Shippers are increasingly digitizing their operations, as transportation teams are asked to do more with the same or fewer resources in the current environment of rising costs, labor shortages and truckload capacity constraints. However, choosing the right technology partner must transcend a transactional exchange in order to customize solutions that meet the needs of unique processes and terminology.
To understand one such partnership, FreightWaves recently took a close look at Convoy’s partnership with the logistics arm of Shasta Beverages, owned by National Beverage, a beverage developer, manufacturer and distributor of brands like LaCroix with over $1 billion in annual revenue. Shasta has been a technology design partner with Convoy since 2018 as Convoy was developing its web-based TMS. Art Hanrehan, Shasta’s executive vice president of operations, and Logistics Manager Misty Hicks spoke candidly about being a design partner for Convoy.
Convoy uses a human-centered design approach, which requires deeply understanding and empathizing with the people you’re designing for. “When we came and looked at Shasta’s workflow, we looked at it from the perspective of the people doing the work,” said Ryan Collier, design director at Convoy. “You can’t really look at customer needs and challenges as just data. So really getting on the ground and making it observational really helps, and the Shasta team worked closely with us.”
After multiple visits to Shasta’s operation, the Convoy team observed that while its manual process was packaged effectively, it wasn’t time efficient. All of Shasta’s beverages were shipped using emails and spreadsheets. Each load was also tendered manually one at a time, and despite the fact that multiple orders go to the same customer and ship from the same plant, there was no way to consolidate the load-tendering process. Two or three people were using their entire workdays to build loads. In addition to that, the Convoy team observed that Shasta’s operational processes and terminology were oriented around customer orders, not truckload capacity.
“We brought that perspective into designing the product solution,” said Collier. “Rather than saying, ‘Tell us what truck you want,’ we said, ‘Show us your orders. Convoy’s TMS can then suggest how to build efficient truckloads, given that set of customer orders and constraints.’ We also built an interface to help them know how full the trucks are and if orders could be combined.”
Streamlining tendering operations
The Convoy TMS also provided the capability to centralize the tendering operation. The product made it possible for Shasta to upload its order reports into the TMS and begin tendering from there. Rather than tender each one individually, Convoy developed a solution to select multiple orders at the same time and then choose from a variety of carriers, including Convoy’s in-network carriers.
Convoy’s increased visibility into Shasta’s loads also made it easier to bundle them, helping Shasta improve truck utilization and reduce emissions. After weeks of fine-tuning and testing the product with the load planners, Shasta experienced a ninefold decrease in tendering times.
“We actually tender our loads five days in advance, which is ahead of the industry,” said Hicks. “Typically the average lead time is three days. As a design partner, Shasta is working with Convoy to add the functionality of order and load optimization. We are striving to allow the system to look two weeks into the future and create trips of bundled orders across the Shasta network, connecting points that can be revised up until that five-day lead time and then tendered to carriers for bid. The goal is to improve pickup and on-time delivery service, control deadhead miles and reduce fuel consumption while at the same time reducing overall freight cost.”
Carrier performance management
Before launching the TMS, Shasta used more than 130 different carriers; today the list of active carriers has reduced by 35%. “By being able to identify the poor performers, we’ve been able to shorten our list of carriers that we use,” said Hicks.
In whatever ways possible, the Convoy team tried to push the data back to the user, especially when it was valuable for decision-making.
“We brought the carrier scorecards right into the product,” said Collier. “We just put it on the screen next to the price. If it was a thousand bucks, you’d also see their on-time performance and tender acceptance rate. Merging data sets for better decision-making is just part of the culture here at Convoy. The ability to see this immediate data improves the logistics team’s productivity and reduces the number of times we need to use the waterfall to get a load accepted. It also helps us build better carrier relationships by knowing which carriers are accepting the load tenders and which ones are not.”
While the transportation team at Shasta was Convoy’s primary customer, Convoy also engaged with the sales team at Shasta, helping them understand how transportation can be a value driver, as opposed to a cost driver. The pricing data from the Convoy TMS equips the sales team with accurate estimates for their customers.
“They can now more quickly tell their customers exactly how much it costs to get a pallet full of LaCroix delivered,” said Collier.
Lower carbon emissions
Optimizing truckload capacity utilization has a lot of benefits, particularly in this tight market. Helping carriers keep their trucks full reduces carbon emissions from transportation — a significant initiative for both companies. The Convoy TMS also calculates the carbon emissions saved from bundling and backhauls.
“Being able to employ inbound shippers as outbound shippers has reduced our carbon footprint,” said Hanrehan. “We have also built and sourced dedicated round-trip lanes for several routes, which have provided carriers with very efficient lanes and fewer deadhead miles. We can plan LTL orders for two-stop loads before actually offering the load to a carrier. This additional planning reduces the carbon footprint, improves service to our customers and reduces overall freight costs. It’s a win-win.”
This article is published jointly with our partners at Convoy. To view more Future of Freight content, click here.