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Category Archives: NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS

Government Funding For IT Upgrades For Customs Intermediaries And Traders

A government press release on 4th December has just announced an £8 million funding scheme for customs intermediaries and traders, which could mean more business investing in a fit for purpose freight brokering system or freight management software, smoothing supply chains in trade.  Applications for government support are now being taken.

The HM Treasury and HMRC grants are being made available for IT improvements and training in the industry, we assume to reduce trade obstacles ahead of the UK leaving the E.U.

A ‘customs intermediary’ is any businesses or sole trader that is obliged to complete customs declarations; eligible organisations therefore include:

  • customs brokers
  • freight forwarder companies
  • fast parcel operators.

 

Of course, eligible bodies will have to meet particular requirements to qualify for government support, according to the specific grant they apply for.  In particular, grant applicants must be based in, or have a branch in the UK.

If your company completes customs declarations, government grants will support investing in IT systems that will make your administration more efficient.  To maximise effectiveness of any new freight management system software, the costs of staff training can also be covered by the government’s £8 million investment fund.

This grant initiative is the product of government officials consulting widely with industry professionals and “…key providers of customs broker services – including freight forwarders, fast parcel operators and independent customs brokers…”.  This now means that government departments are in a stronger position to understand the challenges our industry faces and our clients are now able to benefit more easily from investing faster in off the shelf freight management software packages. This will in turn benefit their existing and new clients, increasing transparency, speed of transactions and much more. Bespoke packages cannot be accommodated by this funding, but Logistician will help businesses use this financial support to improve the productivity within the criteria.

The £8 million government supports brokerage agency training and enhanced automation of freight systems to increase sector capacity ahead of the Brexit deadline of 29 March 2019 – assuming this goes ahead as expected. Of the total grant funding available to import and export companies, £3m will be allocated to training provision.

HMRC and the Treasury have worked with training providers to extend availability of relevant training courses in the short term, while new courses are being developed.  It is expected that training coming on stream will support customs broker training to cope with anticipated rising demand.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, said:

As part of this investment, £5 million in funding is now available to help businesses, based in, or with a branch in, the UK to meet the costs of employee training and IT improvements. Businesses who will benefit from the funding are encouraged to apply early. Applications will close on 5 April 2019, or earlier once all the funding is allocated.”

Businesses can apply to PwC, who are administering grant applications for support to develop IT infrastructure, training or both, specifically:

  • £2 million is available for 50% of the cost of training for intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations.
  • £3 million is available for IT improvement for small and medium sized businesses in the customs intermediaries sector (i.e. freight broker companies) who manage customs declarations on behalf of importers and exporters. In particular, funding is weighted towards automation and productivity tools for completing customs declarations.

 

The online application page is available here on GOV.UK.  Please contact Logistician directly to find out how our freight management software meets government criteria and how it could transform your efficiency and productivity to future proof you for coming trading arrangements.

 

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How Vehicle Telematics Could Be Your Future Witness and Protection

Data harvesting in the transport and logistics sector is not just about finding efficiencies and maximising resource, it’s also about compliance and accountability.  The more information generated automatically by an integrated transport management system, the less burden of proof required by individual staff members, or even by companies facing legal action.

Whether operating as an owner-driver, or managing an entire multi-modal fleet, telematics is the practice of gathering and analysing up to the moment data about operations in the field. When accidents happen, central control can be essential to minimising risk for operators, clients and management personnel.

Vehicle telematics is about “… gathering, storing, and transmitting information about the vehicle for tracking purposes. This information can be used to analyse vehicle performance, vehicle conditions, driver performance, and more.”

News has just come out about Midland Red facing a £2.3 million bill for failing to act on data, resulting in public fatalities, including a baby and an elderly person.  As the police begin to allocate more resources to investigating digital information, fleet managers can expect that any serious transport incident in the future will result in the police requesting transport management software telematics data to identify possible causes for transport related crime and for the CPS to apportion blame.

Future compliance will mean that every car vehicle will have its black box, just as aircraft already do. Similarly, dashboard cams and app-based data will reveal details of poor driving or vehicle management habits which contributes to either a potential crash or theft from their vehicle.  By the same token, vehicle drivers can also be protected by technologies that can completely exonerate them.

Those transport and logistics companies putting off investing in TMS systems hosted by third parties will not be able to avoid legislation in the pipeline following high profile cases, such as the Midland Red case, that have used data to prove liability.

Burying one’s head regarding investment in tech is common across industries, as companies fear imminent obsolescence as hardware and software develop rapidly.

However, companies could be deemed negligent for not applying their health and safety policies effectively. It is beyond denial that digitally connected vehicles produce vast quantities of data, which could be readily accessible to the authorities when required, while also helping to optimise systems, through systematised analysis.

As this most recent case in the news highlights, it is better to endure the perceived disruption and discomfort short term by investigating all technical solutions in safety management and –proofing your company than paying the cost of poor implementation of policy from ignoring information already available which could avoid catastrophe.

Understanding the benefits of quickly viewing real time transport management software data and how this can underpin a coherent health and safety policy gives management, drivers, external stakeholders and even shareholders peace of mind that they are involved with a responsible company that cares about improving performance standards and can minimise the likelihood of accidents.

It is worth knowing that the police have been granted Government funding to survey dashcam data. Individuals can now share video evidence of others’ poor driving behaviour, making public accountability even stronger. North Wales Police have used such data for the past couple of years, issuing fixed penalties, increasing prosecutions and obliging driving retraining courses.  It is a matter of time before RTA’s or load spillages also become subject to police scrutiny at an unprecedented level.

With the ubiquity of vehicle based technologies among the general public, data obtained from witnesses’ cars will be correlated against a company’s vehicle data to assess liability.

The AA has undertaken research showing that 20% of drivers already have dashcams fitted, with more drivers planning to install them to protect themselves in the case of insurance claims. In the future, it will be verifiable public evidence versus the data of fleet and delivery vehicle operators.

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5 Steps To Building a Successful Trucking Company

The on-demand trucking business can be very profitable for both owner-drivers and the trucking companies and brokers who contract them. Independent van and truck owner-drivers add value to their existing courier delivery services with last mile and express deliveries, so inevitably the niche is highly competitive. However, many truck owners try to break into this business every year, but fail to build a profitable business without tapping into online networks and apps.

The truth is that great truck drivers but are not necessarily good business owners, because a trucking business involves more than knowing how to drive a truck well and choosing appropriate routes to take.  Fortunately, as a driver, on demand trucking system providers are coming to the rescue for those who have the drive, but perhaps lack expertise.

There are, nevertheless, seven pointers, which when combined with the power of online networks can not only help you find more work as an individual owner-driver, but see the opportunity to tap into the wider network of owner drivers to establish a viable delivery company, able to compete with the big rollers. This article is aimed to prepare you to become a successful truck delivery business owner.

1. Find Your Delivery Service Niche

As in any competitive market, finding a niche can mean you steal a march on others, building a reputation that helps you corner that sector. Whether setting up as an owner-operator, or fleet owner and third party delivery service, identifying a market niche where return on time, resource and investment delivers results helps establish a solid business foundation on which to build.

Your ideal market determines the equipment you invest in, the rates you can charge, and the freight routes you can cover. Of course, you may also identify a potential market gap, while serving others too, albeit, generally owner-operators can profitably focus on markets that the large carriers avoid, such as last mile logistics and more personalised service for local businesses. Another idea might be hauling specialist loads, such as toxic or hazardous waste. Even if food deliveries from supermarkets seems to have been cornered by the likes of Ocado, it offers year round, recession resistant work and income consistency if you can build the retail connections.

Remember, the larger parcel carrier companies and other owner-operators will already be covering the ‘easier’ loads, so going niche can save wasted time and angst.

2. Delivery Rate Charging

Owner-operators key early decision will be the appropriate freight rates to charge clients. This should form part of your business planning prior to any investments, as the figures need to stack up so that your business operates with decent profits.  A full and realistic assessment of all your operation costs means that you can decide the level of up-front cost you are able to bear, then plan towards break-even and beyond.

In order to establish professional credibility, you need to be totally clear about your rates before you promote your service to shipping customers and begin deliveries. Reliability and consistency are key to reputation building. While you need to be competitive with what brokers charge their clients, a lack of preparedness in costs and under-capitalisation will drive you off the road.

Comcapfactoring.com suggest a method to calculate your break-even point, thus:

  1. Select your preferred daily route out
  2. Go to an online trucking load board
  3. Find 10 deliveries that are on route to each other
  4. Call a few brokers to find out their various rates of pay
  5. Get the average fee, then add 10-15% which gives you the price they charge shippers
  6. Repeat this process for the direction back home to maximise earnings

 

Understanding the costs of a round delivery trip over a particular distance means you can roughly calculate costs and earnings for alternative routes, assuming equal variables. Being able to factor in detours with GPS alerts, tariff zones and parking fees develops your business acumen.   This article: ‘Trucking Company Rates Per Mile’ takes you through the process in more detail.

Knowing your detailed operating costs is essential to turning a profit. This means considering fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs remain the same regardless of how far you drive, such as insurance, loan repayments, special licences or permits, etc.

Variable trucking business costs are determined by the number of miles you drive and associated fuel consumption.  They could also include localised issues, such as toll bridges, variable parking rates, tariff zones, albeit these could just as well be calculated as fixed costs.

The combination of fixed and variable business costs help determine your total ‘cost per mile’. This figure is important in calculating delivery rates. If you subtract this total from your rates, this gives your estimated profit and your real earnings.

3. Build Relationships with Regular Shippers

Delivery brokers can offer regular sources of income, so are significant to your on demand business when you have an empty or ‘less-than-load’ truck. However, their ‘middle-man’ rates eat into your profits. Brokers can keep anything between 10% to 20% of the load fee charged to the customer. Their commission pays for providing you with a service of connecting you to shippers and back office administration. They too are running a business, which is fair enough, but if you want a greater share of profits to be made, then building your own network of contacts is your most valuable resource next to your rolling asset.

To earn more per mile, it is vital to eventually minimise working through brokers and online delivery request boards. A list of reliable, regular shippers will keep you busy, but this takes time. Obtaining market share is the name of the game here. Charging a fee that is competitive to the brokers means that you can undercut, while still profiting more.

Here’s some further help you grow your shipping business network:

 

4. Back Office Efficiency

Administrative efficiency saves headache and angst later, come tax calculation. Not only that, having a regular eye to cash-flow and paperwork helps keep your trucking business cost calculations accurate.  Efficiency of your back office administration becomes even more important as you start to build your trucking empire, adding leased drivers to your operation.

You options are as follows.

  • Do it yourself. It is possible to run your business from the cab of your truck with a smartphone. With a Wifi internet connection, a mini printer and accounting software, you can run your business when still small scale. Truckbytes offers a free entry-level accountancy software package.
  • Outsource administration to a dispatcher. This option can be expensive, however, but if interviewed thoroughly, with references received, your team are another fundamental business asset. Conversely, a poorly performing dispatcher can be your biggest business risk. Running an online competition via a freelancer website can help simplify your recruitment of someone else who can concentrate on handling this side of the business.

 

5. Cash-flow Management

Trucking is a particularly cash flow-intensive business given the number of transactions handled daily, together with fuel and truck payment outgoings. Some clients you work with will have longer payment cycled than others.  Established shippers and brokers can pay invoices anywhere between 15 to 45 days; smaller individual clients may pay immediately. These cashflow delays can crease operations, especially in the early days of the business. This underlines an earlier point about under-capitalisation being one of the greatest threats to an ‘uber for trucking’ start-up.

One possible solution is to use freight bill factoring, which can advance a large part of your invoice, often the date of submission. The remaining proportion of the standard delivery rate, less a small fee, is rebated once a shipper pays (e.g. 95%/5%). Comccapfactoring.com suggest: “Many factoring companies provide fuel advances, cards, and other services as well.” They have a form on their website for such services.  However, before undertaking any transactions whatsoever, it goes without saying that as a business person, you should always seek legal and professional advisors to ensure you are operating on a sound footing.

The other consideration in cash-flow management is ensuring that you are using software that helps you keep track of your daily earnings goals by recording your deliveries made and associated earnings. Seeing potential earnings from accepting a despatch from an on demand trucking system means you can anticipate outcomes and plan your load management accordingly.

If you are managing a fleet of vehicles and drivers your courier management system will be a vital asset for tracking drivers and your business earnings.

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Plan Your Supply Chain Automation, Automate Your Plan

In order to maximise business cost efficiencies, it is essential to optimise supply chain automation with an eye to hands-on analysis of outcomes for customer service in order to keep the human touch that is the basis of trusted relationships.

Given that personnel is one of the greatest costs to business, it is understandable that businesses increasingly invest in autonomous hardware, such as, picking robots, RFID tagging technology and transportation tracking systems.  However, supply chain management (SCM) systems must be viewed as a complement to technology.  Systems planning will help identify where the balance of responsibilities could lie.

It is important to remember that transportation and logistics has traditionally relied on building of customer relationships between people, so reducing human interactions is not always possible according to, Ignacio Felix, talking to Supply Chain Dive.

This is because the bottleneck for many supply chains is in the planning of any supply chain automation. Complexity of process and diverse staff roles all have to be included into an automated business model.  From front line drivers and customer service staff, through to back-office purchasing and finance departments, “…you really have a lot of manual pass-throughs of the same information,” says Felix.

Legacy IT systems can, he says, be an additional barrier to SCM systems planning.  Integration with existing communications platforms, or transition to completely new, comprehensive systems potentially slows productivity, for instance.  While this is a short to medium term issue, implementation if an effective supply chain management system ultimately transforms performance, making it an investment for longer term competitiveness and longevity.

Planning can seem tedious, but given current technological capacity to automate many repetitive business processes, however, the leveraging of automated data management and transfer and harnessing solutions that refresh supply chain planning processes can produce measurable and unanticipated efficiencies, potentially creating a virtually ‘touchless system’, driven by data. Human error, often based in boredom, or crisis management is minimised.

The Best Approach to Supply Chain Automation Planning

 

lnvestors in Kraft Heinz were told this year that with automated systems, the company establishes “… transparent and challenging targets and coordinate global KPI tracking, and with a global, end-to-end supply chain perspective, we remove capacity constraints and bottlenecks from the system.”  In other words, they could plan objectives that could be easily measured against tracking data.  This clarity of business processes enables this conglomerate to identify areas for making efficiencies, as well as remaining accountable to shareholders and other stakeholders.

Ultimately then, technological investment is best practice in customer service.  Their centralised ‘Global Center of Excellence’ in the Netherlands controls and monitors operations, plus shapes this multi-national company’s overall vision and direction, including digital planning.  SCM systems ‘dashboards’ help managers devise tactical programs based on issues highlighted in data analysis, which in turn supports for “…cross-functional collaboration”, says Craig Guillot of SupplyChainDive.com

Marco Rodrigues, head of Kraft Heinz’s Global Center of Excellence believes that there are opportunities for efficiency savings and areas for improving effectiveness everywhere in organisations.  They take the attitude that “… no area is off-limits.”

Of course, readers may argue that an international company of their size has the necessary resources for identifying and implementing efficiency measures. However, it is in the margins that companies ultimately find the edge.  Now more than ever before, as the SCM automation systems are available, smaller companies can save time and money, building their market share with hardware and software, deployed and managed centrally, that equips them to compete.

With leadership who can access centralised information quickly and easily,  senior staff can split test strategies and tactics for optimal performance to create cumulative improvements to operations across departments.  The innovations opened up, together with an empowered governing infrastructure helps supply chain management and transportation logistics companies better develop staff talent and performance management practices that ultimately builds robustness.

Investment in “…machine learning technologies, advanced analytics and process design” is a must for automation to become optimised, according to Supply Chain Dive.   This automation supports decision makers to experiment with new solutions to apparently intractable conditions.  Governance becomes increasingly about iterative development, founded on data management infrastructure that objectively measures systematically applied performance management practices.

Central data management, says Felix, can support companies to “…pilot fast, fail fast…” and thereby move towards success faster also.

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Making the Business Case For Freight Management System Investment 

Investments in innovation can feel like one of the riskiest decisions any business can make, particularly when a company lacks in-house IT expertise in this niche, or the technology under consideration is still evolving, as is the case with freight systems. However, like many difficult development decisions, considerations go beyond short term financial cost, or even technical capacity, but impact every aspect of business operations, from efficiency of shipping, through best practice in customer service to compliance and more.

Customer Added Value

When you are in the service delivery business, customer is king, as they say. In particular, how you communicate and the value of what you communicate is what engenders trust and return custom.  Any IT developments that support customer focus are, therefore, an investment in lasting, profitable relationships and business longevity.

A smart freight management software program can deliver on customer satisfaction performance indicators, together with business transformation across diverse operations for companies shipping goods.

Democratisation of business decision making, through tracking capabilities,  integration of customer feedback and promoting stakeholder interests through information transparency is not only good practice, it makes sound business sense. If the customer feels in control and benefits from quality of service, the quantity of return custom and business referrals will follow.

Shipping can be an operational nightmare for goods manufacturers, whose business expertise is in product innovation and development.  Simplifying the process of logistics management relieves companies of the stress and complexity involved in freight systems.

Freight Systems Relief for The Freight Management Industry

By the same token, those transport and logistics providers and freight brokerages involved in the mind-boggling minutiae of shipping goods around the global blood supply also can benefit from simplifying, smart freight management software.

In particular, removing the enormous basic shipping function weight from the shoulders of logistics teams also lets them:

  • Cost Savings. Identify cost savings to invest into other development objectives, such as R&D and product innovation, staff training, recruitment, marketing and so on. This creates virtuous circles of increased customer reach and improved revenues.
  • Staff Productivity. Staff relieved of repetitive and mundane daily tasks can be redeployed to more strategic concerns, such as creating efficiencies within their own job roles and teams that they previously had no time to focus on. Furthermore, greater job satisfaction from more challenging work develops in-house expertise and moral, which has a knock-on effect on talent retention and reduced recruitment costs.
  • Supply Chain Improvement. Flexibility and agile operations are the key to satisfying customer demand and brand growth.Supply chain management is a key aspect of continual improvement in this respect.  When software allows for time-savings, focus can shift to developing and enhancing a flexible supply chain to meet the diverse needs of suppliers and customers.  This too creates positive impacts, including improved customer service and boosted sales.
  • Operational Feedback Loops. The breadth and depth of business data accumulated over time in an intelligent freight management system helps more sound management decision making. Analytics that can be interrogated quickly, producing a variety of report formats mean managers can identify patterns, problems and potential profitable avenues for development.  This creates that hoped for cycle of continual improvement and best practice to enhance how companies do business and remain compliant with diverse regulatory environments.
  • Culture Change. Running a business can often feel like fire fighting, especially during growth spurts. What many business owners aspire to is creating a culture where innovation, challenge and creativity are the daily reality for staff. At this stage, logistics and other departments transition from being considered a cost centre to a profit centre, as Dan Clark of Kuebix observes.

 

The Bottom Line 

The future of the transportation management industry is already here, whatever further developments arise in hardware and software.   More businesses involved in transport and logistics are already enjoying the proven control and visibility offered by TMS freight management software, together with the evidence of or prospect of greater future profitability.

Leveraging the power of big data, flexible reporting across departments and predictive analytics are enabling not only better business decision making,  faster, but changing logistics management in real time.

Using best-of-class cloud technologies, with options for modular solutions, or comprehensive custom software, that continuously upgraded by a strong technology partner can create innovative, intelligent freight systems for companies of all sizes.

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What We Know About ROI of TMS Systems

There numerous ways a customised transportation management system (TMS) benefits supply chain management and transport logistics. Unfortunately, for the less technically minded information on links between e.g. vehicle tracking hardware and logistics planning software can be confusing.  This makes decisions about investing in a TMS and whether to opt for modular solutions, or plan in information systems overhaul with customised, smart software that allows for artificial intelligence aided decision making.

Clearly, investment in sector focussed software systems can help identify efficiencies, reduce overheads and boost cash-flow, but seeing how everything fits together across departments, let alone supply chains can feel dizzying and frustrating.

As responsible solution providers, with a background in the freight management industry, we understand the concerns about effective ROI and confusion in relation to how smart information systems really can make a difference.

Inventory Control Via End-to-End Visibility

Shipping is complex, as is any business, particularly when data systems are fragmented across departments and incompatible with partners in your supply chain network.  Between your CRM, ERP, warehouse management systems and spreadsheets more or less cross indexed, you can be forgiven for stopping reading right this moment… But hang in here… Our aim is to simplify your logistics management and ultimately transform your business. We get it that IT can be a navigation nightmare.

A custom designed TMS is built with your users in mind. There is no value in providing sophisticated tracking systems if staff cannot optimise their use and managers cannot manipulate the data they offer to get up to the moment insights during a crisis.

Tailoring solutions allows your company to move from your existing systems towards a dedicated transportation management system in stages if needed, so that teams can familiarise themselves progressively and you can manage budgets more easily, while experiencing financial benefits and proof of product.

Alternatively, transferring data over to your new end-to-end data system can be successfully managed with a strong IT partner, who can help train your staff to gain more time in their work day, build confidence in their future career development and even restore faith in your leadership, through optimal system feature usage. Comprehensive system integration allows for the full range of financial benefits to be enjoyed.

Easily imported or exported data, produced in a variety of flexible formats to simplify accounting and payments through automated documentation, notifications, regular reporting and billing.   With artificial intelligence and machine learning, your customised system can:

  • identify over billing and overpayment,
  • automatically request refunds and
  • log due freight payments in easy-to-read and at a glance formats.

 

Being able manage inventory at any time and from any location with enhanced last mile delivery flexibility is made easy, with relevant push, email, or dashboard notifications, based on your criteria for importance.

 

There are many more possible cost savings made possible with real time information at your fingertips.   Digitally interconnected, versatile, easy to use comprehensive TMS systems that build ROI and allow supply chain transportation and logistics businesses to focus on their future development are not the future; they are already here and demand for customisable, tailored options, backed by expert IT partners, with direct T&L industry experience is growing.

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The Opportunity For Retail To Take Back Sales From E-Commerce

According to a McKinsey report, 24 hour delivery services are anticipated to outgrow “instant”, on-demand delivery by ten times. This, the research and consultancy leader claims, could unlock massive opportunities for retailers in the coming years. McKinsey value this at over $200 billion for retailers in Europe and North America over ten years. This could be the shift that helps halt the haemorrhaging of high street shops and businesses from towns and cities across the UK. In 2018 alone, the Guardian estimated a loss of 38,000 jobs in retail and restaurants; this picture omitted associated beauty and health treatment outlets and other centrally located businesses.

Among the high street struggles, however, McKinsey researchers claim that two traditional business types could still have a presence, with the continuing technological developments that can help connect them with customers, without any necessary footfall. Many buyers of household goods and clothing still like to look and touch, doing their research online, but buying in-store, or checking in-store, later to purchase online.

Among bricks-and-mortar retail outlets, ground lost to the ever-growing army of pure e-tailers online may be recoverable to some extent if they learn to exploit new digital channels available to them. E-commerce lacks that essential buyer experience of trying on clothes, or seeing up close how home furnishings and fittings really look and feel.  Sometimes online shopping can feel like a gamble that does not always pay off. If you have ever bought footwear and had to send them back disappointed, you will be familiar with that feeling of frustration and disappointment of shopping not being quite so convenient as you had anticipated.

Retailers in particular have their local, national and even international network of stores, which can offer same-day order fulfilment and delivery, harnessing the power of an on demand delivery system, easily accessible from mobile apps. Supply chain aggregating software offers service users an informed choice about potential delivery providers via a simple to use booking app. Price comparison is no longer a tedious process of trawling websites or picking up the phone.  Information is visually represented in a see-at-a-glance map, showing where nearby drivers are located along with clickable links to see profiles and reviews of those delivery drivers, rates and other data.  For retailers, this saves on costly delivery staff being maintained in house, or being restricted to contracts with particular courier companies.

McKinsey characterise this new retail model as “the city as a warehouse.” Of course this may be somewhat simplistic, since people want more of a mix in town centres, allowing them to drop off the kids somewhere, while the grown-ups get some shopping and leisure time, or increasingly demand more child friendly business mixes, allowing for families to undertake a mix of activities together, including shopping.

For the transport and logistics sector, existing parcel delivery companies, rather than new start-ups could gain an estimated “80 percent of the future same-day market”, say McKinsey’s research report authors. They explain this as being down to having the  capabilities that retailers need.  Specifically, “proven expertise in consolidated network operations, synergies with significant base volume”, plus “commercial capabilities and standing big-customer relationships to support such deals.” In other words, their truck capacity, trained drivers, network of prestigious clients and no doubt digital support systems, such as potential pre-existent online courier management system, on demand  trucking network and on demand delivery system software.  Smaller start-ups have the capacity to tap into those networks available to market players as independents who can provide extra capacity at key times, such as the Christmas rush, or other busy sales periods.

High-street retailers, working with the movers and shakers of courier deliveries could help both benefit from partnership in the same-day delivery growth service. There is some way to go in such closer partnerships, however, it seems.  Availability of on demand delivery system technologies are still under-utilised.  There is no doubt that consumers want  digitally enabled same-day experiences, particularly among the younger, digitally savvy customer base.  Digital upgrading is the challenge retailers face to enhance their offering.  With complementary apps on the market, the combination of in-store enjoyment and convenient home shopping could be an opportunity the struggling bricks and mortar retailer needs right now, before high-street closures reach their tipping point of becoming unattractive venues to consumers, i.e. a point of no return.

Retailers can now integrate in-store operations with burgeoning urban delivery networks, before e-commerce competitors continue to enjoy the benefits of their instant fulfilment and delivery edge. This is, McKinsey say, a “dynamically growing value pool” for the shrinking high street retail sector.   The only barrier in the way of survival is perhaps belief in technological investment for a digital future that acts as a complement to the real customer experience, in-store. Welcome to multi-channel marketing that includes easy to use, on-demand delivery systems to add value and remain viable.

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How Transport Management Systems Enhance Your Brand

A contemporary challenge to supply chain managers is how to maintain international standards and achieve the best TMS systems and practices in social and environmental responsibility and in turn boost their brand value. Corporate responsibility is increasingly demanded across supply chain networks, as customers become more aware of the importance of making ethical consumption choices and are empowered to apply pressure in social media on companies they do business with.

Developing in-house expertise through training gets your teams so far, but can be cost prohibitive for smaller companies and knowledge of personnel is only one part of the expertise equation.

More freight forwarding, brokerages and shipping companies are catching on to the potential power of big data to transform business processes and improve decision making.  A good example of how ethical accountability can be supported by transport planning software, for instance, is in terms of carbon footprint impact measurement.

Environmental Responsibility

For globally inter-connected supply chains, reliant upon each other for last minute delivery, consistency of service is essential.  If a single freight management service provider is threatened with non-compliance penalties for exceeding truck fleet pollution levels, or an ocean freight carrier is witnessed dumping toxic cargo at sea, subsequent fines can potentially put them out of business; this can have a knock on effect for a business partner whose reputation relies upon their environmental credentials and supply chain accountability.

It is no longer enough for individual companies to minimise their carbon footprint, or treat their drivers and other staff fairly. In an increasingly complex international regulatory environment, supply chain companies want to investigate and report on their supply chain’s high standards and respect for regulation.  There are good reasons for this.

The Regulatory Environment

Regulators of environmental laws, your customers and shareholders increasingly expect higher standards of environmental protection.  ISO standards are a significant consideration for legal and compliance transport teams. Since 2015 they must now pay due regard to ISO 14001:2015, the International Standard for environmental management systems.  Also, ISO 19011:2011 established the auditing requirements for environmental management systems based on ISO 14001:2015.

Within TMS modular options, there are compliance focussed data management functions that can consolidate your regulatory environment data and keep your information updated and integrated to your documentation and administration systems.  This eliminates room for error, giving staff the chance to apply their expertise, supported by a more robust compliance system to manage and enhance your impact on the environment. Data entry templates and machine learning over time can enhance insights into your environmental performance.

For truck, ocean or aircraft carrier fleet owners, combined with data sets on fuel consumption, environmental reporting can be broken down to a local level, by driver, third party transport provider, by time period, or customised granular or global criteria.  Flexible reporting means you can identify where your carbon footprint is greatest and identify room for improvement.  According to an Inbound Logistics Trucking Perspectives Survey in 2015, 22 percent of trucking companies cited sustainability as one of their greatest challenges.

For example, less than load (LTL) capacity shipping, or even empty trucks on roads are not uncommon, wasting valuable fuel and profits. Automated reminders for fleet servicing and push notification to operatives on the road means that vehicles perform optimally.

Knowing where the profit leaks are happening and marginal improvements can be significant not only for your bottom line, but make good business sense to partners and customers who will appreciate your professionalism. Smart use of data and better supply chain reporting, via a unified, simple to use dashboard, together with scalable software functionality to suit your business, is where the best TMS systems help you become your best too.

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Importance of Data Management in Supply Chain IT Systems

A supply chain management system (SCM) is a business partnership, more or less integrated, to allow for the continual flow of goods and services. The efficacy of supply chain IT systems and the expertise of the teams combine to determine levels of efficiency between despatch, delivery and end destination of the goods or services being transferred.

Supply chain automation helps improve product and service quality, reduce costs, allow for more transparent monitoring of operations and ultimately supports competitive advantage in an ever more competitive business environment.  Lean manufacturing and specialisation make partners increasingly interdependent, interconnected and integrated to streamline productive activity and maximise capacity.

This last-minute supply web demands that all SCM activities are collaborative and support real time data exchange, in terms of sourcing, producing, planning, delivering and returns provision.  However, with complexity in terms of size of businesses involved, shared resources can be challenging.

Background To Transportation in SCM

Every company and organisation have their unique in-house, or cloud hosted IT systems to manage the security, filing and safe transfer of data for the consistent flow of data and transport modes for goods and services.  Many businesses are still working with ad hoc, legacy systems established over several years ago that have either become inadequate, may be creaking under the volume of business expansion, lack transparency, or may even be vulnerable to cyber-attack.

 

In the traditional transportation sector, larger companies have vertically integrated supply and distribution activities to optimise production and logistical control.  However, many businesses increasingly outsource functions to smaller, more agile companies, creating complexity that demands technical innovation more than ever before to eliminate costly inefficiencies and human error in last minute operations taking place in a sophisticated regulatory environment.

Some smaller suppliers are likely to lack economies of scale and margins that allow for investment in sophisticated technically integrated software and hardware.

Nevertheless, concerns about quality assurance, transparency, added value, timely delivery and compliance mean that supply chain IT systems must evolve to include greater automation for greater competitive advantage of all partners concerned.  Modern modular and customised supply chain management systems are, however, now available, making efficiencies available to businesses whatever their size.

Distribution Networks

Management in logistics and transport relies on effective supply chain management decisions that can be improved with enhanced data integration and machine learning, where specialist staff and machines collaborate to deliver best value.  Operation control, such as who is responsible for elements of the supply chain, how and when goods are shipped, warehoused on route and delivered requires accuracy in demand forecasting.  Real time and comprehensive data, offering deep and wide insight at a moment’s notice is essential to optimal planning. These business functions are all possible for any sized company with scalable and / or customised SCM systems.

Every step in a supply chain has to be agreed by partners quickly in regard to modes of transportation to be used, cost and timing. Carrier control and compliance responsibilities must also be resolved in advance of shipments.  For instance, a dedicated transportation and logistics company may handle goods from pick up, through to final destinations delivery or stages may be divided between a range suppliers.  Whatever scenario, customers must have confidence that there will be no hidden costs, service is timely and compliant at all times.

Information and Inventory

Information sharing and integration is crucial to the success of a modern supply chain. Communications systems and immediate data transfer means that those companies who offer end-to-end digitisation will add best value and secure transport contracts most often.  Any changing costs and inventory levels must be available to all stakeholders concerned.  Current supply chain IT systems allow insight into specific data about products, their transport routes, whether they are on schedule and effective customs management in order for businesses to better plan and communicate with customers.

The more compatible supply chain partner systems are, the more likely those businesses will choose to collaborate in transportation and logistical projects, because they have greater peace of mind that they have the information they need at a moment’s notice and they can see consistency of pricing and effective management across supply chains, however complicated these might be.

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Four Keys to Transportation in Supply Chain Management

Transportation in supply chain management involves sequential processes to plan, produce and distribute commodities either from business to customer or business to business.  Confidence between supply chain partners relies on clear pricing, timing and mode of transport for the goods being delivered.  Continued custom demands an expert supply chain, using effective technology to smooth operations and maximise efficiency in a competitive and complex transport and logistics environment. All of this depends on four key elements of good IT systems in supply chain management (SCM systems), as follows.

SCM Systems Integration

Integrated, up-to-date IT systems is the oil in the supply chain machine. Ensuring consistency and added value in the supply chain means integration of communications between the partners for clear, effective and timely results. When transport management systems (TMS) software among supply chains is compatible, this smooths the whole system and communications.

Managers responsible for ensuring that operations are happening on time and on budget rely on effective quality control systems, specifically, well-trained staff and real time insight into comprehensive, consistently up-dated data.  When partners utilise compatible data formats for information sharing, this ensures greater efficiencies and optimal planning.

Operational Insights

The day-to-day operations for the freight management or transport and logistics company need to be both reliably flexible or consistent for last minute planning changes and confidence in service delivery.  Operations are where the rubber hits the road at every stage of production and delivery and where competitive advantages can be identified and maximised with data harnessing and analysis.

Between inventory insights, monitoring staff on the ground and supply chain information, data help business forecasting and planning.  Enhanced prediction of which supplies will be needed when, where and for whom offers more ways to compete, target marketing for improved returns, plus please service users. Operational insight at both a granular level, or for strategic overview help businesses to consistently and systematically improve performance.

Optimisation in Purchasing

A company purchasing department is responsible for sourcing materials, products, other goods and services necessary to meet their company’s objectives.  Purchasing is the fulcrum for building solid, trusting relationships with supply chains.  Not only do purchasing managers identify the quality and quantities of items for purchasing, they are the key personnel for establishing and maintaining an effective supply chain management system.  Data transparency is essential to their effective budget management.  Innovative supply chain IT systems offer greater insights for comparison of supply chain partners making purchasing and out-sourcing more cost-effective for the company, benefitting customers in turn.  Similarly, with real time data insights on supply chain fees, they can ensure higher performance standards in transport and freight logistics service delivery and better customer service.

Clarity in Distribution

Distribution includes the warehousing coordination and delivery of goods on the ground (or sea or air!).  Timely delivery demands effective and flexible communications between supply chain partners, as much as optimised decisions on mode of transport, load management and awareness of regulatory environments.  This is all part of the complexity in distribution at the centre of supply chain command and control.

Distributors oversee shipment requirements and progress, so need to know not only what is available in inventory, but what may be needed in production planning, as well as checking that the required product quality and quantities are either available or will be planned for.  Distributors also must ensure that the products get to the end-customer on time and in good order.

Their systems must also be equipped to supply appropriate documentation in the right format at crucial delivery stages, such as customs handling.  For compliance purposes and customer peace of mind, contemporary supply chain IT systems can guarantee this.

The four wheels of supply and chain management should ideally be well-integrated to work cohesively for the benefit of all stakeholders.  This not only offers greater customer satisfaction, but more effective supply chain partnerships and greater return of business in turn.  Staff too can reap the rewards, with automation of repetitive tasks that free them up for more challenging, strategic and satisfying work.  Greater confidence in a company of course results in virtuous circles, where continued development, diversification and greater competitiveness ensure future proofing in an increasingly complex transport and logistics sector.  Smoother transportation in supply chain management depends on greater collaboration not only between partners, but between teams and the modular or customised software systems they rely on.

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