Winning in a Digital World: How to Turn Technology into an Advantage

Digital transformation is a hot topic today, especially in the third-party logistics (3PL) and freight brokerage industries. Technology is becoming a larger and more important piece of the puzzle as service providers look to differentiate themselves in the market and drive profitable growth. How are the rules for success changing in these industries? What role is technology such as real-time freight visibility solutions playing in creating a competitive advantage? How do you successfully deploy these solutions and what are the benefits? 

Those are the main questions I discussed with Shaun Beardall, VP of Brokerage Services at England Logistics, and Prasad Gollapalli, Founder and CEO of Trucker Tools, during a recent episode of Talking Logistics.

Becoming a Broker of Choice

England Logistics is a 3PL and brokerage firm that is a subsidiary of carrier C.R. England. In the 1990s, C.R. England decided not to turn down freight orders beyond its capacity and began to broker that freight to other carriers. From there the business grew into a full service 3PL, including full truckload, less-than-truckload, and domestic and international parcel, with 150 agent locations across the U.S.

As a leading 3PL, I asked Shaun what he sees as the major trends in the industry. Shaun points out that advances in technology are the hottest topic in the industry — everything from automation to blockchain to advances in carrier visibility and communication.

But Shaun says the key trend is how to become a broker of choice, which he says is all about customer service. “We concentrate on three areas of customer service: what value do you as a broker bring to carriers; how easy is it for carriers to do business with you; and how do you treat your carriers,” says Shaun. Briefly, Shaun describes this as knowing your carriers’ business and needs, having an easily accessible single point of contact, and having dispatchers that treat drivers respectfully.

Serving two customers

Brokers must create value for both shippers and carriers. I asked Prasad how technology helps them accomplish this. Prasad says shippers are looking for real-time visibility to their shipments because it ties into the efficiency of their operations. And shippers’ customers want to know when their orders will arrive, just like Amazon tells customers what day their order will be there. Brokers have to provide this information, but they can’t be calling carriers or drivers all the time to get it. It is too costly and burdensome for brokers and carriers. They need an automated solution.

“On the carrier side, the challenge is a bit different because you have to meet the needs of carriers of all sizes, from large carriers to owner-operators,” adds Prasad. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, otherwise “brokers will be trying to push a square peg into a round hole” in trying to get carriers and drivers to use the technology.

Shaun said England Logistics got into tracking and visibility technology because customers either specified certain capabilities or just wanted better visibility to their shipments. “We selected Trucker Tools because they were more broker focused and willing to adapt the solution to our requirements, helping us to better serve both our shippers and our carriers.”

The Key to Driving Adoption

Shaun notes that one of the major benefits in using Trucker Tools’ tracking and visibility technology has been the ability to deliver this information to customers in the format they prefer. “Some customers want us to send them shipment updates twice a day while others prefer to log into the system and get that information themselves,” he says.

“We’ve found the key thing for adoption of the technology is education,” Shaun continues. “Internally, it’s teaching our people how the app makes their jobs easier, and for carriers and their drivers it’s education on all of the functions the app offers to help them in their business and make them more efficient.”

Prasad points out that brokers often look at all of the functions the technology offers carriers and select the ones they feel will help them reach 90%+ compliance over time as more carriers come on board. “Successful brokers challenge software vendors to be part of this process and drive adoption,” Prasad says.

Selecting the right technology and partner

I asked Shaun and Prasad what suggestions they had for those brokers looking for new visibility technology. Shaun discussed some of the lessons learned from their journey and Prasad gave an excellent description of the different types of applications and their advantages and limitations. I encourage you to watch the full episode for all of their insights and advice. Then post a comment and share your own thoughts and experiences.