The ABCs of Digital Delivery
Rob Haney alphabetically simplifies your digital delivery network options in 2022.
We are standing at the cusp of the digital delivery revolution. Truck delivery is evolving from the forgotten backwater of logistics to a customer service differentiator. From Ocean Drayage to Air Freight feeder services, to final mile big and bulky delivery, the industry is changing fast and for the better.
To make sense of digitized delivery, I’ve organized the shipper’s delivery options alphabetically -the ABCs of truck delivery.
“A” is for Analog:
If you are in the "non-digital delivery" category, you are not alone. Global digitized delivery systems were not possible a few years ago. So, shippers who are contracting local carriers have traditionally used a spectrum of different tools and processes – the most popular is always excel, email and phone. Local control of local trucking relationships is the baseline for global truck logistics and can work effectively. However, if you re-frame this from the perspective of digitizing delivery, then these legacy tools and processes are manual and cannot scale effectively… therefore, I call this delivery approach “Analog”.
Where do we go from here? You may be okay with this choice. Every shipper is unique. If you want to “digitize” then begin with thinking about your approach and strategy. Think about how you want your organization to work in the future, how you want to interact with customers, and the process changes that will bring about a better way of working for your team and greater customer satisfaction.
The value of making your truck delivery digital can be much greater than simple visibility (which can be achieved with a device-based tracker). A digitized approach and a connected network of trusted truck carriers mean you will have far more contextual and actionable intelligence to plan and manage your truck deliveries.
A great way to start is to make a list of what you’d like to achieve with digitization. Here are some popular ones:
Operations: Eliminate manual data entry and emails
Proof of delivery: Collect detailed data from the delivery (time, shortage, overage, damage)
Security: Capture pics and chain of custody + metrics by carrier and driver
Resilience: Build a stronger relationship with your best carriers
Differentiate: Win new customers by differentiating with delivery data
Centralize: Control delivery processes globally
Value: Ensure you are getting the level of delivery services you expect for your budget
If you are in the “analog” world, your organization will be missing productivity multipliers for your front-office and back-office service teams, drivers, and customers that bring significant improvements to the overall delivery experience.
“B” is for Brokers:
If you are using a digital broker, you are already a part of the digital delivery revolution.
Brokers can be a great option. Truck carriers are a shared resource. For LTL and Final Mile, your delivery is sharing the truck capacity with other customers. Getting the different deliveries organized so that the truck driver is efficient keeps the cost down for everyone.
Final Mile “Big and Bulky” is a good place to use a broker. With a single provider,
you can access reliable coverage across a wide geographic region. Your broker
manages the complexity of receipt at a local warehouse, load building, scheduling,
Leveraging modern digital delivery connects your shipment through to the local
warehouse, dispatcher, and driver. You will see confirmation when the product is
received in good order and then is out for final delivery. Digital tools extend to the
drivers ensuring a consistent customer experience, real-time resolution of
unexpected surcharges, and collection of Proof of Delivery (POD). The use of integrated load builders, delivery schedulers, and routing optimizers helps keep the costs low.
You can find brokers serving each segment and geography.
“C” is for Carrier Haulage:
When you book an Ocean or Air freight shipment, the carrier may also provide digital delivery management of the truck moves. If the carrier is managing the origin “pre-carriage” truck move, the destination “post-carriage” truck move, or both, then this could be a convenient one-stop-shop option.
For the purpose of our alphabetical listing, let’s consider NVOCCs and 3PLs together with the actual vessel-owning carriers. The distinction between “logistics” and “carrier” continues to blur. Maersk is a vessel-owning ocean carrier that is now providing sophisticated pickup and delivery services with a plan to offer a vertically integrated one-stop shipper experience from factory to customer.
The challenge for both the Broker and Carrier Haulage option is the independent trucker.
Carriers are grappling with the “A” for Analog described above. The good news is that technology is no longer a barrier. The ubiquity of cloud/mobility means it’s possible to build a digitized network of truck carriers, including independent truckers, globally.
As with using any third-party service, take the time to understand the breadth and depth of the trucker networks available through your broker/logistics provider. Not all truck carrier connections are equally strong and may result in issues with the movements of shipments and unplanned disruptions.
When truck power is scarce, the truckers are going to support their best and most loyal customers.
“D” is for Do it yourself (aka Merchant Haulage):
If you like the idea of having a direct relationship with the truck carriers, then you might be ready for “D”, or Do the digital delivery yourself. The question is do you have enough volume for the truck carrier to take interest in a direct contract.
As you are evaluating your truck delivery needs and carrier network, your volume is your strength. High volume is what will enable you to build a trusted truck network. Like any business, a truck carrier will seek to build a relationship with a shipper who is consistently bringing them business.
The challenge is your team is busy, so they are solving the delivery problems of the day and have less time to be thinking strategically. In many cases, shippers spread their shipments across too many carriers which dilutes the value of leveraging their total volume. By focusing your volume, you build resilience.
Another challenge is measuring performance. Truck contracts stand on 3-legs: Rates, Volume, and Service. When it comes time to evaluate your trucking providers, the contract, rates, and volume are available, but service performance metrics are lost in countless emails and text messages. By standardizing operations on a digital delivery platform, you can collect metrics that inform the contracts and measure the health of the relationship, transforming the way you and your providers think about price, value, and service.
Tabulating service metrics for a globally distributed truck network was an almost impossible task for traditional “analog” logistics management. However, a digitized truck network can accrue performance insights to the carrier contract automatically. Imagine an alert that says: “Your best performing carrier is getting the least volume”.
This intelligent actionable data is at the heart of the digital delivery revolution. The ability to build and manage a network of trusted truck carriers regardless of complexity, geography, or size supports a more predictable and resilient supply chain. When each truck carrier operates on a platform that can capture standardized performance metrics, comparative customer delivery experiences can be clearly understood, making it easier to measure areas such as:
Tender Response: Did the carrier accept the tender? Did they cancel at the last minute?
On-Time Delivery: Did the driver arrive on time?
Proof of Delivery: Did the driver upload the details of the delivery?
Invoice Accuracy: Does the invoice match rate + surcharges?
Truck delivery across the global supply chain is digitizing and is touching many parts of a logistics organization, from frontline staff managing the delivery, to drivers and receivers, to the way trucking is priced and value is shown. Where does your organization lie on the journey from analog delivery to digital delivery and how are you plugging into a trusted network of truckers?