Posted by Guru Rao

Nothing about bulk transportation is apparently “lean.” Construction materials, raw manufacturing goods, food ingredients, and liquid and chemical compounds typically ship unpackaged and in large vessels. You can’t just remove a little cement from this truck and replace it with some steel beams from that one. In a way, the freight vessel itself is the package.

But that doesn’t mean the software you use to manage these deliveries needs to be bulky and inflexible. Your fleet might never have the level of freight flexibility of say, an e-commerce website that sells packaged consumer goods. But you can still have the software-enabled visibility you need to optimize your bulk-transportation network.

First things first: You need supply chain intelligence

For many producers of raw materials, there’s a noticeable lack of visibility once the product moves beyond the private fleet. The main culprit is poor integration between in-house and external transportation management systems (TMS), ERPs and other digital resources. As a result, “missing links” form in the supply chain that make it harder to accurately account for delivery status at every touch point.

“Unify supply chain intelligence under a single dashboard.”

The first step in closing those links is to bridge the gaps between supply chain intelligence by unifying them under a single dashboard. From the point of origin to the moment a delivery is completed, management should have a real-time pulse on fleet progress. They need to know where a delivery is and its current ETA. They also need to be able to verify that drivers and operators are complying with applicable regulations. This knowledge is crucial for effective oversight of bulk transportation delivery fleets – be they trucks, river barges, rail units or something else.

Lack of complete end-to-end visibility also inhibits resource efficiency. One of the most challenging aspects of cost-cutting when it comes to shipping in general is fuel costs, according to Today’s Trucking. Ideally, your products will move along the most efficient possible routes. Automatic route optimization saves time in transit, but it can also help scale back on fuel consumption. The calculations involved are extremely complex, but not for an application that utilizes advanced data analytics.

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Lightweight, but still heavy duty

Of course, that brings us full circle to the initial problem: lack of a light-weight solution that is powerful enough to integrate with many disparate computer systems and make sense of large volumes of data. Some manufacturers and carriers may also have paperless requirements, so the same solution will also need to support document management.

As complicated as this all may sound, there’s a rather simple solution: a mobile fleet management system that is powered by the cloud. All of the heavy lifting (integration, data analysis) happens behind the scenes. This also means that there are no complex hardware deployments necessary. With a cloud-based fleet management tool, all you need is an internet-connected endpoint. It can be a smartphone, a laptop or a tablet.

By nature of what you’re transporting, your bulk transportation delivery network may never be “lean,” per se. But it can certainly be responsive. Find out how by clicking below.

Bulk transportation logistics don't need to be bulky: Here's why