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Once upon a time people used Morse code, sent carrier pigeons, and put messages in bottles thinking it was an effective way to communicate during a crisis. Surprisingly, many logistics companies are still using what to us is the equivalent outdated way of managing incidents. (Yes, we’re talking about managing incidents using outdated technologies such as spreadsheets, emails and the good old-fashioned telephone).

We’re not knocking these technologies. They’re great in the way that cave drawings are great. They served a purpose at a certain time. But they’re not the most reliable or efficient way to monitor the status of a shipment.

In the same way that bottles floated up on shores filled with nothing but sand, Excel spreadsheets are missing context because they’re full of orphaned data. On top of that, transportation planners can easily make mistakes when copy/pasting (and anyone who shares Excel files knows it’s not optimal).

Picture the carrier pigeon flying around killing time while waiting to deliver its message and you have a basic idea of how transportation problems are managed using an Excel spreadsheet.

At SupplyStack, our modern TMS is event-based, meaning internal and external events are constantly being monitored by the system. This article will show why this is so crucial to saving time (and employees from headaches).

Houston, we have a problem…

It’s just our humble opinion, but the 3 most important things when managing an incident are:

-- knowing what triggered it

-- knowing the context

-- working together to resolve it

With that in mind, let’s look at some triggers and how our TMS tackles the issue:

Use Case #1 – Something’s gone wrong and you want to be informed

The person who coined the expression “no news is good news” clearly never worked in logistics. If something goes wrong, which it inevitably will, you want to be the first to know.

So, say something goes wrong with a shipment (for example, you get a cryptic Morse code message from a driver saying: “I like to bathe fully clothed in mojito-filled kiddie pools, eat your heart out Superman!”), then the system will automatically detect it and alert you. (Because that’s just wrong on too many levels).

You can configure whatever sort of alert you want to receive, such as any time a shipment’s ETA is late.

And you can choose how you receive the alert: as an email, pop-up and colour-coded in red, or as an angry pirate hologram wielding a sword (just kidding, we’re still working on that feature). Or, if a carrier cancels a shipment, you are automatically informed so that you can take action and assign a different carrier without compromising that specific load.

On the costs side, if a carrier had to wait at a loading dock (daydreaming about mint and lime, no doubt) and submitted extra costs for waiting hours, you can be alerted about these extra costs and approve or reject them as you see fit. Or, if a carrier’s rates have expired, you can create an alert to notify you that you need to renegotiate new rates with this carrier.

Use Case #2 – Data is missing

In logistics, there are two ways that things can go wrong – something happens that wasn’t supposed to happen, and something doesn’t happen that was supposed to happen.

Let’s say a carrier didn’t complete his/her milestone actuals (either manually or automatically), you can create an alert for the carrier as a reminder or head’s up. And, if the carrier doesn’t complete their milestones altogether, you can alert your team to check in with the carrier to see what’s going on. If it turns out there is a problem, you can easily create an incident using a simple checkbox.

Use Case #3 – Documents are missing

No one likes the paperwork that comes with logistics, but it can be managed easier using document alerts.

Let’s say you have a certain shipment for which the service level is high-priority, and you want the PoD within 2 hours of delivery. You can select the document type and when you want it in your hot little hands, and the alerts are scheduled to notify you 1 hour after the scheduled delivery time and after 3 hours. And then you can decide if you want to start an incident. Same goes for the Bill of Lading – say you need to receive it 12 hours before the collection date, you can choose an alert to go off in a timeframe that allows you to keep track.

Context is everything

Enough about use cases. Why does all of this matter? And what makes a modern TMS better than a classic TMS system or Excel spreadsheet? Put simply, in an integrated incident management system, each of these incidents are linked with the corresponding shipment.

In one grid, you can see a list of all the incidents in a column, with an open or closed status for a specific shipment. Clicking on it brings up all the details so you get the overall picture and understand the context very quickly.

For example, you immediately know:

1) Which carrier was assigned

2) Which materials were on the shipment

3) The location

4) When it was loaded

5) For which customers it is destined

Not even hackers have that kind of information at the click of a button! It’s also possible to manually create an incident by right clicking, filling in the reason code and description and then saving.

So, once you have all the information you need to resolve the incident, doing so might require consulting with some of your colleagues. And since walking over to someone’s desk or having a chat at the water cooler just isn’t possible these days with so many people working from home, we’ve made things easier.

Instead of sending an email providing a lot of long-winded context, we’ve created an integrated chat system so you can quickly resolve the incident by automatically sharing the details with your colleague.

Using these alerts and incident management tools, you’re in a much better position to manage exceptions, as well as analyse very helpful data about how many incidents there were per carrier or per customer, and how long it took to resolve them. Then you can crunch the numbers and measure where you need to step up your game.

Don’t believe that a modern TMS will improve your logistics service? We take exception to that. In fact, we consider it an incident that needs to be resolved.

Get in touch and we’ll consider it closed.

SupplyStack is a full-circle TMS, from sourcing to planning, executing, monitoring/collaboration right up to freight settlement.

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