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Blockchain and Cloud-based Platforms Usher In New Era of Complex Data Streams in Freight Shipping

Blockchain and cloud-based platforms are revolutionizing the way logistics operations are being conducted around the world. Big Data has been a hot topic in the industry for years, but the way to truly harness it has remained out of reach for many companies. Blockchain technologies and cloud-based platforms are changing the narrative. Now, complex data streams from logistics operations are being funneled through these technologies to make shipping freight more efficient as supply chains continue to become more complex.

What is Blockchain?

According to Merriam-Webster, blockchain is “a digital database containing information (such as records of financial transactions) that can be simultaneously used and shared within a large decentralized, publicly accessible network.”

In layman’s terms, blockchain is a technology that lets companies track and initiate an action based on a digital or physical event. For example, blockchain technology can help trace contaminated food products when there has been a safety recall. Blockchain technologies act as a single source of truth that can be referred back to at any time, much like a ledger for every interaction. Here are 30+ Real Examples of Blockchain Technology In Practice from Forbes.

What are Cloud-based Platforms in the Supply Chain?

Cloud-based platforms in the supply chain are also streamlining Big Data repositories and making them actionable and transparent. Platforms such as cloud-based enterprise management systems (ERP), transportation management systems (TMS), and warehouse management systems (WMS) can track and trace the lifecycle of a product from initial order all the way through customer returns. When these systems integrate and combine with external tracking devices, they can have the same benefits as blockchain as a service (BaaS) technologies, only in a more accessible form.

ELDs, RFIDs, GPS, Sensors and Gate Check Technologies

Tracking technology is becoming more prevalent as costs associated with implementation lessen. Blockchain and cloud-based platforms consolidate all of the data generated by devices like ELDs, RFIDs, GPS, Sensors and Gate Check technologies into actionable reports and dashboards. Actions can even be predetermined to initiate when a physical or digital event type occurs. Now, companies can retain real-time visibility to their pallets, trucks, drivers, and even individual products no matter where they are in the supply chain.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review describes how blockchain and platforms will transform logistics. “Data created by sensors, ERP systems, inventory palettes, and shipping events can automatically add records to the blockchain, which can launch cascading events farther along the value chain.” Being able to see the moment when a container leaves the port and being able to track individual products from that container to customers is a level of visibility that hasn’t been available before.

Why do Supply Chains Need These Types of Technology?

Our world is shrinking, metaphorically. Globalization has made it commonplace for an end product to contain materials from all over the world. When you buy an iPhone, you may actually be buying an accelerometer from Germany, a battery from China, a camera from Japan, a Gyroscope from Switzerland and a glass screen for the United States. Being able to track and initiate actions based on completed events such as when a shipment of batteries has left the port in Shanghai speeds up the supply chain and mitigates risk.

Customer expectations around visibility and speed are also increasing, almost exponentially. 15 years ago, it may have been acceptable to receive an order purchased online in 3 – 4 weeks. Now, consumers are demanding their products in as few as 2 days, with 1-day shipping and even 1-hour shipping already on many retailers’ minds. Amazon’s 1-day delivery promise to their Prime members has added pressure to companies just now becoming used to faster shipping times. With blockchain or a cloud-based, data-centralizing platform, companies can initiate actions to keep their supply chains moving without waiting for a physical paper trail to catch up.

According to FedEx business fellow and blockchain strategist, Dale Chrystie:

“Twenty year ago, you put the word ‘internet’ in front of everything and now you don’t. Today, we’re putting the word ‘blockchain’ in front of everything and I don’t think we’re going to in the future; it’s just going to be the way it works.”

Big Data has proved lucrative to those companies who have been able to harness it to understand their customers and streamline their logistics operations. New blockchain technologies and cloud-based platforms are providing this opportunity to companies worldwide, but the changing market structure may appear too complex for some. Companies that adapt quickly will find that they gain a competitive advantage over those companies that do not leverage technology in their freight shipping.

 

breaking down tms transportation management system jargon kuebix

Breaking Down Transportation Management System (TMS) Jargon

There is a lot of jargon associated with transportation management systems (TMS) that many people find hard to navigate at first. You may never have come across some terms if you don’t have a history of working with TMSs or other forms of tech. The saying “it’s all Greek to me!” might spring to mind.

If you find yourself lost in TMS jargon, take a look at this list of some of the most common phrases and terms used when talking about transportation management systems.

Transportation Management System (TMS)

This one might seem obvious, but actually understanding what a TMS does is crucial before you can understand how the other terms relate. A TMS is a collection of tools housed under a single umbrella technology that help supply chain professionals manage transportation operations. These systems usually sit in between ordering systems (ERPs) and warehouse management systems (WMS) and help streamline rating, booking, and visibility to orders, among other things.

Integration

The term Integration in regards to a TMS means to digitally connect the TMS with another, external system. Intuitively, an integration is a pairing or merging of two entities, ie two pieces of software. Common integrations to a TMS include ERP integrations, API integrations and e-Commerce integrations. Information flows between the TMS and the external system that is integrated.

Software as a Service

Software as a Service, more commonly known as SaaS, is a method of delivering software to users. The software is accessed via a subscription model as opposed to being paid for and owned by the end-customer. This makes implementation, managing issues and getting updates much easier.

Cloud-based

This term is used to refer to a piece of software that was built to be accessed from the internet or “cloud.” Cloud-based applications or services are available on demand via a provider’s cloud computing servers. Cloud-based TMSs are becoming more common as supply chain professionals increasingly need to access their systems remotely.

On-premise

On-premise is the opposite of cloud-based software. Instead of the software being housed online, the software is installed and runs on local computers. This was the first method of selling software and has become an outdated model as the benefits of cloud-based software become even more apparent. On-premise TMSs are becoming obsolete as cloud-based ones are implemented quicker, return faster ROI, and are generally easier to manage.

Managed Services

Transportation-related managed services are programs provided to companies wishing to partially or fully outsource management of their logistics operations. Some companies choose to outsource certain processes to experts to gain efficiencies and dedicate more time to other areas of their business. These programs are often run in tandem with transportation management systems.

Logistics Community

A logistics community is a collaborative group of shippers and carriers around the world. Members of the community benefit from opportunities to collaborate and community-specific functions like truckload spot markets. Communities can be built around a TMS and foster an environment where freight savings and efficiencies can be gained.

Optimization

When someone talks about optimization and TMS together, they are usually talking about load and route optimization capabilities. Advanced TMSs offer optimization tools to their users to build perfect loads based on a variety of parameters. Instead of manually pouring over spreadsheets, TMS users with Optimization functionality can automatically build consolidated loads and route them efficiently.

Cloud-Based TMS Kuebix

Why a Cloud-Based TMS is Better

A decade ago, if you wanted a TMS, you had to buy the software and install it within your organization. Today that has changed as more TMSs are moving to the cloud. Transportation management systems (TMS) based in the cloud are being adopted at faster rates than ever before. Industry analyst firm Gartner sees a 15% growth in TMS usage within small- to mid-sized businesses with some vendors reporting more than 20% growth.

So why are cloud-based TMSs growing in popularity?

We can think of 10 good reasons:

  1. Lower Barriers to Entry – Upfront expenditures related to hardware and software are eliminated with a cloud-based TMS allowing businesses of any-size to gain access to the technology. No longer do companies have to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars on installed software. Instead, with a cloud-based TMS, you pay subscription or usage fees.
  2. Enhancements Made Easy – The cloud-based TMS software provider is responsible for upgrades and enhancements to its solution, which includes maintaining the application and ensuring its availability and reliability. Most application upgrades can be easily deployed automatically, eliminating the need for internal IT staff involvement.
  3. Connectivity – Cloud-based computing enables the TMS to connect to a global group of supply chain trading partners. As more and more carriers, shippers and suppliers connect to this network of trading partners, the ability to collaborate and conduct business with more and more companies brings value to the participants. Under a cloud model, the TMS can become a central marketplace where you connect to a variety of supply chain stakeholders.
  4. Flexibility as You Grow – Cloud-based TMS systems offer lots of flexibility, starting with basic features that can be easily upgraded with additional functionality as your business needs change. Start with the ability to rate, book and track shipments, then add other features as needed – from predictive analytics to freight bill audit/payment and more.
  5. Level the Playing Field – Deploying a cloud-based TMS levels the playing field as businesses of any size have access to a larger variety of rates and carriers, allowing your business a greater chance to get better rates.
  6. Software Always Up & Running – Cloud-based TMS vendors deploy their systems across multiple data centers to ensure 24/7/365 operations. So, no matter if there is a widespread power outage or weather-related event, you will have access to the TMS and your data to ensure you can always get your products out the door.
  7. Fastest Route to Implementation – Cloud-based TMS systems are easy to deploy and easy to use with typical start-up within minutes or a few hours. Some systems offer online how-to videos to help new users begin.
  8. Faster ROI – Cloud-based TMS users get a faster return on investment (ROI) because of the low upfront investment and quicker start-up. You’ll be up and running quicker, making smarter decisions on rates and carriers.
  9. Smarter Shipping Decisions – Smarter decisions can be made by your transportation operations team by leveraging actionable reports and dashboards within a TMS housed on the cloud. Every transaction is captured and can be analyzed for improvements in service levels, freight spend, KPIs and more.
  10. Lower Freight Spend – Using a cloud-based TMS will lower your freight spend, reports say between 10 – 20% on average, because you have more choices of modes and access to more carriers and lanes.

A cloud-based transportation management system like Kuebix TMS offers a wide variety of benefits for shippers. Before you take the plunge with a new cloud-based TMS, use this Complete Buyer’s Guide to figure out exactly what your needs are!

We Reached 1000 and Counting

New users that is. And more are still being added.

Shippers are so excited about Kuebix Shipper – the world’s first free multimodal Transportation Management System (TMS) software – that we have been rapidly adding them to our worldwide shipping community. We’ve gotten over 1000 new shippers in the first weeks since our announcement.

With Kuebix Shipper, you are able to choose the mode, speed, service level and cost you need to ship orders. Previously the ability to use a TMS was prohibited for small to medium-sized businesses. Now any size business can benefit from a TMS with Kuebix Shipper.

Not only do shippers have the ability to rate, book, track and manage their TL, LTL and parcel shipments, they also gain the benefit of the community.

Why is a global shipping community important?

A large global community of shippers and service providers facilitates matching demand with capacity across supply chains, helping to fill trucks better and more efficiently. With collaboration across the community, shippers can schedule backhaul transactions, foster continuous moves and consolidate loads – giving value to everyone in the community. No longer seen as a cost center, transportation operations gain the respect of the C-Suite.

Shippers focused on reducing freight spend can take advantage of this community for immediate results. They will save thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars on freight spend through communal collaboration, along with garnering much-needed capacity during the holiday season and beyond. Shippers can collaborate with others across supply chains to cash in on lower rates resulting in increased supply chain efficiency.

Shippers are spending millions on freight and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process due to inefficiencies, non-optimal mode selection and discrepancies. Kuebix Shipper is changing all that by being available to all businesses for no charge – giving them visibility into their freight operations – and lowering their overall transportation spend.

TMS Options Proliferate, But Not for All

This is the second in a three-part series that tracks the evolution of the TMS from the late 1990s to today. In last week’s piece I discussed the emergence of the TMS. Next week I’ll discuss the future.

When we last left transportation management systems (TMS), the high price and staff requirements of the early systems had created two groups of freight shippers, the haves, which could afford the high expense of on-prem big-box systems, and a far larger group of have-nots.

The needs of shippers struggling to replace manual processes with automation, drove widespread developments of new products, services and third parties. Most of these used different approaches for addressing the huge need for efficiency in supply chains. Meanwhile, the maturity of cloud computing was driving changes across industries and was just beginning to gain traction in logistics.

The lineup of options for shippers looking to improve their logistics operations included on-site system vendors, services from 3rd party logistics providers, and a shallow pool of companies looking to leverage the software-as-as-service model and approach to locating system intelligence.

Word from Above

But what lead to cold sweats for shippers was all the best practice and success stories that the tech trades and even the business media were running. They featured pioneering companies that had implemented a solution to cure their shipping ills and were said to be on the leading edge of technology use for business gain.

That started the deluge of direct questions from C-level executives.

Are we checking out TMSs? Is this something for us? Can we save money? Why haven’t we done this? C-level execs started believing that their companies could quickly turn their freight shipping into a profit center from a cost center.

It didn’t matter that the price for a TMS was too high or that many of the options covered one aspect of shipping but not many others.

TMS Affordability?

You’d think for sure that a growing group of TMS options would benefit all shippers desperately seeking freight intelligence. The reality was that TMSs were still not accessible to most businesses in the U.S. The have-nots could find affordable freight handling options, but that meant paying a third party to handle their freight shipping function.

For most, price as in the TCO, was the single largest impediment to implementing a system that would enable logistics professionals to truly manage their freight transportation. Isn’t it ironic that the sticker price of TMS options and alternative is what was keeping the have-nots from cutting costs and generating new revenue?

Clear Forecast

With the maturity of the cloud, it became clear that locating a TMS software product on a platform in the network  and sold as-a-(monthly)-service would break down the many barriers to implementation that so many businesses of all sizes were up against.

This opportunity sure got the attention of shippers who had all but given up on an on-site TMS and wanted something that was both flexible in architecture and easier to cost justify to their bosses.

An Easier Sell

Many enterprise freight shippers moved from controlled freight chaos to the cloud and found that advances in platform technology and automation from TMS software made for easier installation and a faster return on investment.

But while a growing mass of businesses were putting cloud-based TMSs to the test – and turning a cost center to a profit center, SMBs, which I believe make up over 90% of all U.S. businesses, still couldn’t justify a TMS spend. Some outsourced their operations to 3PLs. Others were stuck with their inefficient status quo.

Believe me, whether you’re a kid or a shipping professional nothing’s worse than watching someone else get, enjoy (and profit from), something great that you can’t have.

In the final installment of this three-part series, I’ll explain how important changes in the evolution of the TMS will define the future of freight shipping. Thanks for staying tuned!

 

 

 

 

TMS for All? – Life in the Slow Lane

This is the first in a three-part series and is set in the late 1990s.

When it came to understanding what an early TMS could do for shippers, it was a classic example of the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Buried in paper, faxing, emails and phone calls only to have skilled staff manually enter order data into Excel spreadsheets, shipping managers at small and midsize businesses had no idea what cost cutting and revenue generation opportunities they were missing.

These logistics professionals, however, became painfully aware of problems with this approach when mistakes were made, deliveries were delayed, costs were added and actual shipping limped along at a snail’s pace. Even worse, freight costs were climbing.

And nobody was happy. Shippers had no means to apply their logistics and supply chain skills. AR and AP were calling in with problems. Customers experienced a lack of consistency with some deliveries. And those seeking the status of their shipments faced long waits or went without. Updates were available in unreal time.

All this sounds like a scary movie, with shippers lacking visibility into and control of their supply chains, but it was real life before small and midsize business (SMB) had any technology-driven systems to help shoulder the freight shipping load. It’s tough to solve a pressing problem without a solution.

Is Bigger Better?

While SMBs struggled mightily with daily shipping operations, logistics managers at some of the world’s large corporations were beginning to implement something called a TMS. Back then, what passed for a transportation management system was essentially an on-site hardware platform with software.

The TMS was pricey to say the least, took forever to implement and needed staff on hand to handle its care and feeding, which included installing seemingly endless software upgrades and scrambling to react in the event of an emergency at the location at which it resided. (Single point of failure).

Early big-box TMSes were quite expensive.

And having spent megabucks on the TMS and committed to a multi-year contract for the onsite system, came almost unimaginable pressure from C-level execs to start showing a ROI, after the big-box-and-software system finally went live.

Back to the Past

I don’t have any issues with early TMSes whatsoever, especially as I was in the freight shipping business during this era. The options were seriously limited and were limited to the large corporations willing to spend and commit big to one of these on-prem box systems.

Remember, it was the onsite approach or no approach at all. Everything was on site without viable hosted options way back then. Phone systems, mainframes, data centers, storage, servers and all software were at the company site. And all these key IT infrastructure and processing elements require administration, management, monitoring and oversight.

Ask around to see who remembers long-distance calls, wired phone systems or life before real working from home. And you thought VCRs flashing 12:00 are funny.

The early days of TMSes were primitive

The Road Ahead

All the while, a new era of computing was dawning that would give rise to the broader application of advanced technology that would set the stage for the early days of freight intelligence and TMS options that more companies and their overworked logistics departments could begin to consider for their shipping needs.

Tune in next week, as I continue the freight shipping story forward toward more modern-day technology approaches that gave rise to TMS solutions and alternatives for a broader base of businesses.

Everyone wants to get their hands on advanced new tech products and service, but only a subset can afford it. Change that with a free 30-day trial of Kuebix TMS today.

4 Ways to Tame Big Data Overload

Good data management allows companies to more efficiently and effectively orchestrate their global supply chains. The good news is that leading organizations have found ways to harness their data in creative, intelligent ways and, in return, have gained competitive advantage.

Here are 4 ways that companies are taming their big data and using it to their advantage:

1. Connecting all of their business partners on a single, integrated, cloud-based platform. By connecting all of your business partners, suppliers, customers, and other entities via a single, cloud-based platform that’s accessible 24/7/365, all parties gain extreme efficiencies and improved data management capabilities.

2. Leveraging the data to improve global logistics planning. Look at how incoming data can be used to plan logistics movements (e.g., freight, ordering, carrier relationships, etc.), then consider how your company can be more efficient by leveraging the data housed in its central repository. This, in turn, leads to significant transportation and logistics efficiencies.

3. Gaining real-time supply chain visibility by breaking down information silos. By gaining real-time visibility over the information, and then sharing those insights with all stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, customers, carriers, accounting, logistics, warehousing, etc.), companies can effectively break down any existing information “silos” within their supply chains.

4. Optimize internal processes using regular audits. Don’t just set it and forget it. Continually ask questions like, “Was there a better way we could have moved this freight?” or “Were there other, more cost-effective modes available?” The answers will help you find better ways to do things in the future.

For companies that want to break out of data fatigue mode and begin leveraging their valuable data, the best first step is to take inventory of current, available data and then decide how that information can be parlayed into actionable business intelligence. Then ask yourself what data—from a strategic perspective—will truly help your company achieve its current and future goals.

The Kuebix Team recently released a white paper on effective management of supply chain big data. Download it for free here

A Clear Industry View

Dan Clark_3274_reduced

Dan Clark, Founder & President, Kuebix

The logistics industry revolution has begun. Technology is empowering supply chain visibility, control and collaboration that was unimaginable just a few years ago. My experience dates back more than two decades when, while working as a supervisor at a major LTL carrier, I spent my days walking the dock and learning everything I could about freight. I quickly worked my way up in the industry and at the age of 28 I was regional director of one of the largest freight divisions in the northeast, and from there became a divisional vice president overseeing 23 terminals.

While at USF group, I helped standardize business process across five different LTL companies and worked with the IT team to develop software applications to automate these processes. Back in 2007, I saw the emergence of cloud technology, knew the impact it would have on logistics, and founded one of the first true cloud-based transportation management systems, Kuebix.

Today, companies are looking more than ever at opportunities in the supply chain to increase efficiencies and bottom line dollars. Over the course of my career, I have met with thousands of companies and almost all of them have shared a common problem – pain points in their shipping process. Many companies outsourced shipping to third party logistics companies (3PLs), which have come to play a huge role in the industry. However, emerging players fueled by technology are challenging their dominance. This kind of disintermediation is not a new phenomenon; we’ve seen the impact on the travel and movie rental industries to name a few. Remember going to Blockbuster on a Saturday night?

Don’t worry, trucking isn’t going anywhere. Until someone invents a device that transports packages through space and time, almost everything will continue to be moved by trucks. However, what is changing is the inefficiency of an old school industry.

I believe that complete supply chain visibility is paramount for business success in this evolving marketplace. In Supply Chain 20/20, I offer my industry knowledge, opinions, insights and predictions as we witness the evolution of logistics. I hope that you will join the conversation by sharing and commenting on my posts. The time is now for the logistics industry to change. Get ready to embrace the change or be left behind!

Overwhelmed by Data? Time to Tame the Information Overload and Use it to Your Advantage

If the amount of data flowing into, out of, and within the four walls of your company is out of control, you’re not alone. Organizations of all sizes are experiencing the impact of the Information Age, and even government agencies admit that they’re feeling overwhelmed by data fatigue right now.

The National Security Administration is no exception. The NSA is so overwhelmed with data, it’s no longer effective, says whistleblower, William Binney, a former NSA official who spent more than three decades at the agency, said the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs have become so engorged with data that they are no longer effective, losing vital intelligence in the fray.

Credit that fact that the world’s data volumes have grown in astronomical leaps over the last few years with creating this level of data fatigue. And as the variety and velocity of data has grown, the usefulness of traditional data warehousing strategies has decreased exponentially.

It Keeps Going and Going and Going…

By 2025, research firm IDC believes the total amount of digital data created by the world will reach 180 zettabytes, up from 4.4 zettabytes in 2013. The astounding growth comes from both the number of devices generating data as well as the number of sensors in each device… approximately 11 billion devices connect to the Internet now. The figure is expected to nearly triple to 30 billion by 2020 and then nearly triple again to 80 billion five years later.

What many companies don’t realize is that with effective management of big data, this type of actionable information—and then using it to make informed transportation and logistics decisions—is readily available.

In fact, after accumulating terabytes of data over the years, most firms already have the foundational information right within their own four walls. The challenge lies in extracting this data, determining which of it is (and isn’t) useful, and then turning that information into actionable insights.

This is where good data management comes into play and allows companies to more efficiently and effectively orchestrate their global supply chains. The good news is that leading organizations have found ways to harness their data in creative, intelligent ways and, in return, have gained competitive advantage. They’re doing it by:

  • Connecting all of their business partners on a single, integrated, cloud-based platform. By connecting all of your business partners, suppliers, customers, and other entities via a single, cloud-based platform that’s accessible 24/7/365, all parties gain extreme efficiencies and improved data management capabilities.
  • Leveraging the data to improve global logistics planning. Look at how incoming data can be used to plan logistics movements (e.g., freight, ordering, carrier relationships, etc.), then consider how the data that’s in your central repository can make your firm more efficient using its current resources. This, in turn, leads to significant transportation and logistics efficiencies.
  • Gaining real-time supply chain visibility by breaking down information silos. By gaining real-time visibility over the information, and then sharing those insights with all stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, customers, carriers, accounting, logistics, warehousing, etc.), companies can effectively break down any traditional information “silos” that might exist within their supply chains.
  • Optimize internal processes using regular audits. Don’t just set it and forget it. Continually ask questions like, “Was there a better way we could have moved this freight?” or “Were there other, more cost-effective modes available?” The answers will help you find better ways to do things in the future.

For companies that want to break out of data fatigue mode and begin leveraging their valuable data, the best first step is to take inventory of current, available data and then decide how that information can be parlayed into actionable business intelligence. Then ask yourself what data—from a strategic perspective—will truly help your company achieve its current and future goals.

Kuebix offers a next generation transportation management system that acts as a central data repository for a company’s entire supply chain. To learn more about how Kuebix can help you better manager your company’s data as discussed in this article, contact us today at sales@kuebix.com