Amateurs Study Shipping Rates, Professionals Study Logistics

Omar Bradley offered a truism, that amateurs study tactics, armchair generals study strategy, and professionals study logistics. This is just as true in the world of business as it is in the military. Logistics is the art of getting supplies where they’re needed so other functions can happen. In the modern business world, logistics means freight shipping – both internally and externally. In this field, freight rates and carrier rates are the price of doing business.

Freight shipping is one of those expenses that can be minimized, but never totally eliminated. It’s also a manpower time sink, and because of this, more and more companies are outsourcing their freight needs to third party logistics companies. These are outfits that have people who do nothing but look over the assorted rates and package deals offered by the major freight carriers and try to find the best deal possible for their client, with a nice commission on top for them.

All in all, third party logistics management makes sense for organizations that are above a certain size (too small, and they don’t generate enough volume to be worth the trouble of maintaining the account) and below a certain size (at which point the company can have an inside staff that does the same function for less).

Alternatives to third party logistics offers are in house logistics software. Much the same way that travel agencies quickly became redundant with online booking services, logistics software vendors are trying to render the third party logistics company obsolete. Building automatic data scrapers that can do the basic work of comparing logistics rates to different parts of the country or world is fairly straightforward, as is a price search algorithm.

While these systems primarily offer a way to avoid third party logistics fees, they also offer a bit more direct control over your company’s shipping needs, and some managers and executives like that hands on feel. They can also be used to significantly automate a lot of routine functions in the shipping department and the mail room. They can also be used to identify process problems – there’s a saying that every time something was sent out overnight, someone higher up in the chain didn’t do their job correctly, and when you’re looking directly at the costs of expedited shipping, it becomes easier to focus on the process issues that lead to it, than when you’re looking at a third party statement of account.

Ultimately, which one works best is a function of your business’ needs and internal culture; some businesses simply don’t want to bring that job in house. Others need to. Both are viable strategies depending on what your operation’s needs truly are.

TL Logistics Management Software – Frequently Asked Questions

What types of Shippers Use TL Logistics Management Software?

In most cases, shipping companies that regularly produce enough products to fill a full semi trailer use truckload logistics software, as “TL” refers to truckload, or full semi trailer. However, it’s important to note that TL logistics software actually refers to a service option within logistics software as a whole. In other words, companies that have less than truckload (LTL) shipping needs and use logistics software to meet them can have a TL logistics option added to their package at a later date, particularly if their software operates on a software as a service (SaaS) model.

Does it Make Sense to Combine LTL and TL Management in the Same Package?

A company can have as many logistics management options within a software package as it wants. But the fact that more options result in higher fees usually deters companies from adding more options than they presently need. However, if a company can benefit from having its LTL shipments combined into TL shipments and transported to a break station, then having LTL and TL shipping options within the same package could be beneficial.

Is it Better to Implement Logistics Software on a SaaS or an Internal Basis?

Although some companies have policies that require software solutions to be implemented on internal basis, most companies receive the greatest benefit from implementing logistics software on a SaaS model. To implement the software on an internal basis, you typically incur the following costs, which are eliminated by SaaS: software purchase, hardware purchase, system maintenance fees and system upgrade costs. In addition, implementing logistics software as a web-based application offers the advantage of letting system users access the system from any Internet terminal worldwide, whereas internal solutions function like an intranet.

Can TL Logistics Management Software Replace the need for a Logistics Expert?

Perhaps the greatest misconception about logistics software is that you need expertise in logistics to use it. On the contrary, logistics-software does the work of a logistics expert, presenting a shipper with optimized shipping options across the entire shipping process. One of the main selling points of logistics-software is the remarkable affordability that it brings to the logistics function, which comes from its replacing the need to hire in house logistics experts or high level third party logistics (3PL) providers.

Isn’t 3PL the Still Best Option If You’d like to Dialogue With a Logistics Expert?

The top complaint of 3PL customers is that they feel kept on the outside of the shipping process due to lack of contact with their 3PL provider. Furthermore, most providers of logistics-software allow their customers the option discussing logistics issues whenever necessary. With logistics software, you essentially become your own logistics provider, which is as close to the logistics function as you can get.

Shipping Management Software Vs Freight Brokerage: Which Is Better?

Many shippers spend nearly as much on shipping as they do on payroll. Consequently, they look for ways to improve freight management with the goal of reducing freight costs. When creating a logistics department would be too expensive, most shippers implement logistics software or hire a freight broker. Also known as shipping management software, logistics software allows shippers to become their own logistics provider by supplying them a comprehensive logistics function. Also known as Third Party Logistics (3PL), freight brokers make carrier arrangements on shippers’ behalf.

Both options can yield solutions that combine quick delivery time, excellent freight care, and affordable rates. But logistics software offers certain advantages that freight brokers often don’t, beginning with low service cost.

Low Service Cost

Not all brokerage options require a significant investment. But the ones that don’t are oriented toward specific logistics services (e.g. cross docking, and tracking and tracing), not comprehensive solutions. For complete management of the shipping process via 3PL, a shipper must use a customer adapter or customer developer, which could cost as much as maintaining a logistics department.

Excellent Customer Service

The number one complaint among 3PL customers is a feeling of distance from the shipping process. In many instances, this is the result of what 3PL is supposed to do: take the logistics function out of a shipper’s hands. But many shippers discover they want more control over shipping than they first believed. Logistics software eliminates distance between the shipper and the shipping process by allowing the former to become its own logistics provider.

Broader Shipping Options

A freight broker will provide more options than you could realize on your own, without the aid of logistics software. But those options could be limited compared to the options offered by logistics software. Some freight brokers use electronic posting systems, where available carriers are matched with available loads, to arrange shipments. While using these systems is a valid strategy, it should not be the only strategy, as it often is. Logistics software empowers shippers to form relationships with carriers who don’t use posting systems.

Control of Shipping

Almost every shipper wants control of the shipping process. But when creating a logistics department would be too expensive, many shippers relinquish the process – and control – to a 3PL provider. Logistics software gives you the same control over shipping as a logistics department would, but a fraction of the cost. If problems arise with the software, or if you need new logistics options, the software provider can resolve the problem or make the necessary changes.

Conclusion

The shipping process involves significant costs, which can be mitigated by implementing a strategic logistical solution for transportation management systems. Although freight brokerage is a valid option, it often lacks basic benefits that shipping management software always provides: low service cost, broad shipping options, and control of the shipping process. Logistics software is often advertised as a solution for small to midsize shippers, but it can also benefit large shippers who wish to save money by not hiring a team of in-house logistics experts.