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Integrating Technology and Carriers to Streamline Logistics

By Russ Marky, SVP & CIO, Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corporation

Russ Marky, SVP & CIO, Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corporation

When it comes to logistics, technology plays a large part in connecting all of the critical stages, components and external partners together. Today’s systems can automate work processes and take the labor out, boost visibility and remove costs to optimize shipping.

However, partner integration in the field of logistics has lagged behind other industries in leveraging newer technologies. There are general perceptions in the industry that barriers to automation exist. The reality is much different as those perceived barriers are coming down.

Breaking Down the Barriers of Antiquated Methods
The traditional method of integrating with partners, especially on the service provider side, is antiquated. For instance, traditional methods such as EDI and other formats that translate from one system to a common format and back to another can be slow in processing data. Even if there’s an established connection between a shipper and a carrier, new connections must be created for each new participant that appears in the supply chain.

The current trend or new best practice is one where a shipper can connect directly to a carrier system, and an unlimited amount of other shippers can also leverage that connection. Technology has advanced and can now allow carriers to set up this connection just once and provide rapid access to the information that’s required to exchange with that carrier.

The technology driving these efforts is direct Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) or carrier web-services. It’s a model where shippers and or their technology partners are tapping right into a carrier’s system, and the end result is much faster versus traditional methods. It fundamentally eradicates the connectivity and support issues that sometimes accompany EDI connections.

Connecting Carriers to Drive Efficiencies
One type of data that can set a logistics provider apart is rate data. With the traditional model, a new contract from a carrier must be translated into the language of the shipper’s existing transportation management system (TMS) before the TMS can understand how to calculate rates. Until this is accomplished there is no basis to make decisions, such as what carrier to use, what service level and so forth.

With carrier web-services, as rates change, shippers automatically receive the revised rates from the carrier system each time the TMS needs to calculate the cost of making a shipment. There’s no longer the need to maintain rate master data. This is a big change from the traditional way that a TMS processes rate management, and web-services are helping the industry move from a model where shippers duplicate and mirror what carriers have in their systems to a single source of information. This represents a shifting point in the process– technology can now speed up the implementation dramatically because all of the data and information is now available in the carrier system.

Leveraging a Logistics Partner for Technology
Carrier web-services are a paradigm shift in the way that shippers are connecting to carriers, and we need to think differently about the complexity and difficulty. Technology is now being leveraged to speed things up, but there’s still work to be done to overcome the fear of change.

Many shippers find that working with a logistics provider offers the right balance of autonomy and control with the added benefits of increasing productivity through automated services of web-based transportation management systems. Through web-based systems, shippers can be up-and-running in a matter of days and retain complete control and visibility over their logistics operations.

With any change there can be opposition, but shippers should start taking advantage of the latest technology and logistics tools by partnering with an organization that can easily deploy advanced technology to increase efficiencies and keep the bottom line in check.