Before a small business can optimise their transport management systems, it is important to step back and review the fundamentals of their operation. It is often easy to get caught up in the day-to-day processes of running a company and lurch from one problem to the next disaster which can lead to not being able to “see the wood for the trees.”
It takes a special kind of person to be able to manage the countless details perfectly as well as have the ability to understand the overall direction in which the company is heading and what internal as well as external influences may affect its future.
A clever small business manager will recognise that the best way to streamline operations is to outsource those functions which are capable of being performed better by a contracted expert so that he can concentrate on his own area of proficiency within his company. There can be issues with lost freight, damaged goods, unsigned P.O.D.’s, mis-directed or unattached con notes, late pick-ups as well as deliveries.
Cue the Freight Brokers, or as they are sometimes referred to as Third Party Logistics Managers. These are the people who have specialised in transport and who have gathered mutually beneficial relationships with a variety of pre-qualified carriers, resulting in a more efficient supply chain as well as being able to offer discounted rates because of their bulk grouping of clients.
Being a freight broker brings with it a certain amount of freedom and flexibility. Being able to offer a client the "best fit" carrier is part of the charm as opposed to working within the set rates and confines of an individual transport company. There is also an educational role to the client such as reviewing unreasonable expectations of delivery times, inaccurately completed con notes, incorrect weights and dimensions and badly packaged freight.
The sorts of questions that a 3PL consultant will need to ask a small business in order to reach a continuous improvement program are as follows:
- What does your company manufacture/distribute?
- How much do you spend on freight per annum?
- Do you have any dangerous goods?
- Do you require fork lifts/tailgates/side loaders?
- Can you provide current rates and which providers do you use?
- How is your freight packed: cartons/ pallets/pallecons/containers?
- Are you a decision maker?
- What challenges are you facing?
- What is your most pressing concern?
- Where do you go for information?
- Where are you located geographically?
Transport is quickly becoming more digitalised as we move towards the Internet of Things. This application is going to make it possible to keep track of individual items as well as their surroundings and condition. Each piece of freight will have its own Radio Frequency Identification chip which will be able to send information via a cloud-based GPS system about such data as identification, temperatures, location and current conditions.
The potential of this capacity will be enormous. Once the information is received, direct action can be taken to avoid damaged goods because the chip has the ability to signal oncoming adverse weather conditions, such as high temperature or humidity. They will be able to transmit traffic conditions and drive-specific data, such as average speed and driving patterns back to the central office. As supply chain and transportation visibility is vital, this type of technology is going to reap the rewards of highly satisfied customers as well as the improved Logistics Management for small businesses in Australia.