Supply Chain Agility: Five Strategies to Build Resiliency in an Evolving LTL Landscape

In today's rapidly evolving economy, supply chain agility has become a critical factor for success. Everything from changes in consumer habits, market disruptions, and global events require that businesses be flexible and responsive. As a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, helping our customers adapt to a shifting supply chain is at the heart of what we do.

Since joining Robinson last year, I’ve noticed several strategies that help customers navigate disruption and uncertainty:

1. Invest in Shipping Technology Advancements

A growing number of shippers are exploring how technology like generative AI and other automated workflows can help them save time. For example, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association’s new standard for electronic bills of lading (eBOL), which help shippers save time and money by reducing manual work, cutting down on errors and increasing efficiency at every shipper’s dock. Robinson was the first 3PL to adopt this new standard and has already implemented it with 10 LTL carriers to drive better visibility for customers. eBOL enables earlier generation of tracking numbers to deliver real-time visibility, more predictive ETAs, and better mitigation of potential disruptions. Now is the time for shippers to consider how to leverage new technology to build resiliency and agility into their supply chains.

2. Diversify Your Supply Chain

Less than truckload (LTL) shipping is an attractive option for many businesses, like retailers that often move smaller shipments to prevent over-ordering. However, even within a mode, diversification can deliver additional value to shippers. By diversifying across LTL providers, shippers can minimize risk and remain agile when there are market disruptions, such as the recent Yellow shutdown. As the third largest LTL carrier, Yellow’s shutdown resulted in the reallocation of approximately 45k-60k shipments/day and highlighted the importance of not relying on a single carrier. This is where a trusted 3PL provider can make a real impact through their access to a wide network of carriers. With over 110 LTL carriers on contract, C.H. Robinson has access to more capacity than anyone else to help shippers navigate options like consolidation and modal optimization to best serve their end customer. This diversification is essential to mitigating risk and infusing flexibility in a shipper’s supply chain.

3. Make Your Data Work for You

As expectations for statement information and accurate ETAs grow, shippers are under pressure to know where their freight is. When it comes to data science, scale matters. With over 20 million annual shipments and over 7 million of those specific to LTL shipments, C.H. Robinson has the largest data set in the industry to help shippers anticipate and resolve issues before they happen. Instead of just being notified that a shipment will be late, a trusted 3PL partner can intervene earlier to resolve disruptions and keep freight on schedule. Additionally, with the right data set, shippers can improve the accuracy of their arrival predictions. In fact, with the scale of our data set, Robinson boasts a 92% accuracy in on time predictions for LTL shipments.

4. Reduce Waste

Now is an excellent time for shippers to look closely at their operational efficiency and optimize their supply chain strategy before the market turns. Relying on the expertise of a logistics partner can help you leverage new carrier and modal options to increase on-time performance and mitigate costs.

In our latest customer research study, the most common way shippers are finding efficiencies is by analyzing patterns in their transportation spend. Transportation management software can provide useful insights to reduce waste and improve savings by minimizing emissions, travel time, distance, and total miles while maximizing trailer utilization. When it comes to reducing waste, every small improvement adds up, leading to significant cost savings.

5. Engage Trusted Experts

As a shipper’s capacity needs evolve, logistics partner experts can leverage carrier relationships to meet changing objectives. Your logistics partner can also help you determine when it makes sense to change modes to take advantage of market fluctuations. When it comes to building resilient supply chains, trusted providers like Robinson help shippers adapt their strategies, navigate disruption, and protect margins.

The ability to adapt is key to navigating an evolving supply chain ecosystem. By focusing on data and efficiency, shippers can use 2024 to build strong, resilient supply chain strategies to prepare for when the market turns.

Dave Bozeman
CEO | C.H. Robinson
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