The words we tend to use to describe successful supply chains — agile, responsive, flexible — went from concepts to strategic imperatives last year due to the pandemic. This is true for all stakeholders in the industry, but especially for logistics service providers (LSPs). This has sparked a renewed focus on digital transformation. How is technology helping LSPs respond to the changing needs of shippers and carriers? Which capabilities have become “must-have” today? And how should you measure success moving forward? Those are some of the main questions I discussed with Russ Felker, Chief Technology Officer at GlobalTranz, and Prasad Gollapalli, Founder and CEO of Trucker Tools, during a recent episode of Talking Logistics.
The Importance of Technology in a Disrupted Market
Since companies that had embraced digital transformation fared better in 2020 than those who had not, I began by asking Russ how technology helped GlobalTranz assist its customers to navigate an incredibly disruptive year.
Russ points out that first, like most companies, technology helped them transition to a remote working environment. “But really, it was foremost about flexibility in using technology to move information between our partners, shippers, and carriers,” he says. “It starts with a services-oriented architecture that allows those digital interactions, to robotic process automation (RPA) and bots to help move information to the right place, to communications infrastructures that ensure those interactions happen. Because regardless of the digitization of processes, it’s still people that need to interact.”
Moving from “Nice-to-Have” to “Must-Have”
Picking up on Russ’s comments on digital transformation, I asked Prasad which capabilities has the pandemic moved from “nice-to-have” to “must-have” status. Prasad says, “During 2020, technology adoption that normally would have taken 3-5 years got cut down to six months. Manual work with low reward were the tasks that got automated first.
“Virtually overnight 100% visibility for all partners became a requirement,” Prasad continues. “Later in the year, it became the need to turn visibility into actionable information. For example, if a load is delayed, I want to know that ahead of time so I can share alternatives with my shippers.
“The next area is digital freight matching. You can’t have people calling 40 carriers to find capacity. Technology can help you scale your reach to carriers so with little work you can get your loads covered. These two were the low-hanging fruit.
“The biggest adoption last year was for fully automated booking capabilities, which has really accelerated,” says Prasad. Russ agrees, commenting, “Automating the information you’re trying to get out into the marketplace and then get back in from the logistics community and integrating those information flows is critical. So is moving beyond the blue dot [truck location] into order-level tracking.”
With so many technology options available, I asked Russ how companies should prioritize technologies. Russ explains that, “We look at the value the technology and/or process offers, and some things are easier to measure than others.
“Historically, the focus has been on ROI, with the highest ROI projects slated as the top priority. In the past year, that has shifted to ‘What are the core pieces of technology to invest in that enable those returns?’ Investments like cloud-enablement or supply chain resiliency may not directly lead to savings, but they allow for other returns to occur. Companies have started to realize that these investments in underlying technologies cannot be ignored.”
Russ goes on to point out that the value created isn’t just for internal ROI. In many cases, it also impacts your shippers, partners, and carriers. He mentions visibility as a great example of this. “Seamlessly publishing that information out to them and getting data back in is so critical and creates so much value for everybody.”
Prasad adds that it’s not only having the data available, but also the consistency and reliability of providing that data that is critical to creating value, especially when volumes jump from one level to another like last year.
When companies partner with technology vendors on the needed capabilities, success requires more than just the software. I asked Prasad to elaborate.
Prasad compares partnerships to relationships. “They’re never perfect because both parties are moving targets who are always growing and changing. Both parties have to continue to evolve together. That’s the key to the relationship. To do that, companies should ask technology vendors, what are your long-term plans, what’s on your technology roadmap, what are your milestones. Companies should also share their technology plans and expectations with the vendor, as well as what’s not working. When these two sets of plans align you will have a successful partnership.”
With the marketplace changing so rapidly, it’s important to understand not only what is working now, but where brokers and technology partners must go in the future for continued success. Russ offered many great insights on what they are working on with Trucker Tools, as well as with shippers and carriers, to provide value for everyone and how as an industry, “we can apply technology to be more effective, efficient, and resilient to get better outcomes for everybody.”
Therefore, I encourage you to watch the full episode for all the details. Then post a comment and share your own thoughts and experiences on this topic.