Here at Shipping and Freight Resource, our focus is generally on maritime shipping, and with so much happening on the high seas – both market- and technology-wise – it’s easy to lose sight of how interconnected shipping really is. So, while Cerasis’ transportation software solutions gravitate towards the trucking side of the business, the 3PL’s National Sales Manager, Roger Jones had some general market insight that is worth considering across the freight modes.
At the top of Jones’ list of concerns heading into the middle of 2018 is a lack of capacity, which has implications for almost everyone that’s shipping bulk. With carriers growing more selective about what freight they take on, shippers are feeling the squeeze, and that’s starting to cut into margins.
For Jones, the answers to capacity shortages, increased competition, and rising costs lie in finding a good 3PL partner. That means providers need understands their client’s business model and vision, and offer additional solutions, savings, carriers and resources to help shippers reach their goals. In these uncertain times, the solutions and partners are there to help your business scale, be more efficient, have strong cost management and advance technologically.
What is your overview of the freight market, and what should shippers be on the lookout for in the near-term?
The capacity issues we are hearing about and experiencing are real and increasing. You’re going to see some pretty difficult times coming when it comes to being able to deliver all of the freight necessary to keep this economy going. It’s not just large trucks, it’s smaller trucks and smaller fleet delivery vehicles that are in need. I have seen statistics that talk about a need for close to 1 million new drivers by 2024.
When the economy is in a downturn, carriers are looking for all types of freight and are willing to adjust to the market. Reverse that process today. The fact that freight is being impacted at all levels means carriers are being more selective than ever before, and they are looking for the most profitable freight in order to drive profitability, reward their employees, and reinvest in their own operations. This makes it a challenge for all shippers to stay on top of their transportation and supply chain operations.
What challenges to implementing TMS keep smaller shippers from adopting new solutions, and what would you recommend for shippers shopping around?
The challenge for smaller shippers is to first of all understand the solutions are there. They must be willing to do their research, be willing to change and potentially stop doing things the way they have always done things. Many TMS solutions are scalable allowing a more transactional shipper to benefit as well as large organizations. The real question the smaller shipper needs to ask themselves is how long they can sustain their current model, is it scalable, and are they at a competitive disadvantage if they do not implement new solutions.
What should they consider about both their own operations, and the solutions at hand?
Smaller shippers have valued employees that wear many hats to help the organization. A good 3PL and TMS partner can enhance that person’s ability to do their job, increase their shipping acumen, reduce costs, improve efficiencies and help free them up to focus on other areas of importance. The opportunities to incorporate a good TMS are endless and can be used within many aspects of a business model, not just shipping. For instance, integrating with sales orders through fulfilment and pushing that data back to the customers and internal departments. That sounds expensive but with the right TMS partner can be a fairly seamless, low cost process with a high deliverable. A good discovery session with a solid 3PL/TMS partner is a great place to start. The key is to be transparent and candid about needs and challenges.
What would you tell shippers that say, “We don’t need a TMS?”
I have been in the supply chain business for close to 30 years, and if you look at the statistics, you will see that in 2008-2009 it was reported that approximately 20 percent of businesses were utilizing a Transportation Management System. Since then, the adoption rate hovers up double-digit growth patterns. There are many benefits of a TMS that manufacturers, distribution companies, and anyone who ships freight realize. If you can look at your freight and transportation department as more than just a cost, then you are thinking in the right direction on how to holistically help your business leverage a TMS for the maximum ROI.
What is Cerasis’ approach to security, and how can shippers make sure that they aren’t opening up additional vulnerabilities?
All traffic between our customer’s web browser and our servers is encrypted. This ensures their sensitive company data is only visible by Cerasis at all times. Our mission critical applications such as the Cerasis Rater are hosted across multiple servers to ensure maximum availability, a fast response, and to ensure our application is there when you need to ship your products. Cerasis hosts its applications in a data center that is certified for HIPAA, PCI, FISMA and other regulatory standards. Cerasis, along with our data center partner, continuously maintain the certifications and compliance audits demanded by the diverse needs of our customers. Our web applications are secured via 2048-bit SSL and 256-bit encryption. All web facing applications are subject to a quarterly security scan and audit conducted by a 3rd party.
What steps can smaller logistics companies, and shippers for that matter, take to remain technologically competitive in a market dominated by large shippers and logistics companies?
I’ll begin by repeating a comment I made earlier. The challenge for smaller shippers is to first of all understand the solutions are there. They must be willing to do their research, be willing to change and potentially stop doing things the way they have always done things. For both smaller logistics providers and shippers, the technology advances make it possible for solutions to be developed and applied at all levels. I worked at a fortune 50 organization in Supply Chain Application for 25 years and the technology that was limited in years past is robust and attainable today. We help so many customers in such a variety of ways and it is usually the customer that limits that based on an unwillingness to change. Our biggest challenge is in change management not whether or not the solutions are applicable.
Is there anything else you would like to cover that we could work into this interview?
Few advancements over the past 20 years have been as beneficial to the supply chain as Transportation Management Systems, utilizing a solid 3PL partner to maximize those benefits. TMS applications usually work between a shipper’s order processing and distribution modules. The software examines various transportation scenarios, suggests routing solutions, and selects the best mode and the least-cost provider. Once the choice is made, the solution manages the load tendering and track and trace, performs freight bill audits and payments, conducts analytics and should provide excellent reporting.
With a good 3PL partner like Cerasis who fully understands your business model and vision they can bring additional solutions (24/7 Freight Desk, Claims Management, ERP Integration, E-commerce Platforms) costs savings, carriers and resources to the table to help you reach your goals. Regardless of your business size, the solutions and partners are there to help your business scale, be more efficient, have strong cost management and advance technologically.