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  June 8th, 2016 | Written by


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It wasn’t that long ago when the most feared creature on the corporate landscape was the Tech Guy, an arrogant, belittling beast so ubiquitous that Saturday Night Live’s Jimmy Fallon created a recurring Tech Guy character complete with his own I-know-more-than-you tagline: “Moooove!” Our list of the best 3PLs for tech solutions, whether software, web- or cloud-based, shows just how much things have changed. Tech products are now all about making business, and life, more transparent, understandable and easier. Whether presenting hard numbers or data visualization, whether showing the real time flow of goods or anticipating how to make that flow run smoother, the one thing these products have in common is their flexibility and ability to be customized to the needs and understanding of their customers. Summing up, Graham Page, senior vice president of Supply Chain Solutions for Ruan, says his goal is to “never make it difficult for an individual to find information.” As their tech solutions prove, every other company on this list feels exactly the same way.


Customers like the benefits that come from the accuracy of CT Logistics’ FreitRater rating engine and system; a rate entry can be entered and processed using any pricing scheme. The software’s intuitive user interface is very easy to use and highly flexible for any need or mode. Each year CT Logistics brings together FreitRater clients and CT software developers for three days of networking, brainstorming and discussions of how to make the software even more useful. “This open forum delivers to clients exactly what they need,” says Allan J. Miner, president of CT Logistics. “Each year CT sees the pulse of the industry through our clients’ experiences and their customers’ requirements.”


CTSI’s transportation management system (TMS) features an array of applications scaled not only to adapt to each client’s logistics needs but to their budget by providing an al a carte environment that gives them the ability to add individual components as needed. With its software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, implementation can be completed in a matter of weeks, and optimization technology integrated with the transportation execution platform helps to automate manual processes, improve performance levels and decrease transportation costs. By using the same provider for both TMS and freight audit and payment services, companies eliminate redundant processes and pay a fraction of the cost of using two separate providers.


Just last March, FedEx Trade Networks, the global forwarding arm of FedEx, formally rolled out its CrossBorder offering which, as a technological solution, simplifies international shipping, speeding up the process from a single platform that can instantly reckon such common border hassles as regulatory compliance, customs and currency exchanges on top of tracking. The system is flexible and able to handle high volumes while expanding into new markets, thereby offering customers more choices and price-points to meet their needs. Chip Hull, vice president of FedEx CrossBorder, says it will enable their customers to “extend market reach—including reaching out to consumers in areas of the world previously out of reach to them and expanding internationally without building new infrastructure.”


Company President Bob Farrell says, “GlobalTranz sets itself apart from its competitors in the industry by the use of technology and the overall process we use to drive our business on a daily basis”—and a good example of that is its CarrierRate 2.0 software rolled out in 2014. Delivering a platform for real-time interactive reporting and standard tabular reports to facilitate shippers’ awareness of their logistics services, CarrierRate’s advanced communications allow agents and shippers to chat in real time through a configurable interface. New large shipper features enable multi-site management with a completely new suite of tools. Users have access to online help for ongoing support.


In their near-continual efforts to expand their cloud offerings, Ingram Micro recently announced several extensions to its Cloud Marketplace with the goal of making it simpler for solution providers to mix and match cloud services. “When it comes to solution providers in the cloud, there’s no such thing as one size fitting all,” says Renee Bergeron, vice president of Global Cloud for Ingram Micro. As a master cloud service provider, Ingram, with its more than 300 facilities and 20,000 employees in 170 countries, is able to offer not just its expertise but solutions that enable companies to configure and manage cloud technologies with confidence and ease.


LeanTMS is a single-instance, highly configurable software that offers a somewhat holistic, end-to-end approach to transportation management in one workflow. The benefits of a true SaaS model include continuous improvements through software upgrades, lower start-up costs and quicker application. In fact, on average, companies using LeanTMS save between 5 and 10 percent of their freight spend in the first year. (Ace Hardware saved nearly $20 million since implementing it.) “One customer saw shipping volume double while still retaining current shipping department head count,” says Mike Joseph, LeanLogistics’ director of Business Development. “Another customer recognized a 2.5 percent saving per case, lowering the total cost of goods sold after just five months.”


Drawing on LMS’ expertise in both transportation management and Internet technology, TOTAL, the company’s web-native system, is a modular system offering numerous components designed to operate autonomously or collectively. Each component, which includes Total Optimization (order management, shipment optimization), Total Execution (planning, customer/carrier communication, shipment tracking) and Total Vision (rate management, customer/carrier compliance), seamlessly integrates with existing TMS, WMS and ERP systems and is available as an on-demand format or as part of an outsourced offering. And TOTAL does not require a large investment or lengthy implementation period, yielding measurable results to deliver a quick return on investment, usually in less than 90 days.


LynnCo is an acknowledged leader in data visualization and its SuiteEdge is a highly intuitive system that converts complex data into easy-to-understand visual information. Over the past decade it’s evolved into an intelligent supply chain enterprise system, producing vast amounts of data into highly visual representations of actionable information. “Data overlaid on a map gives you the ability to have intelligent analytics as you look at it so that you can derive what’s going on in your supply chain,” says Ed Gort, LynnCo’s director of Solution Design and Engineering. “All of these things—processing speed, storage of data, visualization of data—allow you to make a more informed business decision within the supply chain.”


The company’s MyMallorySCV (Supply Chain Visibility) gives complete visibility from origin to a customer’s door for all modes of transportation. Integrated directly with the company’s Global Freight Management system, the technology provides users with access to real-time supply chain information related to logistics services, housing documents, invoices and various reports that can be accessed at the push of a button. For some customers, it manages purchase orders. The system provides complete supply chain movement information and comprehensive visibility by offering a one-stop shopping suite of options. As MyMallorySCV has evolved over the years, upgrades have passed these capabilities to customers to enhance the visibility experience.


About a year ago, Odyssey Logistics and Technology unveiled WIN (Web Integrated Network), a free cloud-based TMS that allows shippers to continue using their existing carriers while gaining access to additional capacity through the nearly $2 billion network of WIN/Odyssey carriers and brokers, and the spot market. And yes, it’s free. “We’re offering a powerful transportation management solution for free,” says Odyssey CEO Bob Shellman. “With WIN, one of the key benefits is that clients can keep their existing carriers or access a wider system of carriers through the WIN network and the spot market. There’s no need to discontinue relationships with existing partners and carriers.”


Penske began offering proprietary logistics systems back in the late ’80s, later incorporating off-the-shelf software that, whether TMS, WMS or other systems, was always customized to meet the needs of customers. More often than not, this meant streamlining operational and financial logistics processes. “Penske has a complete tool box of systems to deploy depending on our customers’ needs and capabilities,” says Tom McKenna, senior vice president of Engineering and Technology. “Solutions are designed to fit the design, planning, execution and financial requirements of our customers, whether they are quite simple or extraordinarily complex.” McKenna says the number one request from customers is to provide visibility across their supply chains, including orders and shipment status across distribution and transportation networks.


The benefits of the company’s RTMS2.0 is not only what it can do—a relatively new feature employs algorithms to move beyond basic one-way carrier route planning to perform such tasks as 3D load configuration and dedicated fleet planning—but how it is implemented, as Ruan takes the time to understand different roles in a customer’s operation and tailor options and data to make use as easy and efficient as possible. “We see the benefits of this approach every time we train a new customer,” says Graham Page, Ruan senior vice president of Supply Chain Solutions. “The common response is, ‘Well, that is really easy to use,’ and that’s when we know we have done our jobs well.”


Technology is SEKO’s largest department and it was a conscious decision made by the company to ensure all its software was proprietary with a source code all its own. “It is our goal to scope and build a product that solves a problem or deficiency instead of simply selling an off-the-shelf application,” says SEKO CIO Tom Madzy. That goal drives SEKO’s product development team to roll out complementary tools and upgrades every two weeks to its entire customer base with an eye toward keeping its system accessible and intuitive to first time users while remaining comprehensive and powerful for experienced ones.


Toll offers a deep menu of technological solutions that includes its specialized WMS, which provides solutions for small-, medium- and large-scale operations, and Toll Inventory Capital Solutions (ICS), a leading demand management and inventory optimization tool that, together with Toll’s vendor inventory management tool, improves clients’ customer support capabilities and balance sheets. Toll Online is an easily integrated freight-processing tool that provides access to extensive freight management data for precise and dependable tracking, proof of delivery, department and issue management and transfers.


Customer friendly? The TransLogic platform was developed in-house and has a team of programmers whose sole function it is to customize functionality to adapt to customers’ needs or integrate it into their own systems. “The entire TransLogic system is an integrated solution, meaning any tool can talk to another,” says TransGroup Director of Marketing Bryce Bernard. “A customer can initiate a shipment with TranShipper, track their purchase orders through the supply chain with TransTracker while receiving automated email alerts for each milestone with TransAlerts, and then receive the shipment into a TransWarehouse facility where they can view their entire inventory across multiple, global warehouse and dispatch shipments as demand arises.”


As a cloud-based SaaS solution, the Transplace TMS eliminates the need to install and maintain the latest version of off-the-shelf software; instead, Transplace customers can access the system through any network-enabled device. The TMS works seamlessly with Transplace’s advanced Optimize Prime Technology (OP) system, the brains behind building “friendly” routes, increasing load ratio and asset utilization and driving waste out of the system. With the TMS automating order management, shipment optimization, shipment tracking and overall performance, customers can free up the resources they need to grow their core business.


TransportGistics’ easy-to-implement software allows customers to reduce, uncover and avoid excessive transportation and logistics costs, gaining quick and meaningful return on investment. “Over time we’ve added additional modules that can operate in a stand-alone environment or be easily integrated with our other solutions,” says TransportGistics President Alan Miller. “We’ve focused on the deployment of a series of solutions in consecutive fashion while propelling a shorter run up to ROI.” That’s made possible by software that has improved transportation compliance with vendors and carriers, reduced transportation costs while having widespread deployment and acceptance across internal users and external partner platforms.


Transportation Insight’s suite of technology options includes its well-regarded, web-based Insight TMS, which gives customers access to tools that maximizes productivity by allowing users to rate shop and select carriers across multiple modes, create shipping documents, tender shipments and track loads to their destinations. But TI also upgraded its parcel logistic options with the acquisition of BirdDog Solutions in November, giving clients a Tier One solution across all transportation modes that enables them to leverage an optimized supply chain. “Integrating the BirdDog Solutions organization into the Transportation Insight enterprise brings our clients more expertise, tools and technology,” says Chris Baltz, Transportation Insight president and CEO. “The vision and innovation of our combined resources … enables us to deliver maximum value.”


Unyson views technology as a way to makes things simpler, to streamline operations for customers bogged down in spreadsheets. Through its advanced optimization techniques and management of big data, Unyson is able to enhance customers’ supply chain visibility and push real-time tracking while greatly increasing control over their transportation network. “Over the years we have all but eliminated manual processes within our day-to-day activities,” says David Adams, Unyson project manager. “We have traded exchanging Excel spreadsheets for systemic interfaces; routine ‘button-clicking’ for exception-based work queues. Our emphasis is to use our technology to accomplish the predictable and have our people focused on the unpredictable.”


Veritiv customers have told the company they like the ease of use that the company’s SmartSync tool affords them, whether they’re using it as a simple replenishment tool to maintain warehouse inventory thresholds or utilizing the minimum/maximum capability feature. SmartSync, which also features for mobile devices, real-time information updates, moved to a web-based platform from a software-based application. “This transition to a web-based platform removed the need to ‘upload’ scanned information via cradle hardware,” says Joe Fini, manager of eBusiness for Veritiv. “Now all information is transmitted to SmartSync via Wi-Fi or a data plan Internet connection.”


Werner’s SMART began as a truckload-based logistics transportation management system that, over the past 14 years, has evolved into a full-featured supply chain management solution offering multi-modal domestic and international movements. “We can now meet the customer at any point in the supply chain and customize it to their needs—purchase order management, vendor support, dock scheduling, order optimization, load tracking, notifications, etc.,” says Michael Twigg, Werner’s senior director. The system is now more modular with a service-oriented approach that allows increased business agility. Technology trends such as mobile devices, micro-services and cloud providers are actively being implemented into SMART’s design.


WSI’s B2B collaboration tool—part of its 360data technology suite—facilitates data transfer across a variety of platforms, both internal and external; B2B’s Integration platform allows customers’ systems to speak with their clients’ and vendors’ systems. “The 360data brand evolved into a full suite of logistics software solutions: B2B, WMS, transportation management systems and order management systems,” says Dan Sellers, WSI’s CIO. “With that evolution came increased technology talent on our team, as each customer requires a different personalization of its systems.” From Java to XML, Excel to email, customers can easily access the information they need, in the desired format, from their chosen, secure, web-based 360data programs. n