Companies today are facing significant transportation challenges — tight capacity, rising rates, and more demanding delivery expectations from customers. Navigating through these challenges requires timely and accurate visibility to what’s happening in their transportation operations, which is where Control Tower visibility comes in. How are companies using Control Tower visibility to deliver business value? What new capabilities are available today? Those are the main questions I discussed with Mark McEntire, Sr. VP Operations at Transplace, and Ken Rogers, National Transportation Director at Nestle Waters, in a recent episode of Talking Logistics.
Control Tower Visibility: Creating a Positive Customer Experience
Transportation costs are a key line item for Nestle Waters’ profitability, with over 700,000 shipments and $500 million in spend each year. I began my discussions with Nestle and Transplace, therefore, by asking Ken what his main objectives were in considering Control Tower visibility. Ken says, “We want to have end-to-end visibility to our shipments from the customer order through shipment to the final delivery to customers. We want visibility every step of the way, with status updates, and the ability to collaborate with key customers based on that visibility.”
This interaction with customers is an important aspect of creating a positive customer experience. Ken says, “Water is a very competitive field. Superior customer service is an important part of that experience and Control Tower visibility is a tool that helps give us a leg up on our competition.”
Factors Driving Demand for Visibility
Nestle isn’t the only company searching for competitive advantages through improved transportation customer service. According to Mark, visibility is the number one request they see in this regard. He says there are three main reasons for this right now. “First, retailer demands are at an all-time high. They want to keep their inventory levels low, so there are fees for late shipments, but also now some are starting to charge for early shipments, as well.
“There is also a need for advanced analytics. Retailers want data on which to make better decisions that drive profitability. And finally, it’s a consumer-driven world today. Consumers love to go online to place an order and be able to track it to know when they will receive it. Control Tower helps us close the gap on those issues.”
What’s New with Visibility Technology?
I next asked Mark what new capabilities are available today to drive the surge in interest and adoption of visibility applications. He points out that, “EDI transactions have been around for decades for sharing information, but there have been no real improvements in visibility until recently. The use of APIs (application programming interfaces) and telematics to feed into Control Towers offers faster setup, near real-time visibility, and advanced analytics, which is important to our customers.”
Technology never stands still, so I asked Mark what was on the horizon for Transplace’s Control Tower. He discussed several enhancements in the works, including extending the visibility to international shipments, adding more predictive analytics and scenario planning capabilities, adding weather data and market seasonality information, incorporating machine learning, and partnering with select carriers and customers to use carrier telematics to better understand status and capacity in order to improve load matching.
Ken says what is next for Nestle is to continue adding more customers to the Control Tower to improve communications and the customer experience. He also is interested in the potential for the carrier partnering capabilities Mark mentioned.
To learn more about Nestle’s implementation and to hear Ken’s advice on getting started, as well as to get more of Mark’s insights on future developments and the importance of cross-functional groups during implementation, I encourage you to watch my full conversation with Ken and Mark. Then post a question or comment and keep the conversation going!