Watch Now

Flexibility enables shippers to compete, remain relevant in volatile market

Adaptability and visibility are key ingredients for an agile company

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The logistics industry is characterized by volatility, and companies hoping to thrive in the space need to be able to adapt to change more or less instantaneously. Agility is more important than ever as pandemic-related headwinds continue to play out and new technologies strengthen competing companies by offering increased flexibility.

A few weeks ago, carriers had the market cornered, leading to fluctuating volumes and soaring spot rates. Now, volumes are beginning to stabilize, tender rejections are dropping, and the spot market is cooling off. While industry experts have been anticipating this shift for quite some time, pinpointing its exact arrival was difficult to impossible. 

The most agile shippers have realized their gains immediately, while their less flexible peers are stuck operating on outdated market conditions. At the same time, the most nimble shippers will be the first companies alerted to less favorable market changes, allowing them to prepare to meet any challenge that comes their way.

“Adaptability and visibility are key. When a company is cognizant of upcoming pitfalls or has data supporting a seismic — or even minimal — shift in their supply chain, they can be proactive rather than reactive,” said Robert Houston, VP of Business Development at Emerge. “I’ve seen many companies wait until after the hammer falls to gather around trying to find solutions.”  

There are many tools that provide this visibility with little to no price tag. For example, Emerge offers real-time market insights as part of its freight procurement platform. Taking advantage of that information arms shippers against reaction lags and helps them respond to market shifts in real-time.

“At Emerge, we have developed a benchmarking feature as part of our procurement offering that gives shippers real-time information about where their freight lanes are running in comparison to market rates,” Houston said. “Shippers can then, with very minimal effort, make the necessary corrections to insure savings and process streamlining for their organization.” 

When some companies have access tocurrent and future-looking information, companies without that same knowledge base find themselves behind the curve. Navigating a volatile market requires diligence, coordination, and insight. This is especially true when companies compete  with their peers in the same space. 

While up-to-date information provides the basis for action, companies also need to ensure they can make moves and pivot quickly. This includes desensitizing decision-makers to their fears of change. 

“You need to be a change agent or else all the data in the world won’t be helpful,” Houston said. “The vast majority of logisticians are realizing this critical skill. Visibility does not work without adaptability. And vice versa.

Ultimately, shippers need to adopt new technologies, seek out current information and embrace change if they hope to stay competitive — or even relevant — in today’s fast-moving market. 

“There is so much information available to show shippers trends, expectations, and current and future technologies,” Houston said. “Companies should encourage or assist in educating their staff about what knowledge can help them be more efficient. Whether it’s information or new technologies/vendors, shippers owe it to themselves to take the time and explore what else is out there.”

Ashley Coker

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She covers air cargo, trucking and sponsored content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.