The current state of the logistics and freight transportation sectors have shown us, in recent years, when it comes to the myriad things shippers need to do, in order to adapt, survive, and thrive, there is no shortage of tasks that are need to stay on top of things.
We all know many of these things, to be sure, which include: the driver shortage and availability, in general; capacity management; pricing and rates; distribution; and news challenges, trends, and themes, in the form of things like last-mile logistics, digital freight matching tools and API, and, various other forms of ubiquitous technology like AI, robotics, and drones, among other things.
These were all issues of interest at the recently Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Link 2019 Retail Supply Chain Conference in Orlando.
While all of those aforementioned items are of high importance to shippers, some themes got more airtime than others. One of them had to do with shipper and carrier interaction.
Yes, that sounds a little vague, but give me a chance to explain. The interaction, shippers said, has to do with how “the old way of doing business is over,” with shippers needing to be more proactive in strategically working with their carriers.
That sounds sensible on a top level, but when the onion gets peeled, it quickly becomes clear that requires far more than just lip service, to put it mildly. The reason being, shippers said at RILA, is that there is a need to differentiate costs and service, coupled with the constant outside pressures that are always top of mind, too. This is something that can quickly become more heightened, with the recognition on behalf of shippers that in running an efficient supply chain, there is a need to be lean and remove costs, whenever it is possible and makes sense, challenges which fall solely on the shipper.
What’s more, the larger the shipper and its regional and distribution footprint, the more it requires things to be done on a true just-in-time basis, as there can be stiff penalties incurred for not meeting delivery and operational requirements. Again, something that really requires the need for shippers to be truly aligned with their carrier bases.
While it is clear that needs to happen, another theme identified at RILA had to do with shipper and shipper collaboration (that is not a typo, nor a misnomer).
At a panel at the conference, a supply chain executive for a large retail shipper talked about how in 2018 his company began fielding calls from other shippers to see if they had freight they could bundle into loads together to help alleviate empty miles issues, or, essentially, turn two one-way trips into a round trip. In an era of tight capacity, especially last year, that is an idea with real momentum, not to mention potential.
And it is happening more consistently now, too, according to shippers, with myriad benefits along the lines of better forecasting and providing more information ahead of time to carriers, regardless of mode, in order to plan and commit to capacity, instead of tendering loads, which can be both trying and time-consuming.
What is happening with shipper-carrier and shipper-shipper collaboration may not necessarily be viewed by all as incredibly new or novel, but it is advancing things in a positive, and needed, way.
Shippers making efforts to bundle capacity and shippers sharing and working more with carriers as true partners to achieve the best possible outcomes never goes out of style, while taking of a more personal, and less of a transactional, approach to sharing ideas and solutions can go a long way towards supply chain success.