As a Traffic Manager or Warehouse Manager, you know that getting your products from your location to their ultimate destination isn’t always as simple as it might seem. The overall product supply chain is complex, and the freight shipping component, while only one link in the chain, has its own set of complexities.
The first, and often most critical step in freight shipping is procuring the freight quote. The freight quote is an accurate estimate as to how much it will cost to ship your freight. Depending on the size of the organization, Traffic or Warehouse Managers often times have direct relationships with the freight carrier and work with that freight carrier’s software program or with an account manager directly to produce their freight quotes. A good Traffic manager will often have relationships with multiple freight carriers and will often times request freight quotes from each carrier for each shipment. Depending on the number of shipments per day or week, the simple process of procuring a freight quote can become tedious and daunting, even when granted access to the freight carrier’s software or website.
Bruce Williamson learned this lesson the hard way. Bruce is the long time traffic manager of a mid-sized manufacturer of assembly hardware like nuts and bolts. He ships a few tons of hardware each week to several different distributors as well as direct clients. Quantities vary from week to week, so Bruce works with six different freight carriers directly and has account managers at each. He appreciates having a human being with whom he can call and will often pit one freight carrier against another in order to receive the best price possible. All of Bruce’s carriers offer access to their online quoting tool, but Bruce hates having to manually enter the origination, destination, and freight shipping information on six different platforms, so he picks up the phone and calls his reps. When the reps aren’t available, he uses their freight quote software. Bruce spends several hours each week coordinating his regular shipments but likes having control over which carriers he uses for each freight shipment.
While it wasn’t the most efficient way to procure freight quotes, Bruce’s system worked. It worked until the day the Sales Manager sent the notice that they had just landed a major account from one of the big automakers. Bruce would have to add several new shipments each week, and because he was already spending an inordinate amount of time on his existing freight quotes, he wasn’t sure how he’d go about handing the additional demand.
Bruce decided to hire a new person, which he’d train to take over the job of freight quoting. It was during his search that he discovered 3PL (Third Party Logistics) programs. He researched and discovered that 3PL software would work in much the same way the Freight Carrier software worked, but the 3PL programs would pull rates from several freight carriers at one time. The decision was an easy one for Bruce. He decided not to hire an extra body and opted to use a 3PL partner for all of his freight quoting needs. He was elated because he now only needed to type the customer and freight information once, rather than on each freight carrier site separately. In fact, after processing a few freight quotes, Bruce was surprised to see rates from his entire set of regular carriers, and a few that came back lower than what he’d received in the past.
Bruce’s story isn’t unique. Every day, Traffic Managers spend inordinate amounts of time manually requesting freight quotes from several separate freight carriers. Now, thanks to 3PL software applications, obtaining a freight quote from multiple carriers is easier than ever. But with so many different 3PL software programs available, which one is the best for you?
One-size 3PL software doesn’t fit all. As with any product or service, we recommend doing your research and asking the tough questions ahead of making a purchasing decision. Does the software interface with all of your regular freight carriers? Who is the 3PL company behind the software? What kind of support can you expect with your subscription? Will you receive the same care with a 3PL that you’ve received with your freight carrier directly?
Within such a complex supply chain, doesn’t it make sense to improve efficiency where you can? Obtaining freight quotes on the front end of the shipment is one of the areas where you’re likely to see the quickest and best efficiency improvements.
For more information on 3PL companies, download the white paper: “Never Miss a Happy Hour Again – How Using a 3PL Partner Can Mean More Beer for You!”