Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Grounded in the Cloud

Cloud computing technology

The benefits of cloud computing receive a lot of hype, but sometimes to appreciate the real power of the technology you have to experience it yourself. Recently, I sat in on one of our client’s business reviews along with one of their core carriers. In the meeting, I witnessed a really practical and meaningful application of cloud computing.

Generally speaking, carrier performance reviews is a commonly adopted best practice amongst shippers. I can recall a time when these events occurred less often. Today, the review routine has become widely accepted as companies strive to maintain and improve the performance of their freight networks. Also, the discussions tend to be more detailed than in the past, and often involve a careful assessment of a performance metrics. 

So, what was different about this meeting?

Both the shipper and the carrier walked into the meeting with a real time, web-based, identical scorecard. And both parties were in complete agreement about the metrics, the way they were calculated, and the integrity of the data. Why? Because they had already retrieved this information from a cloud-based transportation management system (TMS).

How many times have you had a carrier dispute your data? How much time do you waste researching shipments or disputing results? Would you not get to your goals faster if all of the right parties had access to the right metrics that drive your business?

This is a really practical example of cloud computing.  It’s about access, speed, and accuracy. As I sat and watched this carrier’s review, what stood out for me was how the focus of the meeting changed the review’s dynamic. Both parties were now rowing in the same direction and focused on the future. There wasn’t a need to waste time debating the report. Instead, the participants concentrated on process improvement.

In business review meetings, most carriers dislike being presented with performance information that is completely new. The information is typically questioned, and often a surprise to the carrier. Thus, it is difficult to have meaningful discussions about future improvements. As a result, carriers must go back to the office, research the relevant metric, and then determine the appropriate plan of action with their customer. This lack of visibility creates confusion around expectations and makes review meeting discussions unproductive.  It is far better to know in advance what will be covered during a meeting so a course of action can be agreed upon.

Cloud-based TMS offers visibility to both shippers and carriers regarding all pertinent operational information – including the latest performance analyses.  This information is available on-line for all authorized users to see. Information about, say, on-time performance, no longer appears out of left field at review meetings. Participants come fully prepared with the most up to date reports. Also, the cloud fosters collaboration between shippers and carriers that makes them better business partners.

The end result is that they can reach their tactical and strategic goals faster, a huge advantage in these intensely competitive times (see A New Fast Lane for Freight Management for more on this).

Does the above sound familiar? It’s not the kind of business-changing benefit that marketers like to describe in collateral about the cloud. Rather, it’s an example of an everyday gain that makes a real difference to network efficiency. And these gains tend to add up to the business-changing variety that you read about in brochures. Can you relate similar examples? If so, we would love to receive them.