The Domino Effect: How Using Real Time ETAs Can Improve the Supply Chain

Posted: 18 June, 2020 | By Dana Petrone

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, fleets were faced with the difficult task of implementing cost-cutting measures while also maintaining high-quality customer service. Amid the pandemic, the pressures of fast-moving freight have heightened as carriers face greater pressure to hit their ETAs and make sure crucial supplies and goods arrive on time. 


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ETAs are an integral part of keeping a transportation network running smoothly from end-to-end. Labor in shipping and receiving are planned around ETAs and getting behind on one day can affect the entire work week. At Trimble MAPS, we define this as the “ETA waterfall effect” because inaccurate ETAs send ripples throughout the rest of the distribution network: Receiving, Shipping, and Transportation.  


If an expected load is late or delayed, a receiver’s distribution center will either have to send employees home early or have them stay late. Both scenarios are troublesome. An employee who goes home early loses hours, which can put them in a financially difficult position and lead to more turnover. Keeping employees later increases costs because of overtime wages, while also decreasing productivity. The consequences are mirrored on the shipping department side—higher employee turnover, lower satisfaction, decreased productivity, and rising costs due to overtime pay.


Connecting receivers and shippers are transportation companies, whose business is affected by the ETA waterfall effect as well. If a driver arrives before an appointment time, that can result in detention time, while missing a delivery window can result in a layover to the next day. For large customers that have little-to-no leeway in accepting unplanned deliveries, the delay could be even longer. 


Typically, trucks are cubed out so that per-case costs are passed down to the end locations, like retail stores. Because trucks are shipping at less than capacity, cost-per-case has increased, which then increases costs for stores and profit centers. If goods are not available to ship, a fleet has to operate more trucks and drive more loads than necessary. Beyond increasing costs, this also means the goods a retailer was counting on are not available for sale, which impacts the availability for the end customer. 


Because of the impact that inaccurate ETAs have on shippers, they have started calling for more precise estimated times of arrival for shipments. Delivery time windows are shrinking, increasing the need for advanced notice of arrival times. Put simply, the transportation companies that thrive in this environment will be those that arrive when they say they will. 


The key to accurate ETAs and just-in-time deliveries is communication. Fleets need communication tools for relaying information to shipping and receiving departments. Armed with advanced knowledge about shipments that are arriving early or running late, these businesses can adjust their labor schedules accordingly. With enough lead time, appointments may be rescheduled in order to eliminate detention and layover charges. This level of communication requires technology that can offer precise routing and mileage and bridge the visibility gap between shippers and carriers. 


At Trimble MAPS, we provide commercial map intelligence solutions that prevent the ETA waterfall effect with continuous trip monitoring and automated back office visibility. Our solution assesses the ETA impact of current conditions like traffic and weather, as well as driver intent on the road and factors like stops and out-of-route events. Using stateful web services, trip data is stored on the server and used to continually monitor and manage the entire trip lifecycle, resulting in highly accurate ETAs and the ability to visualize real-time trip progress. By investing in the technology and processes that provide real-time insight into ETAs, fleets can weed out inefficiencies, use their resources better, keep their drivers happy, and deliver the best service to their customers. 

Tags: Appian

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