Planning capacity in freight forwarding companies with IT-based forecasts

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Loading bay of a freight forwarding company in which IT-supported forecasts are used for capacity planning

Counting on the unpredictable: The past few months have shown that logisticians in Germany can no longer rely on old experiences and must make preparations for different scenarios in many areas. Blocked traffic routes, interrupted supply chains and catch-up effects: Transport volumes are more volatile than ever. Those who plan capacity in freight forwarding need plausible forecasts and flexible resources as the basis of resilient supply chains.

Small and large causes have drastic effects on the entire economy. For the past two years or so, shipments on global networks have increasingly run differently than expected due to various disruptions with high consequences. From the chip crisis to the blockade of the Suez Canal to the truck driver shortage. In the production logistics of companies as well as for service providers, this increases the need for more flexibility. For reliable project planning, the need arises to stabilize processes in order to successfully manage fluctuating transport volumes at all times. Only those who know what capacities their projects require can increase the resilience of value chains against external influences. Logisticians and forwarders will find useful solutions in the use of suitable IT systems.


Planning capacities: reliably predicting transport volumes

Those who have flexible resources - i.e., a dynamic pool of employees and vehicles - can quickly adjust their planning to increasing volumes. This is what the term scalability refers to. The chances of this are particularly high if service providers can make meaningful forecasts of how their transport orders will develop. The prerequisite is that they record their production data accurately and evaluate it precisely using analysis software. In this way, over time, they create a suitable database for resource planning to make predictions:

  • on the capacity utilization of their fixed lines
  • on the total volume of shipments
  • vehicle requirements in local traffic
  • on the personnel requirements in shipment handling
  • the required qualifications of their truck drivers

The service providers obtain this information by aggregating their productive data with business intelligence (BI) software. In addition to exact calculations, it also allows the visualization of the determined correlations. Furthermore, the application has a bundle of functions for historical evaluation and perspective projection. With suitable parameterization, the solution allows simulation calculations with artificial intelligence (AI), which provide fact-based support for resource management and decisions on scheduled capacities. To avoid forecasting errors, companies should expect a longer training phase for the software as a basis for meaningful results.


Transfer data early, adjust capacities

For the tasks of current transport production, a freight forwarder also benefits from receiving its customers' order data as early as possible. To do this, it can on the one hand integrate as many customers and partners as possible directly into its electronic data exchange. This integration becomes particularly valuable when a software solution automatically adapts the data formats and content to the processing systems and their respective logics. If this real-time communication option is not available, order management applications allow manual or file-based entry. The freight forwarder thus also receives these orders electronically hours or even days earlier, can already work with them in capacity planning, and can thus identify bottlenecks in preparation for shipment handling.


Planning capacities to match transport volumes

The central location for secure handling of a large transport volume is the freight forwarder's transshipment facility. There, the logistics service provider's project management has the option of scaling resources and adapting processes on a daily basis - for example, in line with higher utilization of individual routes. Forecasts from the business intelligence solution are valuable for this capacity planning. On the other hand, the actual data provided at an early stage makes it possible to make adjustments in good time. For example, to combine inbound and outbound gates more closely and thus shorten the handling distances. In this context, it is necessary that shipments whose delivery must be notified can be scheduled and handled directly on the day of receipt. This is achieved by means of software-supported automatic notification, which also uses a voice computer for landline telephone calls.


Plan capacities better through coordination with partners

In order to improve production speed and keep handling capacities stable, freight forwarders ideally have to produce all shipments without delay. This is particularly successful if they use IT-supported task management in cooperation with partners. Using this software solution for task management, the service providers also automate those work steps of their teams that are not described in the process standards - such as in claims settlement. The applications also make it possible to document individual procedures on an order or consignment basis so that no gaps occur in the process. In addition to capacity planning, this also improves process quality and makes it possible to process more consignments in less time without errors.

Conclusion

Plan capacities confidently with IT support

Forwarding companies that prepare their daily business through comprehensive data analysis and processing benefit from secure processes. They have stable, robust processes, plan their capacities at an early stage and are thus able to deploy their resources as needed. With this data processing, they improve the scalability of their processes. This enables them to deal with higher transport volumes in a planned and orderly manner. In addition to timely resource procurement, they achieve significant advantages in particular through the precise control of their processes: they avoid errors and inefficiencies. This is particularly successful with decision-supporting forecasts.


Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert
CTO

As a design guru, the software developer delves into logistics service providers' requirements like no other. He is passionate about exchanging information securely and efficiently and thus speeding up the physical logistics process.


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