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Rugged Tablets Can Help Save Money in Supply Chain: Part I

There are a number of steps you can take to streamline your enterprise supply chain so it’s more responsive and less expensive. A lot of these opportunities weren’t even feasible a few years ago, but growing use of mobile devices such as ruggedized tablets has produced dramatic improvements in supply chain visibility, giving you far greater control.

ruggedized tablet transportation supply chainHaving a mobile all-in-one tool that’s reliable, tough and powerful sets the stage. Supply chain personnel are equipped with real-time data capture and access, computing and communications, along with integrated features such as GPS, imaging, barcode and RFID readers. Now you’re capable of fully using your transportation management system to gather and analyze the highly detailed data necessary to successfully adopt new approaches to supply chain improvement.

But not every new approach is appropriate for every company. And of the options that could benefit your operation, you can’t realistically expect to implement all of them, all at once. So how do you decide where to start?

Variables for success.

Not surprisingly, tactics that can help improve your supply chain differ substantially in terms of how easy or difficult they are to implement, how long it will take to put them in place and savings you can expect to realize. Most solutions are ongoing processes, not a one-time fix.

Ultimately the best choices will be unique to your situation – the size and scope of your operation, what you produce, your typical load types, where they go and the distances involved. Naturally, you’ll want to consider first those opportunities that can bring the greatest savings, soonest, with the least amount of effort.

Good news: the easiest options will also help you establish important benchmarks.
You won’t know if you’re saving money – or how much -- or whether you’re gaining other benefits from adopting new approaches, unless you can measure results. You’ll need to establish a baseline for comparison, as well as key performance indicators that match your improvement targets.

These three actions can help you do that: 

• Truckload benchmarking. Any operation with substantial truckload costs should start here. Create a dashboard that compares your historical data to industry standards as well as new expenses, to see where you lag behind now and track future trends. Include standard shipping information such as origin and destination, mode, linehaul costs and accessorial fees, plus average rate-per-mile, cost-per-hundredweight and LTL shipment size.

• Truckload weight and cube benchmarking. Corollary to establishing overall benchmarks, analyzing your load data to maximize space and weight capacity just makes sense. Getting more into each load means you’ll need fewer trucks, increasing your savings.

• Constraint-based truckload bids. This strategic carrot-and-stick approach can be especially effective for companies whose truckload costs run less than $10 million. You use math-based bids to reward carriers for efficiencies that save you money and penalize them for substandard performance or failure to provide specific services such as drop trailers or EDI shipment data. Constraints can focus on maximum volumes or other factors. Studies show constraint-based bids can help minimize rising prices.

These three actions are just the beginning. Like all logistics improvements, they depend on your ability to collect detailed data and analyze it according to specific parameters. Armed with your transportation management system and rugged tablets that can connect with it from anywhere, you have the essential tools to move closer to optimum supply chain function and potentially tremendous savings.

There are several more complex tactics you may want to consider, to make further improvements. We’ll explore those opportunities in our next article.

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