Efficiency is the goal of every business. Yet efficiency is still challenging to achieve. The most efficient companies turn this into a competitive advantage, outpacing the competition in output and, eventually, revenue.
In an industry as competitive as yours, you can’t afford to fall behind. But managing a complex supply chain — which yours has increasingly become — is not easy.
There are a lot of moving pieces to consider; your consignees’ needs, your manpower capabilities, your transportation network, your production schedule and your shipping budget — to name a few.
You do everything you can to keep your company’s supply chain running smoothly. That said, sometimes, it’s good to get a different perspective; to check your blind spot, so to speak.
Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) has been around since 1955. As a transportation company that has seen its fair share of supply chains, and moved hundreds of thousands of shipments (but who’s counting?), we can confidently offer you some advice here.
You deserve to deliver on each customer commitment you make. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether next month’s shipments will pick up on time or deliver too late. Luckily, in the pursuit of a well-optimized supply chain — alongside providers you can count on — there are several things you can control.
In this article, we’ll open your eyes to them. These are the things that, when done correctly, can truly help shippers secure coverage, ensure on-time departure and deliver with confidence.
Let’s talk about them individually including why they’re important and how you can put them to work in your own supply chain.
- Understand your shipping lane(s)
- Accurately forecast your outbound freight volumes
- Level out the peaks and valleys of your shipping schedule
- Incorporate both live and drop trailer loading
- Offer on-site amenities to truck drivers
1) Understand Your Shipping Lane(s)
This is one of the most important things to keep in mind when seeking efficiencies in your transportation supply chain. Understanding the characteristics of your A-to-B shipping route is the first step toward correctly setting your service expectations.
When thinking about the major attributes of each lane your business ships along (from origin to destination), focus on its concrete realities:
- How far is this lane?
- How many different roads are involved? What are their speed limits?
- What are the traffic/weather patterns along this route?
- Is it a commuter dense area, slowing things down from 4-6 p.m. each night?
- Is harsh weather (wind, rain, snow, sleet, etc.) frequently a factor?
- Are there many truck stops/overnight parking spots along the route that drivers can solicit before/during/after your load?
Each of these realities is considered by your trucking company when planning out your service as they shape their capabilities.
In reality, things like traffic patterns, speed limits and total milage are out of everyone’s control. Considering these things when formulating your plans, however, is a powerful way to ensure they don’t cause disruptions.
For example, knowing that semi trucks (generally) can cover 500 miles in a day and commuter traffic in your lane kicks in around five can be helpful when making commitments to your consignees.
Observing how the intricacies of your lane (at different times of day, different parts of the year, etc.) affect the transit timing and capabilities of the trucking companies working within it will help you make efficiency-conscious decisions going forward.
With this in mind, you can schedule trucks around peak-commuter times, ensuring these traffic patterns don’t slow you down.
2) Accurately Forecast Your Freight Volumes
Volume forecasting is a fundamental piece of supply chain management.
How can your transportation providers dedicate trucks to your business in the near future if they don’t know how many you’ll need or what kind of commitment this will take?
How can you communicate with consignees on projected arrival dates without a handle on how much cargo will be leaving your dock during that period?
When communicating your supply chain’s needs, capabilities and projected output to stakeholders, forecasting will be important. And, good forecasting is detailed forecasting.
When forecasting your shipping volumes, make sure to include:
- Accurate projects for outbound freight volumes (daily, weekly, monthly)
- The number of trucks needed per period (day, week, month)
- The number of drop trailers needed per period (day, week, month)
Take these forecasts and connect with each of your transportation providers. Make sure everyone is on the same page as to what they will be expected to cover. With this information, each provider can ensure they are adequately prepared to meet these needs as they arise.
Though your situation may vary, most transportation providers working on your high-volume lanes will want daily, weekly and monthly forecasts to use in planning.
3) Level Out The Peaks and Valleys of Your Shipping Schedule
Consistency is important when lining up price-effective transportation solutions for your freight. More often than not, having peaks and valleys in your shipping schedule (throughout a month, for example) makes planning more difficult for carriers — and expensive for you.
You see, trucking companies have a finite number of trucks, trailers and drivers. And, at any given time, the portion of these assets near your business — and capable of moving your freight — can fluctuate greatly.
Counting on consistent loads coming out of your origin location, call it 10 per week, is easy; trucking companies simply keep their assets in and around your area to meet this ongoing commitment.
Inconsistent requirements are a bit more challenging to plan for. Since truck drivers only get paid while they’re hauling a shipment, keeping them loaded efficiently is a carrier’s first priority.
As a result, without a reliable influx of business every week, your trucking company will have to route some trucks elsewhere to get them paid in the interim.
As an illustration, let’s take “Business A” which ships 100 loads every month. The first week, 25 of these shipments go, hauled by 25 of a carrier’s drivers. In the second week, 30 loads are shipped, leading the trucking company to route in five additional drivers.
In the third week, Business A only moves five shipments, as a result, 25 of their trucking company’s drivers are dedicated elsewhere — some ending up a significant distance away.
The final week of the month, Business A surges 40 shipments. At this point, providing 40 solutions is a tall task for the trucking company that has most of its drivers out of the area.
In the end, this carrier can’t price their services as competitively as they could’ve if they had a consistent number of assets in the area.
So, to the best of your ability, try to level out your shipping schedule as much as possible. This will help improve the level of service and pricing each carrier gives you.
4) Incorporate Both Live and Drop Trailer Loading
What’s better for efficiency than having multiple options for loading up your cargoes and shipping them out? Many companies find success by incorporating both live and drop trailer loading into their procedures.
This can open a lot of doors for your business too. Namely, by expanding your options for when your loading can happen — away from strictly when a truck driver is waiting — you can avoid productivity lapses as workers scramble to load a trailer.
Using drop trailers, businesses can focus on production in a way that live-loading simply can’t provide. Instead of having to schedule production and resources around the availability of an individual truck, dropped trailers give companies the flexibility to load products at their convenience.
In turn, sticking to production timelines is far easier with these programs in place.
Beyond this, carriers that are capable of offering drop trailer services like working with shippers that utilize them.
Here’s why. . .
A carrier’s mission is to get maximum production from its assets. Avoiding loading and offloading periods (which can take a long time) helps them do so. With drop trailers, all a driver has to do is pull into your facility, hitch the dropped trailer to the kingpin of their truck, verify quantities, properly secure cargo and hit the road.
For you, drop trailer programs can help you cut down shipping costs and maintain your timelines with greater efficiency. If your truck leaves your facility with a full HOS clock, the likelihood that your shipment makes it to its destination on time rises substantially.
So, in addition to live loading, consider using drop trailers whenever it makes sense for both your business and the carriers you utilize.
5) Offer Onsite Amenities to Truck Drivers
Often, your ability to operate efficiently comes down to how quickly and effectively you can secure a transportation solution. One of the most impactful ways to do this, that many companies fail to realize, is to make your freight more appealing to trucking companies and their drivers.
Offering onsite amenities is a great way to do this.
Most shippers don’t give truck drivers a well-rounded, convenient experience; allowing them nowhere to park, vague directions to follow and few amenities to utilize.
Increase the likelihood that you get a truck when you need it by offering:
- Truck driver-accessible bathrooms/showers
- Truck driver-accessible cafeterias
- Truck driver-accessible lounges
- Truck driver-accessible wi-fi
- Truck driver-accessible showers
- Truck driver care packages
At the end of the day, truck drivers are human beings. And, the more comfortable you make their interaction with your business the easier it will be to get them to come back.
Many carriers take their driver’s experience into consideration when planning out their loads. So, if a driver doesn’t want to pick up your load because of a poor past experience, this will shrink your potential capacity, hindering your supply chain to boot.
Your Next Step: Make Sure Your Supply Chain is Healthy
These five tips for improving supply chain efficiency will do no favors to an unhealthy supply chain. Honestly, examining its supply chain performance, and understanding its weaknesses, is one of the largest keys to the success of any business.
Now you know how understanding your lane and producing accurate volume forecasts are important. But what else should you be thinking about?
Many companies, just like yours, have asked themselves this same question.
To help you make these discernments and gain a better understanding of your supply chain’s health, read this article. It was written with you in mind.
Finally, if you would like to learn more about the services offered by ATS and how they can help you keep everything on track going forward, check out our services page for more information.