Managing freight, shipping at your fingertips

Could a Freight-Shipline.com-type be hovering on the horizon?

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Imagine if you could hop online or tap a software program that would allow you to name your own price for freight and shipping, so to speak. Or maybe the program could help you track freight and shipping costs and calculate the optimal price you should pay for shipping freight anywhere.

Would you be interested in that capability? Would it be a game changer?

Several logistics companies already have rolled out software packages available today that maybe don’t reach full-on “Freight-Shipline.com” stardom but come close enough to be relevant, useful and in demand. And another major company is on the verge of adding its stamp to the mix.

“The inbound freight management model has matured to the point where [integrated delivery networks] are now looking for ways to effectively eliminate the need to utilize a third-party freight program,” said Don Carroll, Vice President, Business Development, Vantage Point Logistics Inc. “These IDNs would prefer to transition their freight savings initiatives to an in-house, self-managed model that they have complete control over. The challenge facing these IDNs is acquiring the subject matter expertise required to design, implement, staff and manage such a program.

“Most health systems don’t realize the level of complexity involved until they begin to consider how they will operationalize their own program,” Carroll continued. “The truth is, most systems will put the idea on hold. The few that have moved forward with a self-managed program are using spreadsheets and manpower. To ensure the accuracy of carrier charges and to drive appropriate levels of vendor compliance requires a well-run program to review thousands of unique vendor and carrier records each week. Relying on spreadsheets is labor intensive, prone to error and rarely produces the results initially hoped for.”

To be a true “game changer,” any app or software package needs to deliver considerable functionality, indicated Sophie Rutherford, Vice President, Business Development, Jump Technologies Inc.

“This ‘game-changing’ tool needs to deliver instant access to several key pieces of data: The service level of every inbound shipment, associated shipping costs, who the requisitioner is, what the package contains and then, aggregate this data over time to show trends,” she noted. “What this is giving you is the opportunity to do several things. First, you’ll identify the culprits of habitual overnight/first priority shipments – both individuals and departments, so you can work with them to manage their purchasing patterns. Second, you’ll see what products or supplies come in via an expedited method so you’ll identify whether there are inventory issues happening within your organization and PAR levels that need to be reset. You should also be able to identify whether supplies coming in overnight actually exist somewhere in your organization, so being able to see all inventory in the hospital through this tool is essential. Finally, if you’re working with a 3PL, this tool should be able to show you retail costs so you can compare retail on inbound shipments to your 3PL’s negotiated rate to ensure you’re getting the savings promised and give you a better negotiating tool for future contracting opportunities.

“Without the data, you have a significant disadvantage: You’re dependent on the vendor – potentially the same vendor that you are negotiating with – to provide you with the data. As is often the case, ‘Data is the DNA’ to this component of supply chain.”

By and large, internally controlled, automated capabilities do have their limitations, according to James Hancock, Director, Sales, Veritiv Logistics Solutions, a division of Veritiv Operating Co.

“For the most part, any type of game-changing app or software program would only work in a commoditized freight situation [as] the cargo is not valuable, there are no special shipping instructions, the shipment is not time-sensitive,” he noted. “The reality is that many items require special service, which creates more of a challenge when managing commoditized freight in this type of marketplace, i.e., extra insurance, specific delivery requirements. Supply Chain professionals should depend on partners who have specialized freight as a core competency, rather than an automated process that isn’t always capable of making specialty qualifications.”

Software product launches

Ryder actually just recently launched Ryder NaviShare, a cloud-based platform that provides real-time shipment visibility, predictive alerts and exception dashboards, according to Kevin Clonch, Director of Global Transportation Service Provider Development. The technology is accessible through a customer-facing website and mobile application that utilizes cellular and GPS technology to link shippers with onboard vehicle technologies. The system provides real-time visibility and event management capabilities to shippers, and delivers information updates and routing instructions to drivers.

“NaviShare provides real-time information regarding load status, tracking status, carriers, shippers, customers, origins, and destinations. If there is a delay in a shipment while in transit, NaviShare alerts the shipper and recipient, and provides the shipper with a list of re-routing options. The software application also has the capability to track shipments at a SKU/part level and to monitor the condition of the load. The NaviShare platform is transportation management system agnostic. The front-end user experience is combined with Ryder’s logistics engineering services on the backend to deliver the most proactive and unique platform in the industry today. In industry focus groups, potential users were particularly drawn to the platform’s ability to integrate data from 3PLs, carriers, brokers, and private fleets into a single real-time visibility and decision tool.”

TRIOSE will be launching its branded Transportation Management Execution (TME) system. The new cloud-based platform will offer hospitals the ability to select multiple modes, multiple carriers, and multiple locations from one- user riendly system, according to Andre T. Davis Sr., MBA-HCM, Marketing Manager.

“The platform is designed to be a game changer for hospitals who previously lacked the ability to compare cost, carrier, and modes of transportation, which could have prevented them from receiving optimal price and delivery quality. Another feature of TRIOSE’s new TME is the tracking options that increase visibility from order to delivery, providing standardized shipment data and automatic updates.”

Software in the cloud

Software [should be] designed to support self-managed freight programs, according to Don Carroll, Vice President, Business Development, Vantage Point Logistics Inc.

“VPL Surpass is a cutting-edge, cloud-based software platform that provides the user with an advanced freight management solution tailored specifically for healthcare providers. Its design and functionality are in direct response to the growing number of health systems seeking an alternative to the full-service programs currently offered by traditional freight management companies. Frustrated by the limitations imposed by the existing programs, more health systems are recognizing the advantages of transitioning to an in-house, self-managed freight program. With no off-the-shelf solutions available, the challenges in obtaining the necessary subject matter expertise and technology to run a program in-house have simply proved too high a barrier for all but a select few. With the introduction of VPL Surpass, a user now has everything required to set up and run a self-managed freight program right out of the box. VPL Surpass removes the uncertainty and risk commonly associated with self-managed programs with years of VPL’s reliable experience built directly into the system. VPL Surpass guides the user through the transition to a self-managed program, automates most core processes and provides guided daily workflows that allow the user to be productive from day one.

“We introduced VPL Surpass to support IDNs that want to move to a self-managed program. It is designed primarily to mitigate the risk and uncertainty that comes with self-management. It automates virtually all key processes required for a successful program and does not require subject matter expertise to use. To further ensure a customer’s success, VPL handles all of the initial vendor and carrier conversion activities to ensure a smooth transition from their current full service program.”

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