Logistics Software Solutions – How Do They Compare to Third Party Logistics?

Third party logistics (3PL) is the most popular choice for freight logistics among small to midsized companies. In order to help companies that regularly make shipments that are too large to financially benefit from parcel shipping and too small to financially benefit from full truckload (FTL) shipping, companies turn to third party logistics providers to get them the best deals on less than truckload (LTL) shipping, integrated shipping methods and to reduce the delivery of products to retailers. To these ends, 3PL providers significantly reduce their clients’ shipping costs compared to what they would spend on shipping without the aid of freight logistics. But they obviously do so by charging their clients for freight logistics services.

So, what’s not to like about hiring a 3PL provider to reduce your company’s shipping costs and ensure that your goods are delivered in a timelier manner? After all, is there really such a thing as realizing freight transportation solutions without seeking the help of freight logistics experts? Yes and no. If freight logistics isn’t one of your company’s core competencies, you’ll certainly need to get logistics solutions from those that specialize in providing them. But you don’t have to turn to a 3PL provider and pay a middleman to provide you with shipping solutions when you can instead use online logistics software.

The difference between 3PL and logistics software solutions-also referred to as logistics management software-typically doesn’t lie in one having more logistics expertise than the other; rather, it has to do with how the logistics information is supplied, how much it costs and how much control companies have over their shipping process. Essentially, a third party logistics provider uses logistics management software to provide you with shipping solutions, whereas online logistics software lets you act as your own logistics provider for an affordable monthly fee. In no case will you find a 3PL provider that offers their services for the low price that you pay for logistics software solutions, nor will hiring a 3PL provider offer you as much control over your shipping options.

Having complete control over your shipping process has two main benefits: you can research the companies that you’re considering hiring and you never have to deal with a middleman’s business policies affecting the price or availability of certain shipping options. Aside of the financial and shipping management benefits offered by logistics management software, its greatest strength is its extreme ease of use. Although the term logistics software implies computer expertise, logistics software comes with an easy to use interface that neither requires expert computer knowledge or expertise in logistics, meaning that each of your company’s departments can be involved in its shipping process.

A Logistics Software Solution – Signs That Your Company Needs One

For companies that don’t have in house logistics experts, the question of how to handle the logistics of the shipping process often leads to contracting with a third party logistics (3PL) provider, a solution that rarely leads to a broad range of shipping solutions yet still costs more than implementing logistics software-also known as freight management software-which functions as a logistics expert and allows companies to choose from among recommended shipping options using a user friendly interface. While logistics solutions besides freight management software aren’t inherently bad, they’re usually more expensive and less thorough. Below, we take a look at some signs that indicate that your company could benefit from switching to a logistics software solution.

Feeling Disconnected From a 3PL Provider

The biggest complaint of 3PL customers about doing business with 3PLs is that the line of communication between provider and customer seems anything but fluid. While not having a talking business relationship with your 3PL provider isn’t necessarily a sign that your shipping process could be better, it is a symptom of how 3PLs do business: remaining at their position atop the logistics function by withholding logistical information. If you’d really like to know what your 3PL provider isn’t saying about your true range of shipping options, a logistics software solution will provide the answer.

Contracts With More Than One 3PL Provider

If you have a limited budget or are trying to save money on shipping logistics, you may have two or more contracts with standard 3PL providers and/or service developers, which means that you don’t have an integrated approach to your shipping process. Although specialized service oriented 3PLs can match your needs with carriers, they don’t integrate carriers for improved delivery time and decreased shipping cost. With freight management software, you have the opportunity to integrate all shipping methods (road, rail, air and sea) to improve delivery time and reduce cost of delivery.

Broken Freight on Arrival

While its rare to never experience broken freight, some companies experience it more than they should because they ship with a carrier that isn’t designed to handle it. Part of freight optimization is ensuring that freight is properly stacked right and shipped with other types of freight (especially in LTL shipping) that won’t cause damage. If you experience broken freight on a regular basis, chances are that there’s a problem with your shipping process that can easily be optimized with freight management software.

Feeling No Control Over Your Shipping Process

Because the cost of shipping is one the biggest expenses that shipping companies incur, every shipper should have as much control over its shipping process as possible. When shippers contract with 3PL providers, they relinquish control of the shipping process, putting themselves in the position to be overcharged and uninformed. Freight management software allows companies to become their own logistics providers, regaining control of their shipping process and saving money at the same time.

Why Choose Outsourced Over In-House Shipping Software Solution

Over the past two decades, automation of business processes has significantly increased in many industries including aviation, telecommunications, and banking. In shipping, automation has improved business efficiency by simplifying critical operations that require time and expertise. Nowadays, with increasing access to modern technology, it’s not unusual to find a small carrier using cheap off-the-shelf shipping software solutions to streamline and manage its core operations more efficiently. However, there are still quite a number of carriers who prefer bespoke IT systems despite the availability of much cheaper packaged solutions.

There are certain factors that motivate shipping business operators to develop their own IT systems in-house instead of buying cheaper off-the-shelf solutions. One of these is the advantage of having full control of the development processes which allows users to make specific improvements to the original platform as necessary. In addition, In-house platforms have been tailored to exact specifications, which is believed to deliver competitive advantage.

However, while bespoke systems offer full control of operation-specific features, they also require skilled IT staff and programmers to implement necessary upgrades. The fact that technology is rapidly changing means that IT platforms date and become unsupportable after a while. If a shipping business cannot keep up with the pace of change, it will find itself stuck with an obsolete technology which cannot support newer IT platforms. In addition, investing in a customized platform to automate only a single segment of shipping operation (e.g. a single segment of a terminal), is not worth the cost of the investment, which is significantly higher than buying off-the-shelf shipping software which can be customized to carry out various functions.

The following are some of the most prominent benefits of using off-the-shelf or packaged shipping software:

1. Price. Buying packaged software is calculated to be 10 to 50 times cheaper compared to developing an in-house IT system.

2. Flexibility. Modern packaged shipping software incorporate built-in switching options which allows operators to customize application to perform various tasks without doing any expensive reprogramming.

3. Upgrade options – Packaged software provides upgrade solutions to keep pace with fast changes in technology to make sure that users are always working from tried and tested, up-to-date, and well-supported platforms.

4. Guarantee. Customized or in-house systems do not offer test-runs prior to installation, and the end-product is not revealed until it has been delivered. Off-the-shelf solution allows you to use a system for a certain period to see if it delivers what you expect before you actually buy and install it into your existing IT infrastructure.

5. Efficiency. Packaged solutions are more cost-effective, require less resources, and deliver long-term solutions that can be customized to handle specific requirements of a shipping business.

While off-the-shelf shipping software offer a lot more benefits both in cost of investment and scope of features, accessibility to technology has significantly increased the number of software developers in the marketplace, many of which are not reputable. Carriers should be careful in choosing a supplier by checking their capability, reliability, and financial stability. After all, it’s not wise to buy from a company who’s not going to be around after two or three years, leaving you without support in a case of system failure.

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