As you might expect, at RateLinx we spend a lot of time observing new trends in logistics technology. More importantly, we’re constantly thinking about ways that the latest trends can be incorporated into our software to help improve our customers’ supply chain planning’and their bottom line. As I look back on 2015, here are a few of the technology and logistics trends that I believe will continue to revolutionize our industry for years to come.

Analytics and Logistics Data Integration

Today’s companies want to understand not only how they are executing on their strategies but also to have the ability to run ‘what if’ scenarios to find a better strategy. I see many shippers spending a lot of time and effort to combine their shipment data with their invoice data so they can perform tactical planning to understand how fuel costs, removing carriers, shipping from different ports, etc. will affect their freight spend.

This is one of the key reasons we created the RateLinx Enterprise Solution‘to have this data integrated, standardized and cleansed automatically. It’s also important to be able to quickly see and interpret this data. The RateLinx Dashboard provides visibility into the combined dataset and allows the logistics professional to easily see the exceptions. We’re also able to store an unlimited number of attributes for a given shipment. This provides the custom look into the data so the logistics professional doesn’t have to decipher what the data means the system is already using the company’s vocabulary. If the company calls their order a ‘Sales Order’ or an item a ‘SKU,’ it is stored using that exact terminology. We find that the more descriptive you can be and the more company-specific that you are with the actual fields being stored, the more meaningful the data is to a company.

With this standardized, clean data in hand, we can help our clients with tactical logistics planning using our Modeling engine. Our Rate Analysts will work with our customers to execute the modeling scenarios and show our customer not only what their freight cost will be if they remove a carrier or fuel increases, but also help them develop strategies to mitigate any increases. Then the ShipLinx Transportation Management System allows the customer to execute on the strategy while the data is collected to measure the results in real-time.

Cloud-Based Solutions

The days of rolling out a large server farm at a company to support the TMS may be coming to an end. The cloud has allowed companies to install large systems much faster with a smaller maintenance footprint. We just finished rolling out a system for a large e-commerce shipper one week before Thanksgiving and it took us a total of five days. This also means that companies no longer have to employ a large IT staff to maintain the servers 24/7.

Planning and Execution in One System

Many companies have a great planning system with an execution system that can’t execute on the plan, or vice-versa. This often happens because the company will purchase a planning system from one supplier, then purchase the execution system from another supplier. The challenge then becomes trying to ensure the two systems mirror their functionality. It doesn’t do a company any good to add new planning functionality that their execution system can’t do. We often run into this when companies are looking at adding a regional parcel carrier or are introducing a new mode such as pool distribution. These may be easy to plan but not all execution systems support the regional parcel carriers or a mode such as pool distribution. Companies need to consider their logistics technology to ensure the technology can actually execute their strategies.

However, when strategy and execution work hand-in-hand, the benefits can be huge. The ShipLinx TMS allows companies to, for example, utilize their stores as ship-from points. This means that the company can ship the product from a location that is closer to the consumer, reducing the need for expedited shipping. This lowers the cost to the company while maintaining high service levels with the consumer.

We have a few customers today that leverage ShipLinx TMS in a cloud-based environment to perform this type of shipment. One of the advantages of using the ShipLinx TMS is that it can perform a location rate-shop instead of a carrier rate-shop. This means that it tells the company’s order system which store location they should use in order to meet the ‘must arrive by date’ (MABD) that the consumer has on their order. ShipLinx TMS also supports all regional parcel carriers, along with USPS, so the shipper can be very creative in their carrier strategies.

Mobile Apps

This is starting to become a nice complementary solution that can be a stop-gap for exchanging data with small carriers and even internal fleets. With a mobile app you can easily obtain pickup information and delivery information through the click of a button in real-time, as well as tender the shipment to the carrier and receive real-time feedback on the acceptance of a load. This year, RateLinx entered the mobile arena with an app for iOS and Android with our RateLinx Mobile App. It allows you to bid on shipments, enter tracking information (pickups, delays and deliveries) as well as search for payment statuses on invoiced loads.

All in all, 2015 was an exciting year for the shipping and logistics industry and a big year for RateLinx. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store. I promise you that RateLinx will remain on the cutting edge of transportation management for 2016 and beyond.