Is it Possible to Fully Automate Shipping?

Cloud-based TMS software provides tools needed to achieve transportation optimization
Saving money is paramount in today’s freight market. As e-commerce and omnichannel supply chains continue to undergo digital transformation, shippers need more effective, robust strategies for managing freight. In recent years, the use of the terms automation and advanced functions have become commonplace and synonymous with best-in-class supply chain strategies. Unfortunately, shippers fall victim to many misconceptions, including a false belief that it is impossible to automate all processes fully. Let’s take a closer look at why this belief exists, how to automate shipping, and a few tips to keep cost control in place.

Wait…Some Processes Require a Human Element

Let’s approach the misconception of automation from an area of shipping that is often seen as impossible to automate — carrier procurement practices. What defines an essential procurement practice? Shippers review available drivers, assess their credentials, determine if enough routes are available, and more. Each of these processes can be completed automatically, notes FreightWaves, relying on algorithms and analytics to make the decisions. As technology evolves, automation can handle virtually anything, including the review of returned products for damage, identifying customer service successes and failures, and rerouting drivers in real-time using connected, smart apps.

To Automate Shipping, Make It Digital, Easy-to-Use

There was a time when automation was an out-of-bounds technology for many shippers. Investing in new technology can be expensive, and even when done correctly, employees may push back against the threat of the “Robot Apocalypse.” Within the transportation industry, automation involves both virtual and physical processes, such as scheduling freight for pickup or delivery, as well as giving truckers the “green light” to move their trailers to the dock. The reality is simple: any repetitive process can be automated. BY DEFINITION, THE SUPPLY CHAIN IS A REPETITIVE PROCESS. The solution to automating anything in the supply chain is to make it easy to use and rely on digital systems that run independently of people and provide real-time information. This demand accounts for the increased investments in digital shipping and logistics of more than $3.3 billion from January 2012 through September 2017, says iContainers.

Tips to Enable Full Automation in All Repetitive, Cost-Intrusive Processes

There are millions of ways to automate processes within the supply chain. Connecting to carrier scheduling platforms via an EDI or API is one way to automate. Another resides in automating the carrier review process, choosing the least expensive solution. Shippers can also automate performance tracking and measurement, using dashboards to recognize when a problem with a carrier exists automatically. The opportunities are endless. Instead of trying to follow a finite series of steps to automate, shippers must approach each opportunity with a standard idea of automation.
For example, shippers should ask these questions when determining how to automate a given process:
  • What is wrong with the current operation, and where are its costs occurring?
  • Is the current operation a repetitive process?
  • Do the carriers and supply chain parties involved in this transaction use technology to automate their management?
  • Can I quantify the efficiency of this process and justify the investment to automate shipping for this specific process, such as immediate driver-load matching?
  • Can an algorithm make decisions affecting the successful delivery and solicitation of customer feedback for this transaction?
The last tip sounds negative, but everyone has received an automated email after an item has been delivered, asking to provide feedback about their experience. While the interaction occurs automatically, it gives the perception of personalized and caring interest in satisfaction. Regardless of what processes shippers wish to automate, one thing is clear: they need a modern, software-as-a-service (SaaS) based transportation management system (TMS).

Reap the Benefits of an Automated TMS to Automate Shipping Now

Shippers need to rethink their fulfillment strategies to stay competitive. Instead of relying on old, outdated processes, shippers must evolve their operations with automation. Fortunately, an automated TMS is one of the most effective and productive ways to automate the entire shipping management process.

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