Category Archives: Logistics

TenderEasy: Easy Breezy Beautiful Freight Quotes

First things first: if you are shipping globally, you need a(n) RFQ / Spot Bid solution built for freight. You may believe that just because you have a generic RFQ / e-Auction solution that can be used to collect freight quotes that you don’t need a custom freight tendering solution, but nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to freight, at a minimum you have to consider:

  • five modes: road, rail, ocean, air, and small parcel,
  • multiple cargo types: dry, cold, frozen, and liquid,
  • palletized vs. non-palletized,
  • LTL vs FTL,
  • regular vs flammable vs hazardous, and
  • multiple cost tiers

and that’s quite a few data elements that most RFX tools are not setup to collect out of the box. Furthermore, even if the solution is highly configurable and can allow the creation of bid collection matrices that will collect all of the associated bid and lane data, chances are the platform isn’t setup with the rules to enforce the right bidding, the analytics for the right comparison, or enough sophistication in auto award scenario creation even for a baseline low-cost cherrypick scenario.

Furthermore, when you are shipping globally, you need to

  • understand approximate current lane costs / benchmarks,
  • know who is shipping in a region AND their typical capacity, and
  • be able to quickly access current rate agreements or spot-market bid rates

and your typical out-of-the-box RFX tool for indirect or direct sourcing is not going to do that.

However, a tool built by freight sourcing / logistics professionals for freight sourcing is going to do that and more. That’s what TenderEasy is. Founded almost two decades ago in 2004 to help organizations optimize their freight sourcing, they launched the first version of their fully SaaS-enabled freight tendering solution eleven years ago. Their freight tendering solution was among the first solutions that were custom built to help global companies manage their global fright RFQs across air, land, and sea. Since then, they have added spot quote capability, rate (contract) management, an integration API for custom data push to any TMS, ERP, or S2P system you want to transfer the awards to, out-of-the-box integrations with multiple TMS systems (e.g., Alpega, SAP4Hana), out-of-the-box APIs with public freight rate benchmark and analytics platforms (including Xeneta, Freightos, Upply, and Alpega FX), out-of-the-box integrations with container management platforms (including BuyCo), and out-of-the-box integrations with freight/lane-based emission calculators (including EcoTransIT World).

There are three main parts to the TenderEasy platform:

  • Administration
  • Buyer Interface
  • Supplier Interface


There are six main parts to the administration interface:

  • User Management: where you can manage your internal users with easy profile settings controlling visibility, accessibility and inter-activity with bidders
  • Supplier Management: where you can import, add and manage suppliers, including the ability to #tag supplier groups, and this management includes the management of (supplier) modes, cargo types, pallet capability, whether or not they do LTL or FTL, any certifications for flammable and hazardous materials, countries they can operate in, etc.
  • Currency Rates: where you can define, on project level, the currencies you support and the rates you wish to use for base conversion
  • Keyword Lists: where you can define as many arbitrary value lists as you want for bid and data collection during a tender (to make sure responses are with the right naming convention for rule creation and future data integration with your TMS, ERP, and/or S2P system)
  • Integrations: where you manage your export connectivity to whatever systems you want to push data to
  • Partners: where you select the data partners you wish to connect with for data enrichment of your analysis data (freight benchmarks, emissions, service KPIs, etc.). With some Partners you can “pay-as-you-go” via TenderEasy. Other partners will require a subscription and your partner license key credentials to access the data.

Supplier Interface

The supplier interface has four main parts and is designed to be as simple as possible for the suppliers:

  • Tender List which lists the tenders they are currently invited to and the status of those tenders
  • Tender Details where they enter their bids by lane
  • Import/Export where they can export the tender to Excel, fill it out in their favourite tool, and then import it
  • On-line bidding where Suppliers can fine-tune bids on-the-fly

Buyer Interface

There are four main parts to the buyer interface:

  • RFQ/Tendering which is where the multi-round magic happens (which we will dive into shortly)
  • Spot Quote Request where a buyer can empower their organization to execute quick spot requests for a single load in a transparent and compliant way
  • Rate Management where the buyer can store and manage their contracted rates in an auditable and sustainable way
  • Rate Search where the buyer’s stakeholders can search for contracted services and rates (that are stored in the system) in real-time, including historical rate records

The core is the tendering component where the buyers spend most of their time.

A tender can be created from an existing tender (as a copy) or from scratch. Creating a tender from scratch is quite easy:

  1. name it
  2. select a currency group and a default currency
  3. define the transport mode
  4. define the end time of the current round (with start [auto-]populated when you publish it)
  5. define the range for which supplier bids must be valid
  6. optionally upload any attachments with requirements
  7. optionally provide a detailed event description
  8. optionally define any terms and conditions (separate from the file uploads)
  9. create the bid / rate matrix by either
    • copying a matrix from a previous event
    • instantiating one from a best-practice template defined on system implementation
  10. add the suppliers (and you can easily upload their details via Excel)
  11. select/customize notifications
  12. publish

That’s it. Complex freight events can be instantiated in a matter of minutes. Why?

  • pre-defined best practise rate cards can be utilized, or you can copy a previous RFQ
  • pre-defined currency groups make currency definition one-click
  • the platform can store attachments in the platform, creating libraries for your standard specialized requirements, Ts&Cs, etc.
  • the buying organization can define matrices for every mode – region – good type / transport requirement they have on system implementation, including all of the validations and rules that are 100% compatible with Excel, with all of the appropriate lanes
  • the system will automatically select the suppliers associated with the mode and region with the necessary characteristics (hazardous certification, etc.) and all the buyer has to do is check the suppliers it wants to invite
  • there are ready-made automatic notifications in the system for every event you want to action

A key point to note is that TenderEasy supports full Excel capability within the platform, and easy wizard base definition of column and cell settings and properties. For example, each column can have a type, an associated validation rule, display/coloring properties, a visibility definition (buyer or supplier, read or write), etc. and each cell can have a more specific validation based

Another key point is that it’s stupid simple to import benchmark data into (private) columns in the matrix that you can use to evaluate bids (and, automatically, flag any that are too high or too low, possibly with colour coding in the column, or a separate column if you are using colour coding to show the percentage change in a bid from round to round. You simply select “import benchmark” and select the benchmark provider you want to use (which is typically the one you have a subscription with) and the quotes get sucked in automagically.

Bid analysis is also very easy. It’s simple to define a scenario that auto-selects the appropriate carrier and bid for each lane. There’s an integrated scenario builder where you simply define the grouping columns, the supplier group to consider, the tariffs to use, the (optional) adjustments to apply (where you can favour incumbents or innovative carriers and disfavour new carriers or eco-unfriendly carriers or low reliability carriers using a financial cost percentage adjustment or fixed cost modifier), and whether or not you want to use breakpoint optimization (where it will select the FTL amount when that is cheaper than the LTL amount at the current weight / space utilization).

Supplier feedback can also be customized and color coded in a multi-round tender to tell a supplier approximately how far off they are from being selected (e.g. < 10%, 10% to 20%, > 20%). You can generate feedback on any numerical value in the rate card, including service data, emissions, quality etc.

You can create as many (partial) bid analysis as you want, including baselines, using whatever rules you want, and then visualize them graphically in the dashboard, where you can also define thresholds to alert you if any carrier would get too little or too much business. You can also compare them side by side to help you identify the awards you want for each lane. When you figure out what you want, you can incrementally build (by combining partial awards from existing scenarios) the award scenario you want, push it into your external system for contracting, and lock it down as a set of rates to be included in the rate management part of the platform.

If you do need help (which won’t happen often as the platform is very usable, it is usually quite obvious what to do next, and all of the up-front setup on implementation jump-starts pretty much everything you will ever do), there is extensive help built into the platform, training material and self-testing, and a webinar archive.

There is pretty much everything you need out of the box to get going, with the only obvious exceptions being

  • combinatorial carrier optimization (once you have selected the preferred carriers) to balance cost, emissions, and/or delivery time (which they are currently investigating)
  • market-based alerts if a supplier you select is not likely to have current capacity (based on the spot market), if prices are going up quickly (and you should make lock in an award sooner rather than later), or if KPIs are dropping for current carriers (which are currently under investigation, with KPIs and improved benchmarks, which are needed at the foundation level, being investigated with Partners on how to best share this information pro-actively)

In other words, if you do global freight, and you don’t have a custom solution for freight RFQs and spot buys, you should not only have one but include TenderEasy on your shortlist. Once you see the capability a platform like TenderEasy can provide and how much more efficient and effective it can make your freight buyers, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. (Like any good e-Sourcing tool, it will quickly pay for itself many times over.)

Digging into Logistics Sustainability

In our article on Solving the Sustainability of the Supply Chain is Systematically Strenuous and Surprisingly Serpentine, we noted that while there are easy two-word answers for reconfiguring the global supply chain for greater supply chain assurance and more sustainability at the 30,000 foot level, when you dig into the details, it’s not so easy as you have dozens of facets to get right to truly optimize sustainability across:

  • Support
  • Sales
  • Logistics
  • Procurement
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials

Logistics sustainability is much more involved than just “green transportation” and using “zero emission*1 electric vehicles, because there’s a lot more to logistics than the plane, train, boat, or truck. There’s also the:

  • Packaging – is the packaging reusable, reclaimable, recyclable, or compostable; minimal?
  • Warehousing – are the warehouse operations sustainable?
  • Routing – is the routing designed to minimize unnecessary distance, handling, and environmental impact?

Let’s dive into each of these:

Packaging involves ensuring that the following are sustainable:

  • Materials as the only trace of us millions of years in the future — after the “right to be stupid” crowd manages to vote in the greedy, power-hungry, self-nominated populist con-artist candidate in enough first world countries*2 — will likely be microplastics*3 and plastic molecules which, even after millions of years, will never fully dissolve (and which are already so omnipresent that microplastics are even in all of our bodies now)
  • Manufacturing as the packaging needs to be manufactured just like the product
  • Logistics as the packaging has to be shipped to the product manufacturer
  • Packaging as the packaging needs to be packaged to be shipped to the product manufacturer

Warehousing involves ensuring that the following are sustainable:

  • Heating & Cooling since most warehouses are built super cheap (thin metal structures) and, thus, require ridiculous amount of carbon-based energy production*4 to heat or cool
  • Operations since warehouses use forklifts and robotic automation — which are not necessarily green, energy efficient, and/or well designed
  • Workforce since there needs to be a sufficient workforce and there needs to be training in place to make sure they workforce is suitably skilled for the job

Routing involves ensuring that the following are sustainable:

  • Transportation Modes as most international shipments are multi-modal (and involve at least two different means of transportation, and usually three)
  • Cross-Docking as shipments will need to be unloaded from ships and trains at ports and yards and loaded onto trucks and unloaded from big trucks onto smaller trucks at local depots
  • Leg-Routings as ships can’t disrupt whale schools, dolphin pods, or fish colonies (which might also be needed for food); planes shouldn’t fly low through wildlife/bird reserves; trains shouldn’t pollute the forests they run through; etc.

In other words, there’s a lot more to logistics sustainability than green transportation, which isn’t exactly green to begin with!

*“Green” vehicles aren’t anywhere close to zero emission when you consider all of the emissions created in the production of those electric vehicles and those battery packs! For example, as quoted on the MIT Climate Portal, building the 82 kWh lithium-ion battery found in a Tesla Model 3 creates between 2.5 and 16 metric tons of CO2 (exactly how much depends greatly on what energy source is used to do the heating). This intensive battery manufacturing means that building a new EV can produce around 80% more emissions than building a comparable gas-powered car. And then you have to consider all of the emissions produced by your energy provider to produce the electricity that recharges your battery pack every few hundred kilometers (or 0.6214 miles for you Americans). If your local power plant is still burning dirty coal, then you could be responsible for the creation of 950 grams of CO2 per kWH. So if you’re driving a new AWD Performance Tesla, you’re producing 77.9 kg of CO2 for every 567 km you drive. In comparison, if you’re driving a Toyota Yaris that gives you an average of 36 mpg, or 58 kpg, you’re burning 9.78 gallons and producing roughly 86.9 kg of CO2 for the same 567 km. In other words, you’re only about 10% more green on a per-tank basis driving that Tesla 3 if your local power provider burns dirty coal!

In other words, “green” transportation isn’t necessarily green if you don’t consider the energy product or the up-front production. If the battery production emits 16,000 kgs of CO2, all other vehicle production related emissions are equal, and you are using electricity produced from dirty coal to charge the battery, you don’t see the first drop of CO2 savings until you drive almost 1,780 tanks or 1,000,000 kms! And then you only see a 10% if, and only if, as stated above, the production of the remainder of the vehicle has about the same CO2 production as an average vehicle for its size.  (Which means, at the end of those warrantied 192,000 kms, that green Tesla won’t even be Carbon Neutral!  It won’t even be one fifth of the way!)

*2 greedy, power-hungry con-artists who will repeal all environmental laws, take away all our basic human rights, and even start wars that could not only end all wars but end us (assuming the AI they are using to replace us doesn’t end us first)

*3 after the last last satellite has plummeted back to earth (and burned up), the last skyscraper has crumbled, and the last pyramid has turned to dust, traces of certain microplastic molecules that do not occur naturally in nature will still be found in the soils and at the bottom of the ocean where there are no lifeforms to break them down

*4 even renewable energy such as solar, wind, and hydro has a carbon footprint as the panels need to be manufactured, the turbines need to be manufactured, and the dams need to be built and all that involves carbon production with today’s technology

Introducing aThingz: A Logistics as a Service (LaaS) Provider that is providing an end to end Total Logistics Management Solution

Over the past three articles we have

  • outlined the importance of logistics management, especially with respect to cost management, supply management, and risk management
  • outlined the major steps in logistics planning and execution
  • outlined the major modules/solutions that are currently used
  • outlined the major problems with using separate systems for each major step

… and come to the conclusion that while this methodology and modular system worked good in its day, it’s no longer good enough for logistics management in the modern world where natural disasters are a regular occurrence, global pandemics are a reality, global instability and globalization chaos is the norm, and the chances of a large company not experiencing at least one major disruption a year is now essentially zero.

The solution a global organization needs to not only survive, but thrive, is a Total Logistics Management Solution (TLMS) that covers the end-to-end process from order planning through final delivery, payment, financial analysis, and, most importantly, closed loop feedback to improve the planning versus actuals over time.

Today we’re going to introduce you to a vendor that is creating this new generation of TLMS solutions: aThingz. Founded in 2015 to solve the global logistics challenges that other vendors were not addressing, aThingz has built a modular, composable microservices-based, total logistics management solution that can bought as an end-to-end management solution, or on a microservice-based activation format, meant to fill in the gaps between existing organizational solutions. Regardless of how little, or how much, is adopted by an organization, the platform will ensure that all of the solutions are properly integrated, data is pushed and pulled automatically as needed upon changes and updates, re-calculations across the platform (be it pure aThingz or an aThingz powered hybrid platform) are done automatically on updates and changes, and the loop closed to allow for learning from, and improvement in, plan vs. actuals over time.

Billing itself as Logistics-as-a-Service [LaaS], aThingz has a composable micro-services stack that allows it to address through software any or all of the following requirements (that the client needs addressed) while also providing services to manage the logistics planning needs required by the client (if the client wants a [strong] managed logistics offering):

Process Governance
it is a process, and you need to get it right, and process governance must address

  • transformation planning (upon implementation, New Product Introduction [NPI], etc.)
  • change management
  • iterative process improvement
  • process & regulatory compliance
  • performance and financial governance
  • operational governance

Network Master Data Management
as good, synched, data is key for process implementation, and this includes

  • classification, standardization, cleansing, rationalization and enrichment
  • ongoing quality management
  • metrics and improvement
  • rules management

Supply Chain Resilience
which encompasses a lot of the impacted functions (Inventory Management, Finance, Risk Management, Procurement, etc.) and includes

  • supply and demand sensing
  • shipment monitoring and traceability
  • risk factor / risk event detection and monitoring

Forward Looking Logistics Planning
(versus traditional in-week logistics management) which includes, and which can be done on a weekly basis up to a year in advance with real-time recalculation on changes in projections, assignments, etc.:

  • order forecasting and management
  • packaging management and optimization
  • carrier volume forecasting
  • quote and rate management for carriers
  • logistics / transportation planning
  • network optimization
  • (what-if) scenario planning
  • plan communication
  • cost savings identification and tracking; i.e. the ability to track forecast vs. plan vs. (initial invoice) vs. actuals by week by carrier by order over time

For clients wanting pre-packaged solutions, they have pre-composed stacks for:

  • Demand Forecasting
  • Logistics Spend Visibility
  • Logistics (Network) Sourcing Intelligence
  • (Autonomous) Logistics Planning
  • Real-Time Transportation Visibility
  • Supply Chain Resilience

But the power of the solution shines in its end-to-end integration of their six, integrated, modules of:


Their primary data management platform that allows an organization to work on a common set of validated and managed data across all stakeholders of each process and manages the rules for error detection and correction and data cleansing and enrichment to ensure that decisions are highly reliable due to higher quality. Manages the key attributes that influence the processes for the higher quality outcomes, namely, the routes, lanes, suppliers, plants, parts, packaging, docks, contracted rates, carrier, and material records and that reviews, corrects, and augments details as needed.


Their logistics closed-loop planning, scheduling, and management solution that you can use to plan and manage rolling forecasts with detailed requirements. The solution provides flexibility in the planning horizon (e.g. 10, 20, 40 weeks) based on the organization’s needs. (Compare this to many classical solutions that might struggle to do more than few weeks out, or limit the organization to one planning horizon, which was difficult for the platform to manage when a change in week one requires rolling, compounding, changes and recalculations through the progressive weeks.) In addition, carrier forecasts and manifests are created during the planning process and are continuously updated in real time for each period based on product mix changes as well.

This module also has built in analytics and (cost saving) opportunity dashboards, transit time performance insights (to optimize inventory planning), actual truck/container (cube) utilization, and shipment (frequency) analysis dashboards. One of the great things about the planning capability is that it projects down to the container/truck by lane by week and identifies high and low variances to make sure that the buyer contracts a carrier that can increase (and decrease) capacity as needed. Another great thing about the planning capability is that the forecasting component can calculate optimal packing based on packaging options and even show you how to maximize container utilization with a 3-D visualization of the packing plan (boxes onto pallets into containers). Probably the greatest thing about this planning capability is that it walks you through the creation of the forecast to the realization of the operational (logistics) plan in a step by step process and ensures that the plan that is ultimately approved is complete, as accurate as possible, and distributed to the right people at the right time (as it forces the user through the forecast, validation thereof, operational plan draft, and operational plan review by key stakeholders, and only then does it allow approval and distribution).


Their spend management and visibility solution allows a buyer to track and compare logistics financial performance — forecasts vs plans vs invoices vs actuals to see how accurate the forecasts end up being, how close the plans end up being, how the costs are tracking, and if performance is improving over time. In addition to highlighting variances to plan and budget, their solution provides diagnostic insights and helps the organization predict future spend.


Their supply chain AI platform that ties it all together; that monitors, learns, corrects, and reports on the overall supply chain. On the main screen, a user sees an overall summary of the extent of their global and domestic supply chain — routes, lanes, suppliers, plants, parts, and costs; as well as high level insights into equipment, parts, packaging, plants, ports, and overall data quality – and they can drill into any area in which they need more details.


Their shipment visibility and supply chain resilience application that allows an organization to query the last reported location of any shipment at any time and all of the details associated with that shipment, track inventory in real time, and any red flags based on levels, criticality, and delays.


Simple, fast and powerful integrations that handle a variety of data formats and file types including (rest) APIs, EDI, Excel Spreadsheets, CSV and more. Pre-built integrations and formats are available. The integration capability allows a user to manage the data streams and data files they use to define their network, suppliers, products, demands, etc., especially if they are using an ERP/MRP that doesn’t allow for API/direct integration and only supports integration by way of file exports (and imports).

With these six modules, or an appropriate subset thereof, integrated with any existing logistics modules the organization may already have, the organization will be able to

  • import demand history and initial demand forecasts
  • adjust the demand forecasts to a (rolling) order plan (40+ weeks out)
  • identify the optimal packaging, and palletization scheme
  • determine the viable shipping lanes and required (multi-modal) methods
  • collect the quotes from potential carriers
  • select the carriers
  • optimize the allocations among the appropriate carriers and plan the transport
  • communicate the plan and track the shipments
  • provide accurate costing and required cash flow forecasting

… and do so in an integrated logical, fashion that allows a buyer to holistically manage the end-to-end logistics planning and execution process in a single Total Logistics Management Solution (TLMS). Moreover, they will be able to manage their end-to-end logistics process in a solution that is continuously monitoring, suggesting, correcting, and presenting optimizations in the plans it presents for you, allowing you to go from large double-digit variances in your plan vs. actuals to low single digits over time. Taking 10% – 15% out of logistics costs through an integrated, holistic, methodology is significant, especially if logistics and inventory management collectively represents 30% to 40% of the total cost of goods sold.

So if you do not have a TLMS managing your global logistics network, we recommend that you check out aThingz at your first opportunity. The capability may impress you but, more importantly, they may be able to take 10% off your logistics spend and 3% to 5% off of your total organizational spend in a relatively short time-frame, and that’s worth it.

Stepwise Logistics Management is Problem Plagued (LMI Part 3)

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.

A Brief Introduction to the Components of Logistics Management (LMI Part 2)

In our last article we noted that Logistics Management is something that many procurement professionals overlook because most larger organizations have a separate logistics department, but it’s something that they shouldn’t because they won’t understand the true cost, the true delivery times, or the true risk of their sourcing decisions, which may, because of this, turn out to be more costly, more risky, and considerably less efficient than they expect.

In addition to being costly and risky, Logistics Management is not an easy ordeal. In order to manage logistics effectively, you need to:

  1. determine what you need and when you need it
  2. determine how to package it and how much room the packaging takes, and this requires the organization to calculate
    1. how many packages you can get on a pallet
    2. how many pallets you can get in a truck / container / rail car
    3. how many trucks / containers / rail cars you need
  3. determine the viable lanes for shipping from the suppliers to your warehouses and get quotes
  4. select the providers and plan the transport
  5. accurately cost the orders, shipments, and tariffs to make sure you have enough cash on hand to meet your obligations when your invoices come due

This typically requires five different systems, and/or modules. Namely a(n):

OM/FS: Order Management/Forecasting System
This integrates with your MRP system, looks at the production plan, looks at the inventory level, and determines the order quantities needed by week for the next X weeks based on how far out the production plan goes (which, in most systems, typically isn’t that far out, maybe a few months) and then uses the forecasting capabilities to project out a few months ahead of the average transportation time. It will also allow a user to override plans and projections, override default suppliers and carriers if there are options, and calculate any ramifications. And any related functions the organization needs around order management and forecasting. (We’re not going to go deep on any particular capability in this article.)

PMS: Package Management System
Logistics management is not as simple as calculating an order and contracting a carrier. You have to know how much space you will need for the shipment, which will dictate how many trucks, rail cars, or containers. That will depend on how many packaged units you can fit in the space, and that’s often more than a simple volume calculation, as you have to fit parts to boxes, boxes to pallets, and pallets to containers/cars. This requires more sophisticated volume and weight calculations than one would expect, which are not easy to do in a spreadsheet. Plus, if you have multiple options, you have to figure out which is best to minimize your shipping requirements.

FQMS: Freight Quote Management System
Once you know what you need, where it’s coming from, where it’s going to, how it’s going to be packaged, what kind of transport you need, and how many units (trucks, rail cars, containers, etc.), you need to find, and contract, a carrier. But the first step is to get inclusive quotes (costs per mile, fuel surcharges, handling charges, etc.) from carriers, compare and analyze them, contract one or more carriers, and then mark their quotes as contract rates, and others as quotes, but not guarantees.

TMS: Transportation Management System
Once you’ve determined your shipping needs, selected a carrier, and contracted a quote, you need to manage the transportation. You need to provide all the appropriate information to the carrier, get the pickup dates and expected delivery dates, receive and track updates, manage any issues that arise or reroutings that need to be done, identify any delays that will cause production or customer delivery risks and determine resolutions, and so on.

FPS: Financial Planning System (Cash Flow Planning)
Finally, you need to track all of the current and projected costs, and changes, so that you can manage your cash-flow and have the necessary cash when the invoices come in.

In other words, Logistics Planning and Management is currently quite an involved process that requires quite a few modules and process steps to do (reasonably) well.