If you’re having trouble selecting a provider of third-party logistics (3PL) service, you’re not alone. Many businesses report that selecting a partner to help them handle their transportation and storage needs can be a major headache in their professional activities. However, thanks to advances in the way software is used to handle transportation, it’s actually become much easier to select a partner if you find one who is making good use of technology. To help our readers in this space, we looked to information from AssetCo Freight, a leader in the 3PL industry. Read on for the company’s take on what you should look for in 3PL software.
One of the most important things to look for from a good 3PL partner is their ability to allow you and your business to have a greater degree of flexibility. In fact, at its core, that’s one of the main reasons for the increased usage of software platforms in the 3PL industry in recent years. These platforms, when they are well-designed, should ultimately have the effect of placing greater control in the hands of the customer. With this paradigm, the days of inefficient brokers can be a thing of the past and customers themselves can dictate how they want their transportation and management needs to be handled.
This has been a guided sentiment in the career of Luis Lopez, head of AssetCo Freight. A veteran of the logistics industry, one of Lopez’s first innovations was to create same-day pickup for hazardous materials. This came about at a time when the transportation and storage of such materials was made unnecessarily slow by regulations and bureaucracy. Rather than operate at the same slow rate as others in the field, the logistics professional sought to improve handling times while still maintaining a focus on safety and acting in accordance with regulations.
The logistics industry veteran brings that same focus on flexibility to his more recent work through the advent of TruckHub, his company’s transportation management system. Created to give customers an “Uber-like” experience, one unique facet of the system is the manner in which it connects shippers and carriers. By eschewing the use of middlemen, the platform displays carriers through its dashboard along with helpful information such as location and rate. With these details, customers can select a carrier and accomplish their transportation goals on their own terms.
One of the biggest assets that a transportation management system can provide to users is its ability to utilize GPS to provide information. As we’ve seen above, one way this can be used is through carrier tracking of the kind employed by the TruckHub platform. This allows users to see the location of a carrier even if they’re not currently transporting their goods. This can be useful because it can help users determine where a carrier may be when their own goods need to be transported. If a carrier will be in an area convenient to their needs, a user can decide to enlist their services.
Another way that GPS is utilized in these software platforms is through the tracking of goods when they are en route to a final destination. This allows users to see where their shipments are currently located, which can be helpful in determining when they will arrive at a destination. If it appears that a shipment is being delayed for some reason, users can make updates to account for the delay. If a shipment will arrive ahead of schedule, then corresponding accommodations can also be made. In either case, the information once again allows customers to have a higher degree of flexibility, making GPS tracking a key part of any 3PL platform.
Another important part of logistics software can be the manner in which it notifies users that a delivery has occurred. While GPS tracking can give an approximate indication of when such an event will take place, it doesn’t necessarily provide the finest detail possible in this area. By tracking delivery information, a well-designed transportation management system can provide a much more complete picture of the shipment process and can help confirm that goods have reached their ultimate destination.
Through a platform like TruckHub, delivery tracking allows drivers to communicate directly to users that their goods have arrived at a specific time. The platform also allows drivers to make any notes concerning delivery details such as receiver information and where goods were left. Again, this information serves to empower users and ultimately give them a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to planning their transportation endeavors.
Another key aspect of good transportation management software is its ability to provide API integration. APIs are standalone program modules that software providers create to allow other platforms to utilize the benefits of their technology. These powerful program modules allow software developers to improve the usability of their own products and allow greater functionality to their customers. Checking to see if a piece of logistics software provides support for API integration can be a key indicator of the degree to which it will be able to incorporate advanced features. Without such integration, features may be lacking.
Once again, TruckHub makes for a good example of the point above. With extensive integration for APIs, the platform is capable of incorporating a suite of features into its existing code. One way this manifests is through the use of Google Maps to support route planning. With the power of Google’s extensive mapping software, the transportation management platform is able to provide users with the benefit of a cutting edge route planning experience for their own goods.
While searching for a 3PL partner has been a daunting proposition in the past, the process is getting easier through the incorporation of technology into the industry. Transportation management systems and other logistics platforms now allow users to take back control over how their goods are transported in real-time. The examples above of TruckHub, the transportation management system from AssetCo Freight, help to illustrate what to look for in logistics software. Use this guide as a reference the next time you need to find a 3PL partner.