Even in normal times, transportation professionals have their hands full dealing with all sorts of exceptions and disruptions. The current COVID-19 pandemic is further magnifying those challenges. There is only one thing we know for certain: the transportation market will continue to change and transportation professionals will need to respond effectively to whatever changes lie ahead. What capabilities will separate the leaders from the laggards? How can technology, such as transportation management systems, help? Those are the key questions I discussed with JP Wiggins, Co-Founder & Vice President of Logistics at 3Gtms, during a recent episode of Talking Logistics.
Disruption is Normal
With all of the disruption that has gone on in the past six months, I began our discussion by asking JP to give us a sense of the current transportation market based on his interactions with a wide base of clients. JP notes that disruptions are certainly nothing new to transportation, so in many ways it’s business as usual for most of his clients.
“They’re moving freight, although the volumes are changing,” says JP. “You have to look at the impacts on specific industries. For the first couple of months of the pandemic, orders literally dropped off the face of the earth for our automotive clients, while for our food clients, their orders went crazy. So, there have been disruptions, but as transportation professionals, that’s what we deal with. So, in that sense, disruption is normal.”
JP added that carrier capacity is never constant. “Capacity has been all over the board the past couple of years,” with the pandemic being the latest factor to impact it.
Given the constant changes and disruptions, I asked JP what will separate the leaders from the laggards going forward. JP indicates, “In one word – flexibility. You have to be quickly flexible. For example, the fulfillment strategies for our clients have gone completely upside down. E-commerce was already growing, but it has exploded with COVID. We’re seeing customers with 80% or even triple-digit growth in parcel shipments right now. Shippers who may have used free software from FedEx or UPS for parcel shipments have seen their volumes skyrocket and they may not be able to handle the volume effectively. Having parcel capabilities as part of your core transportation function can make a big difference in flexibly handling the volumes and costs.”
JP also notes that rates seem to be changing almost with every load. “Clients want to rate shop with real-time quotes, not just for parcel shipments, but truckload and less-than-truckload too. You have to be flexible and smart. Let technology be your lever so you can be responsive.”
How can technology help?
When I asked JP about the role of technology in handling the changes and disruptions, he had some interesting comments about using your own technology versus outsourcing to a third-party logistics provider (3PL). I encourage you to watch the episode for his insightful comments on this.
JP’s main point, however, was with all of the changes and disruptions going on, the software is there to help you better serve the customer. “The TMS sits between you and all of the boundary systems, whether that’s your warehouse systems, your vendors, your carriers, your suppliers, or even your customers, to make sure everything is moving on-time, and if not, that everybody knows what’s going on and what the problem is.”
The connectivity to all of those boundary systems becomes critical in a real-time environment. JP comments that, “We’ve been exchanging this information for 30 years, first through EDI and now through APIs. The customer just wants it to work, to be turn-key. And the software has to be intelligent to deal with the inevitable bad data.”
I queried JP on what executives should be asking themselves to evaluate where they are with their current technology and what they should expect in the future. JP recommends execs start by examining how up-to-date and robust their technology stack is today. JP notes that when 3Gtms started marketing their solution seven years ago, some customers were concerned that the 3Gtms system resides in the AWS Cloud. What if the internet goes down? So, they had to install the system on-premise for those customers. Now, with COVID, those customers can’t get into their offices to run the system. With the robustness of internet services today, running on the cloud is no longer an issue.JP had many other insights into what companies should look for going forward, so I recommend you watch the full episode for all the details. Then keep the conversation going by posting your own thoughts and experiences.