Shippers save money, time with automated transportation bidding tools

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Shippers save money, time with automated transportation bidding tools

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The world of LTL is slow to embrace change. Business anachronisms permeate current supply chain processes. These vestiges of the way things used to work define the LTL freight transportation procurement process of many modern shippers. 

David Knuth, logistics specialist at IEWC, a global supplier of cable and wire based in Wisconsin, is happy to have modernized the RFP process, automating the entire LTL bidding procedure with Bid$ense, SMC³’s automated truckload and LTL freight transportation sourcing solution. But when prompted, he can still recall what once was.

In his previous job, a large part of his duties were consumed by creating an intermodal bid package for carriers. In a spreadsheet, Knuth detailed the company’s volumes lane by lane, taking care to delete any errant keystrokes or misleading data. He would then email out the information to each carrier, taking time to respond to detailed technical questions about the spreadsheet data. Finally, he had to compile all the results, create an algorithm that would compare the carriers on each lane, and award the business.  

“It was a huge undertaking. It took about four months to do,” Knuth said of the old process. “It was almost a full-time job for that part of the year, every year.”

In his new job at IEWC, he sat down with Bid$ense on day one and was amazed at the capabilities. Knuth had never before used a bid tool. SMC³’s latest versions of Bid$ense automate the process even further, taking truckload and LTL RFPs entirely online. The tool draws on RFP best-practices protocols to streamline the bidding communication process, enabling bidding carriers to respond accurately and promptly to shipper requests. The solution also does all the distribution work automatically, electronically submitting shipper bid data to carriers based on their actual service capabilities and performance records. Carriers are alerted with timely prompts for RFP deliverables, so shippers aren’t waiting by the phone for responses.

Another benefit of automating the process is the data-cleansing assistance. When Knuth sent spreadsheets to carriers, data errors might cloud the bidding process; he might have to resend data or simply accept a price that did not truly reflect the costs of doing business. Data cleansing is incredibly beneficial, he said.

The spreadsheet technique also made bidding analysis an onerous task. Since Bid$ense automates and streamlines the entire RFP process, intensive examination is now simple. SMC³ knows that each bid has more than one best outcome. With uniform responses from each carrier, shippers can quickly rank results and create an unlimited quantity of what-if scenarios to make the optimal procurement decision.

Jesse Burnett of Central Garden & Pet experiences many of the same benefits. Founded in 1980, Central Garden & Pet has spent the last three decades growing from a small garden supply company to a provider of a range of products from dog chews and bird seed to soil supplements and natural insecticides. For much of its life, the company shipped these disparate goods via LTL and truckload carriers to retailers throughout the country, relying on each business unit to negotiate directly with their freight transportation providers. This arrangement worked fairly well for a small company, but as Central Garden & Pet expanded, leadership decided to consolidate decision making.

Burnett helped centralize the transportation decision making in 2015 with SMC³’s Bid$ense. Before Bid$ense, every business unit operated independently as far as negotiating with carriers.   

“There were a lot of different things just floating around,” he said. “We didn’t have master agreements in place; no national pricing at all. The pricing from carriers was just all over the place, depending on where you were.”

The transformations he saw with Bid$ense were immediate. Burnett has been using the tool about every other year since its implementation at the company. Central Garden and Pet’s $19.6 million 2019 LTL bid saved the company just more than 9 percent when compared to its historical average. For Burnett, though, bid automation extends far beyond savings.

“We knew that we weren’t getting the best pricing offer from our carriers just because nothing was centralized,” he continued. “We knew that if we combined everything from all these business units and paired it with one corporate offering, then it would drive some cost benefit with it.”

When the company initially decided to centralize bid procurement, executives researched a number of different methodologies and technologies. In the end, though, Burnett found that Bid$ense was both widespread and well known, and that his carrier partners already knew how to use the application. Burnett also highlighted the data-cleansing process as a major benefit, saying the rigorous process ensures that carriers always return the best price.

“It definitely has helped drive savings,” he said. “Any time you go out there and you drive that competitiveness with the carriers and they know they’re in a bid environment, it seems to sharpen their pencils.”

Transportation procurement is an integral part of the modern supply chain. With Bid$ense, shippers can develop a strategic implementation plan that saves them time and money, but also helps them create strong relationships with their carrier partners. These carriers appreciate the solution’s data-cleansing process; when carriers receive a complete shipment history and future volume forecast, they don’t have to guess on pricing. Carriers that receive more data from shippers get a complete picture of that shipper’s freight, allowing them to accurately plan instead of simply preparing for the worst-case scenario. Clean data presented through an automated system can lead to both bigger shipment savings and a lasting partnership between carrier and customer.

Whether customers are looking to streamline over-the-road transportation bidding by automating the RFP process or create an entirely new, centralized sourcing process, Bid$ense has the analytical horsepower to get the job done. 

SMC³ 2020 Customer Case Study