APIs Rising: Understanding the Newest Integration Technology

I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say the shipping ecosystem owes a huge debt of gratitude to EDI. Many decades after companies in numerous industries implemented it to enable electronic communications and change the way they did business, EDI is still alive and well.

But as APIs have ascended, I’ve seen them grow in popularity as the preferred means to integrate shippers and carriers. Why? The EDI approach positions middleware and transaction processing as a sort of middleman. That can take time and create inefficiencies in the supply chain.

In the shipping world, this has given rise to wider use of application programming interfaces (API) which allow tighter integration of shippers with carriers.

APIs allow for rapid onboarding of customers and their negotiated carrier rates into the Kuebix TMS. This can be done in the time it takes to book a flight online.

When it comes to connecting to ship, APIs eliminate the middleman, and create a direct connect that delivers critical information – such as tracking info on shipments – to both parties in the transaction. Better still, APIs are the easiest way to integrate functionality into transportation management systems (TMS).

Enter Integrations

Here’s where the payoff comes. TMS vendors such as Kuebix, have created a menu of integrations that can be added to the system to support added functionalities. Customers can add purchase order, bill of lading, and shipment status and tracking to streamline these processes.

And just like a diner-friendly restaurant, items not on the standard menu can be created or customized to the specific needs of the customer shipping freight.

TMS vendors can provide standard integrations that they have developed as well as integrations created by third parties, all so you can optimize supply chain management to meet the often-top corporate priority of cutting costs in the supply chain.

Once integrations have been added to a customer’s TMS, the time savings and streamlining can really begin. And it’s the beginning of the end for inefficiencies.

Integrations You Can Count On

Let’s take carrier invoice integration as an example. The shipper receives his or her invoices in the TMS for automatic invoice audit. If an invoice does not match the agreed upon rate for the shipment, the TMS will automatically create a rate exception claim. Sound great? It should, given that you can’t squeeze savings out of a process that you don’t directly control.

How about adding a purchase and sales order integration? Logistics managers can use their TMS to simplify the creation and tracking of true landed cost down to the SKU level and streamline shipping freight.

The hits will just keep coming in the form of additional integrations. Complex EDI, SOAP or REST integrations can be simplified with a standard or customer interface that seamlessly ties into an ERP system. That’s a big part of a supply chain management strategy.

What About EDI?

The rise of API integrations doesn’t mean an end to EDI integrations by any means. But those logistics managers looking to streamline and knock time out of common processes that are essential to their supply chain operations might want to check out the API approach and available integrations.

See how a carrier 210 integration works:

 

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Three Tips for Overcoming Common Supply Chain Problems that Cut into Profits

The salesperson that expedites an order to overnight airfreight because a customer calls to see why it hasn’t arrived yet, the supplier that isn’t being held accountable for its inability to fulfill an order on time, and the carrier that consistently fails to meet shipment delivery expectations all add costs to their companies’ supply chains.

To make matters worse, these three culprits are all either “on the inside” or acting as valuable outside partners for a firm whose supply chain is leaking revenues. Here are three ways to plug these leaks and ensure that you’re operating in the most cost-effective manner possible:

  1. Cut down on expedited freight shipments. No one really ever gets in trouble for expediting freight, even though it adds up to tremendous costs over time. This is where technology comes into the picture. Imagine a solution that establishes acceptable thresholds for expedited fees. If a requested shipment exceeds that threshold, a superior receives a message on his or her phone to either approve or deny the request.
  2. Hold external partners accountable. Companies don’t operate as silos anymore, and the supply chain as a whole has become increasingly interconnected. That puts pressure on companies to not only ensure that their own processes and procedures are running smoothly, but that their suppliers are also doing their jobs. Online collaboration portals, for example, not only enable interconnectivity between buyers and suppliers, but it also provides visibility over upcoming orders and potential delays.
  3. Question why things didn’t turn out as expected. When you rate your carriers, you probably look closely at key performance indicators (KPIs) like on-time delivery and total transportation costs, but the rest of the measures probably fall by the wayside. By using technology to centralize and more deeply analyze data, you can actually peel back the onion and figure out why an order didn’t arrive on time (i.e., a truck couldn’t pick up the freight as scheduled because the supplier didn’t have the shipment ready).

Tactical changes may work for fixing little problems across the supply chain, but for the best possible impact shippers really need to look more closely at how people are doing things and what can be done to make the process more efficient. Using technology to achieve complete supply chain visibility is a key component of this mission.

 

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The New “Little Black Book”

Think about it. Truck brokerages used to have these “little black books” filled with the contact names and numbers of independent drivers who were scattered throughout the country. When the brokerage needed a driver to haul a load across the U.S., it flipped through its black book and found one who was ready, willing, and able to handle the job.

Fast-forward to 2017 and the transportation environment has “come a long way baby,” as they say. There are about 7.8 million trucking companies operating on our roads with four or less trucks and most have no sales forces. While in the past these companies relied solely on brokerages to feed them their business, today the industry is turning to digital freight matching (DFM) platforms to serve as their modern-day little black books. “DFM lets shippers directly and almost immediately find drivers with capacity to transport their truckload, partial truckload, and less-than-truckload (LTL) freight on the right types of trucks on the dates and routes they need,” writes Industrial Distribution’s Andrew Kelley in Digital Freight Matching and the New Era of Freight Logistics.

“Shippers get competitive and transparent rates upfront and can track in-transit and delivery details so they always know the status of their shipments.” DFM also eliminates the protracted processes and added costs inherent in working through middlemen, Kelley notes. For drivers, DFM platforms provide “know-before-you-go” visibility upfront (i.e., insights into whether there’s a load at the drop-off to haul back).

At the most basic level, DFMs connect providers and ensure that the right entity is moving the right freight to the right place and at the right time. From a cost standpoint, DFMs replace more traditional rate negotiations and enhance visibility into those thousands of independent trucking firms. At any given time, for example, a shipper can see a truck’s location, have transparency over the associated costs, and gain insights into important points like on-time delivery.

Now here’s the best part:  By integrating DFMs with their transportation management systems (TMS), companies can access this whole new world of carriers and freight rates from a TMS that provide visibility and predictive analytics for optimal logistics decisions. I often joke that within minutes my 11-year-old daughter could begin processing shipments in Kuebix, and that the software would ensure that she’s making the right transportation decisions. That’s a pretty powerful thing, and it’s being driven by technology that streamlines processes and helps companies work much more efficiently than they ever did during the “black book” era of freight management.

 

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Don’t Let the Truck Driver Shortage Hit Your Bottom Line

Two years ago, American Trucking Associations was talking about a 50,000-person gap between the number of truck drivers currently working and the number of them needed to run the nation’s over-the-road (OTR) transportation network.

That gap has since widened and is expected to grow over the next few years.

In Who’s to Blame for the Trucker Shortage?, Wall Street Journal writer Lauren Weber writes about the industry’s 80-90% employee turnover levels (a number that fluctuates based on current shipment levels) and how that turnover impacts the trucking industry as a whole.

And in The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream, Steve Viscelli points out that many of the 800,000-or-so long-haul truckload carrier drivers are classified as independent contractors, meaning they receive no benefits, and are often barely making ends meet.

“It’s brutal on your family, on your body, on your life.” Viscelli told SupplyChainDigest, noting that turnover at some carriers is 300 percent. In other words, those companies are hiring three people for one job over the course of a year.

Regardless of the root cause, the driver shortage directly impacts shippers’ bottom lines and is pushing them to rethink the way they approach transportation. As it gets even more difficult to secure significantly discounted freight rates, the push will become even stronger.

And because no one is jumping at the chance to become a truck driver these days, shippers can’t just rely on extra capacity and sharp negotiating tactics with carriers to lower their costs. Add in the fact that companies like Amazon continue to push the envelope on two-day and next-day delivery windows and transportation’s role in the end-to-end supply chain becomes more vital than ever.

So what’s the answer? As transportation costs continue to climb, shippers have to get more creative. They need to step out of the box and think of new ways to gain efficiencies, drive cost reductions, and offset larger issues like the driver shortage.

That’s where technology comes into the picture. By giving shippers high levels of visibility across their entire transportation networks—and connectivity among all partners—cloud-based Transportation Management Systems (TMS) are helping companies connect in one place to less-than-truckload, truckload, and parcel carriers; receive real-time quotes using direct carrier rates; and request and receive spot quotes using a single shipment management interface.

At the end of the day, freight is becoming more complicated and expensive just as technology is becoming more sophisticated and comprehensive. In the future, all companies will not only have solid visibility over their transportation operations, but also real-time connectivity with all of their stakeholders.

To compete effectively and offset challenges like the truck driver shortage, shippers will have to think beyond the “beat up carriers and get lower rates” mentality and leverage technology to work better, smarter, and faster in our changing logistics world.

Watch this video to see how easy it is to create LTL, TL and parcel shipments in Kuebix

Try Kuebix Freight Rate Calculator to get LTL Freight Rate

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Big Data

Why is Big Data Such a Big Deal?

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 isn’t even immune to this problem. In 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, the ability to leverage information and use it to make better transportation and logistics decisions is readily available.

In fact, after accumulating terabytes of data over the years, most companies 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.

What This Means in Logistics

The impact data is having and will continue to have in the logistics industry can’t be overlooked. Companies are realizing the importance of integrating all modes of carriers and all related data into central data repositories for full visibility of everything from rates and tracking information, to complex reporting and score carding. And carrier data is just the first step. The goal is to pool data and allow collaboration among every key stakeholder in a supply chain both external (carriers, suppliers, customers, 3rd party systems) and internal (buyers, accounts payable, logistics, warehouse, procurement, executive team). When this is achieved, a whole new world of supply chain efficiency becomes possible.

To learn specific ways to initiate better data management in your organization, download our white paper “Effectively Managing Big Data in Your Supply Chain.” 

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