In our last article, we noted that Logistics Management, in addition to being costly and risky, is not an easy ordeal. You have a lot of steps to execute in an ordered fashion, which today typically requires at least five different loosely integrated (mostly standalone) modules in a big enterprise Operations Planning solution or, more typically, a number of standalone solutions which only support, at most, endpoint data integration where the outputs of one phase can be fed into another.
While this works, there are a number of issues with using separate systems for each step, including, but not limited to:
- Inefficiency: entering and leaving multiple systems is timely, especially if 3 or 4 steps in you realize you made a mistake and have to go back to the beginning
- Opaqueness: you only have visibility into the output of the previous step at any time; e.g. when a carrier asks if you can use a different truck size or pallet size, and you have no details on why you calculated a certain pallet and truck size as optimal, you have no idea and have to go back to the packaging system and do the calculations all over again;
- Cost Bloat: due to limited visibility into data and models of other systems, each step has to introduce a safety margin, leading to ever increasing safety margins; e.g. the order adds a few extra units; the packaging adds a few extra boxes of units to create some give in the packing calculations; the quote adds an extra pallet or two to make sure enough space is quoted; the contract keeps this extra space; and so on … especially since there are usually different team members, each an expert in the different systems, doing each step
- Hidden Risks: neither of these systems are good at identifying and tracking risks, and if not propagated to the TMS or a separate risk management system, they will stay buried until they materialize (with no mitigations ready to address them)
- No Closed Loop Feedback: tracking, learning from, and adjusting future plans and predictions vs. actuals is the only way to improve transportation planning / logistics management
Not to mention the major issues present in most of the current piece-meal solutions being used.
- Order Management solutions tend to be dependent on the MRP and very limited in terms of how far out they can accurately plan, then defaulting to (often) decades old forecasting models; they also can’t provide any insight into the packaging requirements
- Package Management solutions depend on accurate inputs from the order management solution and the ERP/MRP, and can only compute packaging sizes, packages per standard pallet, and standard pallets per standard containers; no real issues here, but because they don’t connect to freight (quote) management systems, the users don’t often know the best package options to choose and the best configurations to consider
- Quote Management solutions collect the quotes, allow comparisons, and allow some to be marked as contract (for a timeframe); no real issues here either, except the fact that because they aren’t a TMS, a buyer can’t understand the full cost associated with selecting a carrier or a lane for a particular shipment, and may make suboptimal decisions
- Transportation Management Systems plan the transportation needs a few months out (at most; most traditional systems are very limited in how far ahead they can plan due to architecture, calculation requirements, constantly changing requirements as demand shifts and issues arise, and the need to regularly start the entire planning chain over again), create the orders, distribute them, collect the shipment notifications and estimated delivery dates, and maybe track updates; not bad, but not enough anymore
- Financial Planning Systems are usually either modules of larger operational cash-flow planning solutions and limited in transportation specific cost planning, or sub-modules of TMS, and limited in overall financial planning and cost analysis capability
In other words, the logistics solutions created in the age of logistics (when logistics was also more predictable when natural disasters were few and far between, global pandemics were more theory than reality, global political stability was greater, and so on), while great at the time, are no longer sufficient for optimal supply chain management in the modern world.
What we need is a Total Logistics Management Solution.