The Secret to a Seamless LTL Lifecycle

  2020 07 02 LTL

Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping is instrumental for many supply chains to move products and materials as seamlessly as possible, yet it comes with its own unique complexities. 

A Supply Chain 247 article, What Is LTL Shipping and Why Is it Important to Corporate America, explained, LTL shipping is the single most complicated transportation option out there today. But LTL plays a pivotal role in the smooth operation of the supply chain. Companies that play the game well by aligning with the right carrier and technology partners know that LTL shipping is an extremely valuable transportation option.”

While many have tried creating their own standard or process to simplify the LTL workflow, it’s not a problem that can be solved in a silo. The entire LTL ecosystem – shippers, logistics service providers, carriers, and technology providers – needs to collaborate to align on digital standards that will streamline the LTL lifecycle for everyone involved.

Taking the Root Cause of LTL Challenges 

In the recent webinar, Transforming the LTL Ecosystem: How Collaboration and Automation Is Elevating the entire LTL Lifecycle, moderated by project44’s Vice President of Value Engineering, Christian Piller, the group of LTL experts talked about the biggest challenges shippers are currently facing and why digitalization and collaboration are essential for transformation.

Kevin Huntsman, Senior Vice President at Mastio & Company, shared insight from research the firm has done across a range of shippers, As we move forward and as we see more complex supply chains, the ability to understand where your freight is and the ability to integrate technology into your supply chain is of greater and greater importance.”

While the panel agreed that the industry as a whole is shifting to a digital approach, there are key requirements to keep in mind for digitalization to be successful. Jim Badovinac, Vice President of LTL Solutions at Green Mountain Technology, explained why quality data is so important.

The key is automation and visibility for both shippers and carriers, and increasing digitization makes both possible. Data that’s real-time, accurate, and cleansed drives better decisions at the end of the day,” explained Badovinac. Visibility and reliable data are key to creating trust between shippers and carriers.” 

Lee McMillan, Vice President of Strategic Services at AAA Cooper, shared insight as an LTL carrier, explaining why it’s challenging to support each customer’s unique processes.

There are nuanced requirements at the various customers we serve. We have to understand their dynamics and meet them in the format they require,” said McMillan. Fundamental to that is the quality of data that’s exchanged in the process. Digitization does not necessarily translate to data accuracy. We need good information to support this system and deliver on these requirements in a way that’s meaningful to the customer.”

To meet these customer needs at scale and build a seamless LTL lifecycle, the industry must prioritize quality data and collaborate to develop digital standards. 

Building LTL Industry Standards 

Because the industry is complex and interconnected, bringing about transformative long-lasting change requires collaboration among all ecosystem parties. 

Currently, there are many different digitalization options in the LTL space, leaving LTL carriers and their customers to customize numerous workflows. Carriers, shippers, and technology providers need to come together to set this standard, allowing all parties to achieve value from digitalization. 

In a recent event with JOC, project44’s Head of Global Network Partnerships, Tommy Barnes, discussed how the industry is creating these standards. He explained that various members of the LTL community — from LTL carriers, shippers, 3PLs, TMS providers, and data providers — have created a working group to focus on supporting and evolving the LTL industry into the parcel-like experience that customers want. 

In project44’s recent LTL webinar, the audience was polled about their biggest LTL challenges. Over 36% said exceptions management was their organization’s biggest LTL challenge today, followed by 26% that said cumbersome paperwork processes. These challenges are some of the key pain points this group is focused on solving. 

  LTL Webinar Poll Results

Through alignment across the LTL industry, these standards will help supply chains digitize key shipping and billing workflows to increase efficiencies, improve service for customers, and be one of the many necessary steps to increase transportation efficiency. Solving for LTL industry challenges is the more difficult approach, but it’s necessary to enable long-term success for all LTL shippers. 

Opportunities for LTL Digitalization

As the industry works to align on the standards that will set them up for collective success, there are many ways digitalization can transform LTL

In addition to digital BOLs, there’s a significant opportunity for the industry to use APIs to digitize rating, dispatch, tracking, and documents to create value for shippers throughout the LTL lifecycle. Through an automated digital workflow, shippers and carriers can gain actionable high-fidelity shipment tracking data while reducing the amount of time and resources spent on locating shipments via phone calls and emails. 

To see value from digitalization shippers need to prioritize data quality and collaborate with their LTL carriers and technology partners. Without data that’s accurate, complete, or timely, they won’t be able to transform their workflow. High-fidelity data makes it possible to standardize the process across the industry, creating a more streamlined LTL lifecycle for the entire ecosystem.

To learn more about solving LTL challenges with digitalization, watch the webinar recording, Transforming the LTL Ecosystem: How Collaboration and Automation Is Elevating the entire LTL Lifecycle.