As the crisis from the Covid-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the complex workings of the United States’ supply chain have been thrust into the general public’s view. There are shortages of toilet paper, food items, and over the counter medications just to name a few. Lockdowns of communities, counties, and states are causing backups and decreased available freight capacity. Workers are moving to remote work setups and need to find new ways to collaborate and to efficiently manage logistics operations from anywhere. One thing’s for certain, however, logistics and supply chain companies remain the backbone of the U.S. economy and way of life.
So, how do supply chains continue to function smoothly during such an unprecedented and unplanned-for crisis?
Supply Chain Challenges During Covid-19
Unlike with a hurricane or other natural disaster, Covid-19 comes with a number of unforeseen challenges. For example, staple products like flour and beans are flying off of shelves while more specialty items see a complete halt in sales. Forecasters can use historical data to plan for the response needed to a natural disaster. With Covid-19, the supply chain’s ‘symptoms’ are completely unforecast, leaving manufacturers and distributors either with excess inventory or un-meetable demand.
Not only are demand forecasts completely unreliable, but there is added confusion as most companies switch to remote-working models. Instead of coming into the office to manage shipping, teams must connect over the internet to manage freight operations. Without a technological framework in place, many teams may be left struggling to stay afloat.
This shake-up of standard shipping procedures has also resulted in disruptions in lanes and carrier availability. In an effort to provide some relief to companies shipping essential goods, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 18th issued an expanded national emergency declaration that provides hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers. Commenting on this dramatic change, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao said, “The nation’s truck drivers are on the front lines of this effort and are critical to America’s supply chain.”
According to a new report from Gartner, ¹How Digitized Freight Platforms and Other Transportation Technologies Can Help With Current Domestic Transportation Capacity Challenges, “As capacity decreases, shippers are confronted with increasing volumes of tender rejections and increasing rates.” Volatility in capacity and pricing is expected to continue even after the worst of the pandemic passes. Price gouging will also likely become a wider-spread issue as some entities see an opportunity to make extra cash during the crisis.
In order to ‘weather the storm’ and emerge on the other side set up for success, shipping companies should be turning to technology now to connect with additional truck capacity and collaborate with supply chain stakeholders working remotely.
Leveraging Cloud-Based Technology for Collaboration
For many companies, day-to-day collaboration takes the form of email, phone calls and shared Excel sheets to manage freight. Cloud-based transportation management systems like Kuebix TMS have changed that narrative. Now, with the help of technology, every supply chain stakeholder from the logistics department, AR/AP, sales and customer service can collaborate in a single system and work off of the same transportation information. In addition to internal collaboration, teams can digitally access their carrier connections to quote and tender freight without ever picking up the phone.
As remote work becomes the standard for companies across the country amid the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that organizations move their logistics operations to the cloud to improve collaboration. By leveraging a cloud-based TMS like Kuebix TMS, teams can work off of the same set of information, maintain historical data for analysis and digitally connect with carriers for rating, booking, tracking and managing freight.
Connecting with Digitized Freight Platforms to Find Additional Capacity
Even finding real-time capacity and pricing for domestic freight may seem like a challenge right now, especially for companies relying on the same small set of carrier partners during this crisis. In order to get set up with the best chance of covering every load optimally, shippers need to ‘build their bench’ of carriers. With a wider selection of carrier partners to choose from, the likelihood of optimally covering every load increases dramatically.
The best way for shippers to quickly and easily build their bench is to connect digitally with a vast network of carriers. Instead of negotiating every spot quote in a piecemeal fashion, shippers can instead turn to their connected community to request bids en-masse and tender freight. From here, shippers can build direct relationships with carriers in the network and negotiate new contracted carrier rates as needed.
Kuebix Community Load Match is a platform that allows any Kuebix TMS user to quickly connect to a vast ecosystem of dedicated truckload carriers, brokers, freight marketplaces and direct carrier assets. The platform enables shippers to request and compare spot rates from their carriers and the Kuebix community with the touch of a button, while retaining control of their freight by choosing the carrier or broker directly. Users’ job is simplified by tendering all shipments using one system for spot quoting as well as booking with regularly negotiated carrier rates. Instead of switching between carrier websites or hammering the phone, shippers can instead view all of their bids in a single place to choose the best one for their freight.
By connecting digitally with a platform like Kuebix Community Load Match, shippers can quickly build their bench of carriers and get prepared for the inevitable surges in demand for capacity arising from this crisis.
How Kuebix is Helping Shippers During Covid-19
At Kuebix, a Trimble company, we know that keeping the supply chain moving matters more now than ever as businesses battle through the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s why we are offering 60-days free of our award-winning Kuebix Business Pro TMS to help companies during Covid-19. As many of us switch to remote operations, cloud-based TMS technology like Kuebix can help shippers collaborate within their supply chains and gain access to the carriers and capacity they need.
¹Gartner, How Digitized Freight Platforms and Other Transportation Technologies Can Help With Current Domestic Transportation Capacity Challenges, 2 April 2020