outage and been able to ship it earlier, use the lowest-cost mode/carrier, and save significant money on transportation costs.

    5) Helps your customers rest easier at night. Your customers want to know that they are procuring high-quality, authentic, safe goods that will meet or exceed their expectations. Good supply chain transparency helps them understand that their suppliers, materials, and products will meet all of those expectations (and more). It also shows that your company complies with the rules and regulations, and that its raw materials can be readily traced back through the production and acquisition process.

    Supply Chain Transparency Pays Off

    IntelliTrans’ Global Control Tower provides high levels of supply chain transparency; aggregates, completes, and enhances data from a variety of sources; offers visibility into and execution of different aspects of the supply chain; and generates data-driven alerts and analytics that ask deeper questions and deliver meaningful insights.

    By leveraging tracking information, the Global Control Tower provides analytics that measures key performance indicators (KPIs) like fleet cycle time, origin/destination dwell time, lane and hauler performance, back orders, freight spend, load optimization, and more. With their rate, equipment, lease, tracking, and invoice data in a central repository that’s accessible 24/7, companies can position themselves for success in any market conditions.

    Using Analytics to Drive Costs Out of the Supply Chain

    Using Analytics to Drive Costs Out of the Supply Chain

    Here are five ways analytics are being leveraged to help companies do more with less.

    In a business environment where taking actions based on gut instinct has been replaced by good decision-making supported by advanced technology, analytics has become a core necessity for companies.

    Especially critical for companies that want to operate efficiently, productively, and profitably, analytics leverages current figures, historical data, dashboards, charts, and other tools to help companies make sense of their information.

    In supply chain, analytics also uncovers patterns, generates new insights, and jumps in to substantiate (or refute) the many “seat-of-the-pant” decisions that supply chain and logistics managers must make on a daily basis.

    “The relationship between advanced analytics and supply chain excellence is undeniable,” Gartner points out. “Leaders in supply chain have consistently credited analytics as a key differentiator to cope with complexity and capitalize on market opportunity. To follow suit, supply chain organizations are focusing on building strong analytics competencies.”

    Data is the New Oil

    Supply chains generate tons of data. So much so that many companies don’t even know what to do with all of the information that their operations are generating. Supply chain analytics helps those organizations make sense of all of that data, use it for good decision-making, and save some money along the way.

    Recognizing that many companies are still on the early road to both harvesting data and successfully using analytics, Gartner says most have set their sights on fully leveraging the latter. According to a recent survey, 85% of organizations are either already using or planning to invest in advanced analytics/big data. “Supply chain organizations identified advanced analytics as the top emerging technology they currently have,” Gartner adds, “or will be investing in.”

    5 Ways Analytics Drives Costs Down

    The benefits of supply chain analytics are too great to be ignored, and include:

    • Better outcomes based on accurate benchmarking.
    • Improved organizational results that are both accountable and visible.
    • Better visibility over global data (whether it’s for a single operation, a domestic company with multiple locations, or a global enterprise).
    • Improved inventory management.
    • Lower supply chain risk.
    • Ability to respond quickly to both challenges and opportunities.

    The benefits don’t end there. Analytics also helps to drive costs out of the supply chain. Here’s how:

    1) Highlight the impact of data quality. Let’s say a company has a long list of rail car maintenance expenses that typically run $200-$500 per line item. Then one day a $10,000 charge shows up on a list of over 1,000 different line items. This would be difficult to pick out of a tabular data set, but to a supervisor viewing a chart that tracks the maintenance expenses over time by line item, that $10,000 data point would stick out like a sore thumb. These anomalies are much more obvious when presented in the right visual fashion than, say, if someone is just reviewing invoices or a table of data.

    2) Make better decisions. Companies that have accurate reliable data to work with can make better decisions across their organizations. Using the same $10,000 example from the last point, let’s say the 5-digit charge wasn’t an error, but it was a very expensive repair that could have been avoided. What caused it? What can we do to prevent it from happening again? Is it an erroneous point that needs to be corrected or is there something genuinely wrong that we need to address? By combining those answers with analytics, companies can effectively drive these and other costs out of their supply chains.

    3) Drive continuous improvement. Analytics not only helps you identify the “bad” data points, but it also looks for numbers that don’t align with the rest of the information around them. For example, one IntelliTrans dashboard tracks dwell time at shipment origin or destination. Using number of shipments and total/average dwell time, the platform shows shippers what’s been waiting around where, and how much that dwell time is costing them. A red circle indicates an immediate problem that needs to be solve, while a greenish-blue one indicates that things are doing according to plan. By addressing the red flags first, users can enact changes that can have a notable impact on performance and customer service—both of which can help drive costs out of the supply chain.

    4) Identify points that aren’t visible to the naked eye. IntelliTrans recently worked with a company that sizing its rail car fleet. Historically, this process is done by:

    • Assessing yearly demand
    • Looking at average transit times for the year
    • Determining how many rail cars are in bad shape and/or out of service
    • Based on an average transit time of 8-12 days and demand of 1,000 rail cars per month, the company would plan for about 12,000 cars.

    Using analytics, the company we were working with noticed that its transit times were shorter when it had a higher number of shipments. That could have been because carriers were performing better in answer to a higher volume of work, but whatever the impetus the end result was a company that could remove about 400 rail cars from its fleet. Based on an average cost of about $10,000 per car per year, that equated to a $4 million cost savings thanks to analytics.

    5) Establish control mechanisms. To extract the biggest value from an investment in analytics, companies must use it on an ongoing basis—not just when times are tough or when they want to implement a specific improvement. For example, one company may want to know how many tons of product it can put in a rail car. This is an important metric for a firm working with per-car-shipped freight rates. That means the shipment costs $5,000 to move whether the rail car is carrying one pound of product or 200,000 pounds of product. The ultimate goal would be to maximize that weight on every shipment, but that’s difficult to attain without good analytics. Using IntelliTrans’ dashboard, for instance, companies can set their goals and then quickly glance at the screen to see what is and isn’t performing properly. This control mechanism can translate into significant supply chain savings over time.

      Drive the Costs Out of Doing Business

      In the current economic environment, all companies are looking for new ways to drive down operational costs. The supply chain is often a focal point during these exercises, and is often looked upon as more of a “cost center” than a hub for potential operational efficiencies and money savings. Using analytics, companies can flip that conversation, get better control over their supply chain processes, and drive the costs out of doing business.

      Putting the Data to Work

      IntelliTrans’ Global Control Tower provides high levels of supply chain transparency; aggregates, completes, and enhances data from a variety of sources; offers visibility into and execution of different aspects of the supply chain; and generates data-driven alerts and analytics that ask deeper questions and deliver meaningful insights.

      By leveraging tracking information, the Global Control Tower provides analytics that measures key performance indicators (KPIs) like fleet cycle time, origin/destination dwell time, lane and hauler performance, back orders, freight spend, load optimization, and more. With their rate, equipment, lease, tracking, and invoice data in a central repository that’s accessible 24/7, companies can position themselves for success in any market conditions.

      5 Reasons You Need a Holistic Supply Chain Approach

      5 Reasons You Need a Holistic Supply Chain Approach

      Getting to high levels of rail car and truck fleet visibility requires a holistic supply chain approach that doesn’t leave anything out.

      In the rapidly-evolving supply chain environment, companies can’t afford to have siloed technology platforms that don’t talk and collaborate with one another. To overcome the problem, many start “filling in” with manual processes that just create more confusion, errors, and rework. These “frankensystems” provide low levels of supply chain visibility in a world that demands 24/7 information about shipment statuses.

      “When working in silos, as many businesses do, it’s hard to get a view of the end-to-end supply chain,” the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) points out in Developing a Holistic Supply Chain View in a Digital Age. “But to transform amid the evolving digital supply management landscape, they need to develop that holistic view.”

      Having that view has become table stakes for both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2C) shippers that want to provide high levels of customer service in a profitable, sustainable way. Bulk and break-bulk commodity shippers aren’t immune to these shifts and are continually seeking ways to apply technology in a smart, efficient manner.

      What’s the Big Deal?

      Many organizations don’t realize just how tightly intertwined the various aspects of the supply chain really are. For example, the correlation between the tracking of in-transit shipments and holding carriers accountable for on-time pickup/shipment scheduling isn’t always clear. So where the dock scheduling system may show that a rail shipment left on Tuesday at noon, if in-transit visibility doesn’t begin until the following morning, then the shipper has no idea if it actually left on time. 

      When this data isn’t linked, shippers never really know if a shipment left their sites on-time.

      These questions can only be answered by a system that unifies in-transit data and dock scheduling data on the same platform. Anytime those important data points are in siloed systems and operating independently of one another, supply chain visibility plummets.

      5 Reasons to Go Holistic

      Whether they learned this from Amazon, by using the Uber ride-sharing app, or by tracking their Domino’s pizza delivery via mobile app, people know that they can see where their orders are at any time. These tech-savvy consumers are also your customers. Mimicking these B2C operations is possible, but only with a holistic supply chain approach that incorporates advanced technology. Here are five more reasons to make this move:  

      1. More accurate invoice auditing and fewer overpayments. Without a unified system that supports invoice auditing, companies really don’t know if they’re paying the right price for a shipment, what their shipment identifier is, and/or if they’ve paid for the same shipment twice. With a unified platform, companies always know when a car is billed and not This allows them to address origin switch issues with carriers and improve on-time delivery. Preventing these billing issues also greatly enhances customer service and prevents the billing errors (i.e., when a rail car wasn’t moved on time).

         

      2. Improved inventory management. Inventory management is all about having the right stuff in the right place and at the right time. Without a centralized platform providing a holistic view of all inventory in the supply chain, companies wind up with too many stock-outs and overstocks. Both of these situations can be costly in a world where all companies are being asked to do more with less. IntelliTrans’ vendor managed inventory (VMI) solution uses sensors to measure how much bulk inventory a company has on-hand, how fast that inventory is being depleted, and when it’s time to reorder. The solution also shows exactly how much product is stored in the in-transit and yard-based rail cars. This is a big win for companies that would otherwise wind up creating a new order for product that’s stored out in their yards, but that they didn’t even know about.

      3. Fewer detention and demurrage fees. When a shipment arrives at its destination, it may sit around for a while before getting unloaded. This translates into detention fees for the shipper, which may not even know about the problem until that extra $200 fee shows up on a carrier invoice. In most cases, this happens because the shipment scheduled wasn’t connected to the customer’s inventory requirements and/or patterns. IntelliTrans’ tracking information and auditing expertise helps pinpoint extra fees and accessorials, and it also handles the dispute process. For one company alone, the system has identified over $600,000 in erroneous carrier charges within two months of implementation.

         

      4. B2B visibility for bulk and break-bulk shipments. If you can track the journey of an $8 toy purchased online throughout its lifecycle, then why can’t a wire manufacturer see where a truck carrying $80,000 worth of copper is at any given time? This is the question that buyers are asking themselves as B2C shipment visibility becomes the norm in the B2B sector. Thanks to the application of RFID tags in rail cars, that transportation mode has been able to offer high levels of shipment visibility for years. The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate pushed similar capabilities into the over-the-road trucking arena. By tying this information into a holistic supply chain platform, shippers can now answer the question that all of their customers are asking: Where’s my stuff?

      5. Stay agile in an uncertain economic environment. The economy has fluctuated about 10 times since World War II, with the current environment greatly impacting companies across all industries. The current downturn is no different. With companies laying off workers and shedding inventory to free up cash, the demand for on-time deliveries has increased dramatically in recent months. This, in turn, is driving the need for a more cohesive, centralized supply chain strategy that factors in all aspects of the network.

      A Clear View of Your Supply Chain

      IntelliTrans’ Global Control Tower provides high levels of supply chain transparency; aggregates, completes, and enhances data from a variety of sources; offers visibility into and execution of different aspects of the supply chain; and generates data-driven alerts and analytics that ask deeper questions and deliver meaningful insights.

      By leveraging tracking information, the Global Control Tower provides analytics that measures key performance indicators (KPIs) like fleet cycle time, origin/destination dwell time, lane and hauler performance, back orders, freight spend, load optimization, and more. With their rate, equipment, lease, tracking, and invoice data in a central repository that’s accessible 24/7, companies can position themselves for success in any market conditions.

      Avoid Costly Penalties – Register your private Railcars in OT-57 NOW.

      Avoid Costly Penalties – Register your private Railcars in OT-57 NOW.

      OT-5’s complicated registration process is being retired February 3rd  and OT-57 picks up that same day. If you haven’t transitioned over now is the time!

      The Loading Authority OT-57 system provides a centralized, paperless process for registering private freight rail equipment and access to controlling entity (shipper, owner, or lessee) contact information and storage information. It facilitates the potential placement of private freight rail equipment at specified storage locations on a railroad.

      • Final day to register is Feb 2nd
      • OT-57’s application is much simpler
      • Register up to 50k railcars from a spreadsheet
      • Unlike OT-5, there is no approval process. If your application is correct, you are registered

      We are happy to help.

      Confused? We can help you get registered. 

      Freight Brokers vs. Shippers’ Agents

      Freight Brokers vs. Shippers’ Agents

      Freight Brokers

      Within the transportation marketplace, brokers provide a myriad of services. Brokers fill the gaps between shippers, owner-operators, and draymen. Brokers also assist shippers and trucking companies with resource and technology-constraints. In addition, brokers help cover capacity shortfalls and often provide ancillary services like transportation management outsourcing.

      Like everyone else, brokers want to make money. They earn their income by making connections and knowing the market. Brokers live and die by information. They use arbitrage and leverage between available truckload capacity and shipper demand. When there are plenty of trucks competing, brokers keep their fees to a minimum and work to pair available capacity with shipper needs. When capacity is scarce, rates go up; it’s more difficult to secure capacity and to increase margins over time. Sometimes scarcity results in significant markups over the actual cost of the truck. It doesn’t take long for brokers to cover enough shipments to make a profit that offsets any losses. Interestingly, capacity tightening is often regular, seasonal, even predictable — barring catastrophic events like major storms and geopolitical disruptions. Yet, shippers always seem willing to pay the premium when capacity tightens. Thanks to regularly occurring demand surges, brokers can usually be assured opportunities to turn a profit.

      In every shipper’s roster of available carriers and capacity, brokers have their place. This is especially true when shippers don’t have the time or means to find asset-based carriers. They also frequently help with unusual, one-off service requests. To ensure the alignment of costs and value, shippers must think strategically about the utilization of brokers. At a minimum, a shipper should have a relationship with at least one broker, contracts in place, and established rates. Shippers also need to clarify liability, payment terms, accessorials, and required minimum service standards. These terms are required in advance to protect shippers from unforeseen circumstances potentially impacting shipments.

      Shippers' Agents

      Shippers’ agents act as extensions of your staff. Like your employees, these agents are measured by a combination of service, cost, and quality of work. However, the shippers’ agent model minimizes your fixed costs and helps you avoid making difficult staffing decisions in tough economic times. Inherent to the model is transparency regarding levels of service. Clients also have the flexibility to change service levels without making changes to technological infrastructure.

      IntelliTrans is a Shippers’ Agent

      IntelliTrans augments the shipper-broker-carrier relationship and provides complete transparency of rates, pricing, capacity, and the entire supply chain. We provide accurate, easy-to-access metrics, and give our customers a clear picture of their freight in the marketplace. Our pricing is on a per-shipment basis, making it purely transactional. In other words, when business is good you pay more, and when business is bad you pay less. Our team of career professionals leverage our technology and honed business processes to drive successful outcomes. We manage your freight regardless of the season or state of capacity in the market.

      At IntelliTrans we work on your behalf to keep costs low – consistently. Our team contains cost by effectively managing your commitments with carriers and by avoiding higher fees during periods of high demand and low supply. IntelliTrans partners with customers for the long-term. We earn our fees based on the quality of services that we provide and our ability to innovate. You can depend on us to meet your freight needs with creative, technology-backed solutions.

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