Food and beverage businesses have complex supply chains with many unique characteristics: ever-changing customer tastes, tight margins on store shelves, fresh products that may spoil, expiration dates on products, and more. Getting the right volume of products at the right time, and at the right location, is no easy task. Visibility into and control of supply chain processes will allow food and beverage businesses to address these challenges while meeting business goals.
Frequently overlooked and often pushed to the bottom of a shipper’s supply chain agenda, good inbound freight management can help companies improve shipment visibility, save money, and enhance customer service—all of which add to the bottom line and boost profitability. Done right, inbound freight management does more than just help companies gain an understanding of where their shipments are in real time. It also enables better relationships with carriers and suppliers for consolidation efforts, establishes routing guides that lead to much better dock efficiency, and empowers strategies for continuous improvement initiatives.
Food and beverage companies get dozens of deliveries a day from different suppliers. These inbound shipments aren’t coordinated or consolidated, fostering inefficiencies from the excess number of deliveries. Little visibility into arrival times and frequent changes to inbound deliveries wreaks havoc at the dock and warehouse, which can make accessorial charges skyrocket and your inbound transport costs go off the charts.
Small to large food and beverage companies have found a TMS to be the perfect tool for addressing the many challenges that come with managing inbound freight. For example, one food retailer that operates over 200 stores across seven states had a couple hundred LTL deliveries per week, but by using Kuebix TMS, they were able to lower the number of deliveries to 20 or 30 per week by combining LTL deliveries into full truckload deliveries from the consolidation points. The typical cost for unloading a truck is $200, leading to approximately $34,000 in savings per week just on unloading costs!
Here are three steps you can take to start managing your inbound freight more effectively today:
1. Partner with your suppliers to lay out a plan of action. Determine the most cost-effective and efficient way to ship and unload your freight, and build a plan with your suppliers that benefits both parties. There is no “magic number” for a percentage of shipments that should be vendor-controlled vs. customer controlled. Give your suppliers a choice so that they can select the most effective service and billing procedure. Then, implement a standard routing guide for supplier compliance. This will establish a set of mandatory guidelines that will be used for all vendor-controlled (VDS) and customer pick-up (CPU) shipments. Supplier compliance programs reduce your cost of goods by making your carriers and warehouse more efficient. In the event your suppliers fail to comply, they will share in your cost through violations outlined in the routing guide.
2. Create strong alliances with your carriers. Consolidate inbound shipments to full truckload wherever possible to reduce freight and unloading costs. Reducing the number of individual LTL shipments will decrease the cost of freight, dramatically increasing the efficiency of your distribution center and significantly reducing unloading costs. Think how much more efficient your operations will be with fewer trucks and fewer deliveries. For example, unloading 10 to 14 different LTL shipments can be five times the cost of unloading a single truckload. The customer and the supplier can share all of these savings through the efficiency of consolidated shipments and drop trailer programs. By consolidating your LTL pool, you can simplify yard management and maximize consolidation opportunities. Select carriers that provide attractive rates and superior service and try to limit that set to two to four different carriers, whether the shipments are CPU or VDS. This will give each carrier enough business to ensure LTL consolidation does not affect service levels. Having a strong partnership with your carriers also opens up other opportunities for additional savings such as backhaul agreements with LTL carriers to consolidate freight to single truckload for pick up by your own fleet for the final mile.
3. Leverage technology to your advantage. Utilize a transportation management system (TMS) to maximize inbound freight management. For example, leverage your TMS to implement an allowance program for freight costs and unloading expenses with your suppliers. In most cases, allowances are negotiated once or twice a year, and rarely take into account fluctuating costs and carrier rates. Oftentimes, market rates rise above negotiated rates. Kuebix TMS enables the creation of dynamic rate allowances to ensure savings on both TL and LTL shipments by calculating the best possible real-time vendor allowances based on actual carrier rates as demand dictates. Additionally, a TMS will also automate tracking, scheduling and door assigned, which will directly reduce your labor spend. Finally, if you cannot measure something it is hard to improve it. An effective TMS will capture every relevant piece of data and return reports, dashboards and scorecards that allow you to analyze your inbound freight program and identify opportunities for increased efficiency.
Ultimately, good inbound freight management facilitated by technology helps shippers achieve cost and productivity goals that very often get overlooked in the logistics space. By taking a step back and gaining a better understanding of your current inbound environment—then working with suppliers and carriers to come up with a plan of action to improve it—you’ll be able to leverage all of the market’s capacity, get the best rates, and gain better visibility over your end-to-end supply chain.
To learn more about optimizing your inbound read “The Art of the Inbound”.