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Business Intelligence: Bringing Your Operations To The Next Level

Logistics and the global supply chain drive the world as we know it today. Everyday tasks such as going to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner to online shopping all rely on the supply chain operating smoothly and efficiently. However, the logistics methods of the past have since become obsolete, especially in the wake of ever-expanding global operations, the boom in e-commerce and tightening delivery expectations, all of which put pressure on the supply chain. While navigating these challenges is a daunting task, business intelligence is the necessary game-changer for shippers to enter into the next era of the supply chain with an edge over the competition.   

Fortunately, logistics and the supply chain have entered into a veritable digital renaissance. Driven by ever-increasing competition, both carriers and shippers need to step up their operations if they want to remain competitive, both in terms of a consistent brand experience for their customers as well as balanced and competitive pricing structures.  

Driven by ever-increasing competition, both carriers and shippers need to step up their operations if they want to remain competitive.

There are challenges that need to be overcome in order to streamline operations to the point of optimal efficiency. These obstacles include compliance to ever-changing regulations, volatile fuel costs, supply chain management, and increasing demands from customers and consumers. These challenges are compounded by the fact that the supply chain across the United States is incredibly volatile due to a surge in e-commerce brought about by the pandemic, and the snarl in the global supply chain as a whole due to a shipping container shortage and heavily congested port traffic.  

As a result, shippers are constantly on the lookout for solutions that will make their lives easier and help them excel during these uncertain times.

The Benefits Of Business Intelligence 

Business intelligence is developing an operating strategy by leveraging technology to analyze data from the supply chain. This data analysis extracts actionable data from a seemingly incomprehensible data stream and can offer significant benefits for shippers.

Reduce Labor Costs through Automated Reports 

Business intelligence is the key to the kingdom of Automation. BI tools can reduce the need for labor hours that are spent on mundane tasks such as generating reports. Shippers can generate comprehensive reports automatically without requiring a manual effort allowing those employees to be dedicated to more value-added tasks.   

  • Automated data collection creates more detailed reports 
  • Reports are generated automatically on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. 
  • Reduces time spent on training staff which further reduces labor hours. 

Information Transparency Leads To Better Visibility Into Your Supply Chain 

Supply chain visibility is crucial to the success of shippers. Business Intelligence reduces the need to sift through and extract the necessary data to create a comprehensive report. Organizations can drill down to specific metrics to create operation-specific dashboards based on their needs. BI tools can help to define and extract data as needed (avoiding data-overload syndrome) which improves efficiency and eliminates information blockages and data silos.  

In short, your company can find the data it needs, when it needs it, without all the hassle that comes with standard data analysis. 

Translate Data Into Actionable Business Intelligence 

Having data is all well and good, so long as you know what to do with it. The problem is, extracting the data is not the same as being able to interpret it. Transportation and logistics companies that rely on manual report generation often run the risk of working with outdated information, which can negatively affect business operations. Because Business intelligence tools can generate this information automatically, working through a BI suite can provide real-time information as to the current state of the business. This can, in turn, be used to spot issues as they happen and identify detailed information from a top-down view.   

Better Decision Making 

Armed with actionable intelligence, supply chain leaders are able to make better decisions about their supply chain and their operations. Higher levels of visibility within the supply chain means your company can perform a supply chain analysis. Business intelligence tools can help to draw out latent inefficiencies and reduce operating costs, which makes the supply chain run leaner and more efficiently than ever before. 

Better Truckload Operations Efficiency Through Digitalization

Digital trucking is bringing unprecedented, large-scale benefits to the national transportation grid. Digitization takes living, real-time data from once futuristic fantasy to practical present-day tools. Companies who embrace these changes can stay ahead of shipping needs, coordinate the arrival and departure of shipments at distribution facilities and offer customers full transparency regarding product tracking.

Having uniform data instantly updated across many locations translates into an efficient organization. 

Digitally integrated metrics also mean the more efficient movement of goods. Well-kept maintenance and repair information leads to more uptime for fleets. Processes that depend on fax and phone calls to delegate shipment orders can see improvement through digitization by providing transparency in a shipment’s progress across the operation. Digital trucking further protects against losses from laggy communication by providing access to information like rates and available containers. The answer is simple: having uniform data instantly updated across many locations translates into an efficient organization. 

Hybrid Supply Chains

Naturally, some companies making the transition from silo-based tracking to a digital supply chain will find themselves in a mixed state of operations. Some information is digital, some are kept analog, and some remain decentralized in individual silos. However, it is best not to get comfortable here. The number of customers relying on internet transparency is increasing at an exponential rate. The weight of the digital world is enough to have deemed it the “Third Industrial Revolution.” In order to survive in the post-revolutionary landscape, successful shippers will need to become proficient with Digital Supply Chain Networks. 

Benefits Of Embracing Digital Supply Chain Networks 

1. Accurate Projections – An outdated but well-ingrained approach to supply chain management is to look backward at data. A forward-looking vantage point allows companies to remain better oriented to evolving needs.

Information from Blume explains that “AI and machine learning can uncover trends in the data and suggest likely short, medium and long-term demand and capacity — allowing you to get the right assets and resources in place .” Advanced models can help with recruitment, asset procurement, scheduling enough drivers and trucks and generally increase profits by keeping error margins minimal.

2. Data Visualization – Having data that is intuitive for managers to interpret increases efficiency. Data points are essential to ha. Still, unless these see integration into a medium with unambiguous meaning, they may fall short of their potential. The less time a manager spends trying to interpret numbers, the less time they spend repeating supply chain failures. Digitization automates the mundane manual task of creating a visual representation for complex data

3.  Connecting Data Sources – Modern supply chains rely heavily on a concept known as the Internet of Things (IoT).  IoT can improve processes, identify opportunities to move goods and stay ahead on preventative maintenance. However, IoT is only capable if it has many data sets from which to draw. Using QR codes to track goods, sensors for shipping containers and APIs to compile data onto logistics platforms is one example of how IoT shines brightest when prolifically integrated. IoT benefits conveyance when connected to multiple vehicles by improving operations through routing, navigation and avoiding common collision points. Equipping infrastructure with systems to monitor road conditions and congestion allows IoT to optimize capacity through effective traffic management systems. 

The more devices connected to a system, the more complete the data set.

The more devices connected to a system, the more complete the data set. Likewise, IoT can more efficiently bolster a supply chain by facilitating updates on spot-rates, capacity, demand for drayage, driver availability, GPS locations for disabled trucks and last-minute changes to every device and user within the network. Accurate data can significantly increase efficiencies and mitigate risk when shared across a centralized digital platform.

4. Direct Benefits to Supply Chain Management – Some concise benefits to supply chain management that companies can look forward to from digitization are: Increase JIT sourcing, decentralized inventories leading to satisfied delivery time requirements, competitive shipping by converting next-day-deliveries to same-day-deliveries, fewer number of logistics partners needed for transportation and translating LTL into parcel shipments.

The Risk Of Information Overload

When it comes to digitization, an abundance of data can tip the scales in either direction. Of course, having device-level data across an entire operation allows carriers to access essential information from asset utilization to invoicing. It also presents challenges for effective integration. In order for companies to achieve the desired level of granularity to get the most out of their data, expert logistics support is an invaluable step. For help with implementing these changes, contact one of our logistics experts.

The Fine Line Between Deregulation and Operation

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When it comes to regulations in the trucking industry, it’s something of a mixed bag. On an economical standpoint, the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 has given the industry free reign. On the other hand, the trucking industry is perhaps one of the most heavily regulated sectors in terms of safety, environmental protection, driver standards, and others.

the Trump administration is also reconsidering some of the regulatory strangleholds the government has over trucking and is leaning in favor of the truckers.

The Trump administration has also been a mixed bag for the industry. For shippers and manufacturers who rely on goods sourced from foreign goods, the tariffs and escalating trade war have made for a bout of white-knuckled planning. However, the Trump administration is also reconsidering some of the regulatory strangleholds the government has over trucking and is leaning in favor of the truckers. “This administration is looking at the regulatory environment a bit differently,” says Mark Rourke, executive vice president and COO of Schneider, the nation’s second largest truckload (TL) carrier. “We’re not seeing a lot of activity with new regulations.”

With President Trump now beyond his midterm, it’s worth taking a closer look at the regulatory environment surrounding trucking. There’s a fine line between too much regulation and not enough. While reducing regulations might make trucking companies more efficient, they could also encourage some unsafe practices. The tradeoff to that is that with more regulations, efficiency drops and rates go up, with shippers picking up the tab, of course.

Hard Hitting Regs

Of the numerous regulations that are out there, there are some that stand out more than others. The biggest of them include the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) the Hours of Service (HoS) and the age restriction that locks out aspiring truckers under the age of 21.

Given that the mandate has also begun to tighten capacity even further, it also encourages shippers and carriers to work more closely together in order to increase operational efficiency.

The ELD mandate has been one of the hardest to deal with this year and has caused a great deal of productivity loss for shippers as enforcement went into full swing. While it was originally intended to keep truckers honest on the HoS ruling by removing paper logs it hasn’t been a smooth transition. “After months of issuing warnings, state enforcement personnel began issuing stiff fines for HOS violations last spring. The result, executives say, is between 3% and 8% lost productivity due to the elimination of cheating,” according to Logistics Management. Evening out the playing field with ELDs does have some advantages. It encourages carriers to plan routes more efficiently so as to make their deliveries on time, this is especially important when you consider that some companies are threatening penalties for tardy drivers. Given that the mandate has also begun to tighten capacity even further, it also encourages shippers and carriers to work more closely together in order to increase operational efficiency.

Fine Tuning the HoS

While it has taken some time, ELD compliance has reached almost 99 percent across the entire industry. The biggest gripe truckers have, however, isn’t with the ELD but with the Hours of Service ruling. This is especially true for agricultural, seasonal deliveries, logging, and other select commodities.

With that being said, Washington is looking to tweak some of the HoS terms in order to make it a bit more bearable. According to Logistics Management, there are four main areas, in particular, they are considering amending.

  • Expansion to the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers.
  • Extending the current 14-hour, on duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving.
  • Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.

There is also an unintended side effect of the HoS and ELD mandates. Now that most of the entire trucking industry is on the same schedule, there aren’t enough safe places for truckers to park when they’ve run out of drive time. It’s actually gotten bad enough that many carriers are subsidizing their drivers to utilize paid parking at truck stops. These spots can range anywhere from $5 to $20 a night and while that’s not so bad for short trips, long-haul truckers could be shelling out a lot of extra cash to maintain compliance.

The Trucking Age for the Modern Age

The pool of truck drivers is drying up and it’s only getting shallower as more truckers hand in their keys and take to retirement. The Department of Transportation has announced that they will begin a pilot program which will allow drivers under the age of 21 to operate an 80,000 pound truck for interstate commerce.

Given that these youths would be behind the wheel of a 40-ton vehicle, there are more than a few safety advocates who believe this isn’t a good idea.

“The statistics are clear,” says Todd Spencer, president of the OOIDA. “There really isn’t any question that younger drivers are more likely to crash and be involved in serious incidents.” Given that these youths would be behind the wheel of a 40-ton vehicle, there are more than a few safety advocates who believe this isn’t a good idea.

The age restriction has been in place since 1935 and for the most part, no one has argued with the logic. However, the Trump administration is pushing hard to get this particular regulation removed and many don’t agree with it. However, there are some in the industry who think there can be some ways to ease new drivers into handling a rig, without just pushing them straight out of the nest. Handling the first and final mile of driving could give them the opportunity to experience freight handling without giving them total control of the rig from start to finish.

For better or worse, there will be some changes coming to the trucking industry. While these regulations have been put into place with safety in mind, have they reached the point where they’ve hindered operations? At what point does regulation get in the way of an enterprise?