With all of the push to digitize the supply chain, Chad Crotty, the vice president of sales for North America at DDC, issued a cautionary tale.
The message: Don’t get too far ahead of your customers.
“We recommend carriers take a measured approach between technology integration and applying practical knowledge,” Crotty said in a FreightWaves Carrer Summit interview Wednesday with Zach Strickland, FreightWaves market expert and analyst.
DDC FPO is a business processing outsourcing firm that says it processes 30% of all LTL bills in North America. It lists its other activities as freight rate auditing, track and trace, carrier onboarding and customs brokerage data capture.
Many carriers are looking at API integration to “share data among the supply chain and raise visibility,” Crotty said. But it’s not all that easy.
“The problem with that is that there are a lot of moving parts in the supply chain,” Crotty said. “Not everybody is invested to the same level.”
The end result is that a lot of practices in the supply chain are tethered to old technologies. “You end up with still a lot of manual processes, requiring resources for inbound and outbound calling, tracking shipments, things like that, which require a lot of time, effort and cost,” Crotty said.
Given those limitations, “it’s a perfect time to engage with an outside expert to guide you through the process.” It’s an activity that DDC specializes in. “We help carriers maintain the balance between initiatives like this all the time,” Crotty said.
Even initiatives that seem like an obvious solution aren’t always easy to pull off, Crotty said. For example, in-cab scanner technology allows a driver to scan invoices and other paper documents to get them in a digital format. “We see more and more of that,” Crotty said. “The problem with that is that the image quality can be poor.”
And a poor image can reduce productivity by up to 20% in some cases, according to Crotty.
There is no “silver bullet” to fix these issues, Crotty said. That’s why DDF has “teams of people who focus on nothing but the freight back office and have done so for the past 15 years.”
Strickland, an LTL veteran, noted in the beginning of the interview that LTL pricing had held steady and that there had been “no major shakeouts” as a result of the pandemic. Crotty said that freight volumes had been up for “most of our customers.”
“Consumer spending is relatively high despite unemployment, and government stimulus may help as a stopgap,” Crotty said in reviewing the market. “But there is always the risk that something unforeseen could impact freight volumes.”