When it comes to transportation and logistics, the market is a decidedly different place than it was only a few short decades ago. These changes are not small things either, and given the speed at which these changes are coming, it’s creating a rift between those that are willing to plunge headlong into the abyss, and those that are still afraid to look over the edge.
While firms like Amazon are leading the charge, more companies are warming up to the idea of the new ways of doing business by embracing the digital chasm, as it were.
According to the findings from the “26th Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends (Masters of Logistics)”, more companies are beginning to understand that new business models and new competition in the field are changing customer expectations.
“Results from the 2017 study show that roughly 75% of respondents are using the mix strategy (be all things to all people) as the predominant approach for their companies compared to the 51% who we reported utilizing a mix strategy in our 2016 results. However, unlike 2016 where many of these same companies focused on reducing cost as a primary objective, respondents this year were almost equally focused on increasing customer service or reducing costs—31.3% and 30.9%, respectively,” says Logistics Management.
The Structure of Service
A strong structure is becoming even more important than it has been in the past. Part of the focus for this years study is the relationship between strategy and structure. Simply put, if a company’s strategy aligns with its objectives, then the structure of the company will naturally develop in a way that makes those goals achievable. While this seems straightforward enough, there is a surprising gap between strategic focus and organizational structure for many companies.
Companies that reported a cost leadership focus strongly agreed that transportation is strategically important to them
“For example, companies that reported a cost leadership focus strongly agreed that transportation is strategically important to them. However, there is not this same level of strong agreement for elements that would provide the supporting organizational structure, such as working together with transportation service providers to be successful or spending time with those providers to learn more about various aspects of their business,” LM explains.
Companies with a focus on customer service, however, have a strategy that better aligns with a transportation oriented structure. So why would a company that’s focused on customer service have a better transportation network than a company that is more dedicated to a cost leadership strategy? Because in the now digitized world of transportation, both transportation and speed of service are goals that directly align with customer service. This means that by focusing on customer service, a company can naturally set itself up to have a more efficient and successful supply chain.
The Impact of Technology
Cost is, of course, another important aspect of running a successful business. When developing a successful cost strategy, it’s crucial to understand the tradeoffs between cost and service. Sacrificing good service for the sake of cutting costs is just as bad, if not worse, than overpaying for subpar service. Additionally, the speed of service becomes even more important when it comes to the digital economy. Companies as well as their transportation service providers “must be able to quantify the cost/value of increasing service levels.”
“Understanding transportation pricing should rely heavily on data science,” says Tommy Barnes, a sponsor contributor. “Currently, there are a lot of decisions being made without a firm grasp and understanding of how they will affect transportation costs—both in the short-term and long-term.”
While we can certainly agree with that, Barnes also believes that most transportation providers don’t have the necessary technology in place to accurately determine the cost of delivering services to their customers.
“Without that, they can’t accurately convey the value associated with increasing service levels or capabilities, leaving their customers to make decisions on a commodity price basis only,” Barnes said.
Having the “right technology” in place is simply a matter of having the right Transportation Management System (TMS) in place.
Yet having the “right technology” in place is simply a matter of having the right Transportation Management System (TMS) in place. The transportation industry, as a whole, are embracing and utilizing a TMS and even those that don’t, can have access to a world-class TMS for free!
Improving Data Shows the Real Strength of Trucking
There is an interesting correlation between the success of the survey and the data technologies that are utilized as more companies start relying on digitized services. As more manufacturers and companies go digital, the ease of gathering information increases, which allows the survey to get a better feeling for what’s going on in all parts of the industry.
A company must have real-time visibility into the entire lifecycle of their freight—all the way from quote-to-invoice
The report credits this improvement as a direct result of adopting modern automation and visibility tools. “To compete in a digital economy, a company must have real-time visibility into the entire lifecycle of their freight—all the way from quote-to-invoice—in order to manage exceptions, and even prevent errors from happening altogether.”
“The most efficient way to achieve this is through a multimodal, multiservice connectivity platform, a single source that views and analyzes all inventory and transportation positions,” he added.
While new data does reveal a larger portion of the industry, it also highlights some of the troubled areas. Capacity in the LTL sector is beginning to tighten, owing to a lower availability of equipment. Additionally, we’re seeing a growth in turndown rates, which usually bodes ill for the industry.
“All of this is happening at a time when we’re also seeing some interesting changes in the transportation spend by mode. There was a sizeable increase in spend for private fleet/dedicated (23.8% in 2017 versus 20.8% in 2016). This was the largest shift in transportation modal spend YOY. LTL remained essentially unchanged despite healthy rate increases during the past 12 months. Surprisingly, TL showed a 2.1% increase in its share of the transportation budget despite significant pressure to reduce prices as capacity outpaced demand,” says TM.
All of this to say that despite the troubles the trucking industry has been facing, between new regulations, bouncing freight rates, and weak demand, the trucking industry is still going strong. In fact, trucking remains the favorite mode of transportation for the United States.
Embracing the Change
Fortune often favors the bold, and it will be the bold that emerge victorious in the changing market place. For companies who are still taking their first tentative steps to technology and digitization, embracing this new methodology sooner rather than later will pay off in the long run. Fortunately, trailblazing and pioneering isn’t necessary, especially when it comes to strengthening logistics and your supply chain. Find out how BlueGrace can help your company run more efficiently and let us help you take those first steps into the new market landscape.