It’s that time of year again when we think about how we might improve our freight processes to stay, (or get back) in control for a bigger, brighter year ahead. So, we at Freight Controller, thought we might be able to help you out with a few ideas.
Identify your top 3 pain points
What was the ‘thorn in your side’ last year? The one that was taking up all your time and energy? Some examples might be:
Carrier Service Failure
Was this just due to peak season, or did it start a good deal earlier?
- Have you broached this with your provider and given them a chance to fix it?
Is it isolated to a specific geographical location?
- Is it a packaging issue?
If you decide there is a definite problem with your provider, you might want to conduct a freight review. You should:
- Ensure service is a priority with your review, not just cost; bad service exacts a much higher cost to your company than buying at the lowest cost available.
- Trial a new provider at one site; with smaller percentage of consignments; allow for some trouble shooting; and transfer the remainder of your consignments for that service type once you are satisfied.
- Put in some KPIs to ensure SLAs are reached on an ongoing basis.
- Make sure you, and the provider, have the right IT systems in place for tracking consignments.
Managing Daily Freight Volume
Business growth is a happy problem to have, but if you don’t manage it well it might be short lived. If you cannot manage freight volume increase, then you should look to automate prior to bringing on new staff.
- If you have more than one carrier you could start with implementing a centralised, independent multi-carrier FMS system; this will save warehouse staff in going from one carrier platform to another, getting quotes, booking consignments, and tracking lost freight.
- If you already have an FMS system you might want to integrate that with your ERP/WMS system; this will eliminate double-entry of address details, reference number, etc.
For the larger, more sophisticated distributor you might want to consider a check cube and weigh system with automated label application; you can grow your business exponentially without needing to add new staff and get highly accurate data for improved invoice reconciliation & BI Reporting.
Rising Freight Costs
Another big pain point can be rising freight costs which can make you the unfortunate focus of your CFO or CEO.
Identify the reason:
- New increased rates from incumbent carriers?
- Unexpected/unauthorised charges: cubic conversion, surcharges?
- Training issue for your staff. Are they selecting the least cost carrier?
- Are there software systems and guidelines in place to help them?
- Greater volume? A happy reason, meaning new clients or larger sales orders from current customers.
The Customer's Perspective - what were your weaknesses from last year?
You don’t necessarily need to do a survey for this, although that would be more thorough. You can scour your CRM or talk to your Customer Service Manager, or you may have plenty of anecdotal evidence to draw from.
Was there an increase in freight customer service calls?
- Did you (shudder) lose any VIP customers? What can you do to win them back?
- Would a new carrier be a better match for your business?
- Is it a packaging issue?
- Can you put in place a new process?
- How is your visibility, for the customer?
- A centralised FMS system with track n’ trace will assist your customer service & sales staff with quickly getting on top of the issue.
- Look to add an automated ASN for the customer to track their own freight.
- An independent DIFOT/Exception report will enable you to see any patterns and work with your providers to solve the issue.
- Is chasing POD’s taking up too much of your time – can you automate your POD process; should you outsource this?
- Is it even true? We notice more when something goes wrong, not when it goes right. Is it the exception not the rule? Can you point to some KPI data to prove SLA’s are being met?
Supply Chain Technology Innovations
Disruption is the talk of the Supply Chain town; there is plenty of opportunity to take advantage of the latest technological advances available. You don’t want to leave it too late for investigating the possibilities they bring to you and your organisation for fear of customers obtaining those capabilities through other industry leading companies.
- Are you keeping up with the competitors in your industry?
- Is your order process smooth? Do you have an end-to-end online ordering process? It’s not just for B2C anymore.
- Is it time to integrate some of your supply chain systems? How do you get the most out of a project like that; what does best practice look like for you from both an operational and software perspective?
- Should you upgrade one or two of your Supply Chain systems? To get longevity and the latest features you should integrate with the latest version of your systems; or review other software vendors’ systems.
- Are you doing anything with the data in your systems? Is your data clean and current?
The logistics industry is going through massive, disruptive change. While you recover from peak season and think about how you can grow in your career and help you company, think about how you can stay relevant and arm yourself with the latest information.
- Do a course; could be supply chain related, technology related; or to do with business analytics.
- Ask for extra training from your software vendor.
- Update your knowledge Centre and Guidelines.
- Subscribe to Industry relevant newsletters; join Industry Associations, attend some conferences or exhibitions; sign up for a webinar at lunch time.
Work on your Provider Relationships
Communication is key to a good relationship and you need to get the perspective of your provider(s) on what you can do better; what new solutions they might have developed since you first partnered with them.
- Check your freight profile; has it changed? Is this leading to headaches for your provider? Too much lost or damaged freight?
- Do your carrier(s) still suit your freight profile? Maybe it’s time to add or change a carrier.
- If you can’t easily assess the impact of any changes to your freight profile look for outside assistance in the form of a highly experienced, independent freight consultancy.
- Isolate what is in your area of control; what is in the area of control for your provider and enact a plan accordingly.
We believe this list outlines the main areas of concern and potential opportunities for improvement in the year ahead. We hope it gives you food for thought. If you, like most shippers, find that you go through a bit of a slow period at the start of the year, then now is the time for putting in place those New Year’s resolutions.
If you need help prioritising your New Year’s Freight Resolutions; if you cannot comprehensively assess the source of your greatest issues from last year (and therefore your biggest opportunities for improvement); or if you need assistance with implementing your freight projects (resolutions) for 2019, please contact us to find out how we can help you launch your projects for 2019.