Transporting food and beverage products can pose various challenges within the supply chain, including on-time delivery, traceability, and managing fuel costs. Companies that don’t fully address these challenges risk losing out on higher profits and increased customer satisfaction.
Fortunately, with the use of a robust transportation management system (TMS), these obstacles can be handled with ease and give companies greater control over their fleets at the same time.
A maturing TMS solution
TMS systems are constantly improving, including the software platform options. Currently, TMS systems are available on multiple software platforms, with the two most common being on-premise installations and hosted SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) models. According to LeanLogistics, based in Holland, Michigan, the current inclination is toward SaaS, which compared to on-premise installations, offers more benefits.
“Supply chain visibility, cost structure, flexibility, and scalability, as well as business intelligence are key benefits of a true SaaS platform,” states the LeanLogistics team. A SaaS-based TMS system is also deployed much faster than a hosted installation.
Rik Schrader, senior vice president for global sales and supply chain at Plano, Texas-based Retalix, explains that one of the more recent trends in the industry is the ability for clients to completely manage their business on one TMS system.
“We see more of a focus being put on optimizing inbound and outbound operations together from a transport standpoint,” he says. Combining inbound and outbound operations is an important optimization strategy.
What food/bev professionals want
Simply put, there are many advantages to implementing a TMS solution. For starters, having the ability to view your assets while your fleet is en route is highly important, especially when transporting perishable food or beverage items.
“Food and beverage companies have to monitor logistics costs closely,” says Bill Pritz, vice president of transportation solutions for Atlanta, Georgia-based Logility. “Every dollar in savings goes straight to increasing bottom line profitability.”
With the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in place, the ability to easily locate where your cargo is can be important from a safety and regulatory perspective.
“A lot of distributors within this market are really looking to get better at honoring traceability initiatives across the board,” says Retalix’s Schrader. “It seems to be a very hot topic with a lot of clients.” Tracking your cargo is also beneficial in order to guarantee the products are going to the correct destination.
“Proof of delivery is (also) a hot topic,” adds Schrader. If something goes awry during a fleet’s trip, the ability to immediately contact a customer is essential to maintain good customer relations and possibly remedy the situation.
Logility’s Pritz states that the “top priority and the leading benefit of TMS” is cost reduction. “Many companies are increasingly concerned with rising fuel prices,” he says. “Advanced solutions have the ability to leverage real-time fuel prices.”
What service providers offer
In order to help perfect a driver’s route, Cary, North Carolina-based MercuryGate offers an optimization tool called Mojo. The solution can help a company look at all of the “what if’s” in route vehicles by creating routing scenarios with specific preferences.
“You can take your historical data, (and) your external data and you could pull all of this in together and look at your operational requirements,” explains Jane Sandifeer, senior solutions manager for MercuryGate. “You could layer all of that information together and look at your strategy more holistically.”
Retalix Transportation Optimization (RTO) is another product designed to improve a driver’s route. RTO uses sophisticated algorithms in order to produce the best route planning possible. The solution is also designed to collaborate with existing management applications, which can make it easier to use. According to Schrader, this not only helps with the ease of doing business, but also drives up “the overall profitability of the operation.”