Thursday, August 2, 2012

Inbound Freight Opportunities - Still There!

32 years after the enactment of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, many organizations are still not taking advantage of the transportation savings and bottom line opportunities that can be theirs for the taking. There are many reasons for this phenomenon, but the prevailing one is that many companies still do not understand how to go about creating, executing and monitoring an inbound freight project. Here’s a quick primer I have found useful.

Create a project team. Call on the expertise of your procurement and logistics representatives, and draw on each department's need for specific cost information to better manage the process. An IT member or advisor may also be a valuable addition.

Define the project goals. Decide what you expect to accomplish when this project is completed. Is it to simply reduce costs, improve vendor relations, gain better inventory control, create vendor managed inventory, attain control over inbound orders, or better utilize a dedicated fleet?

Determine key performance indicators (KPI). Create a baseline or benchmark of current performance, and determine KPI, which might include supplier performance (order acknowledge, order fill rate, ship on time), carrier performance (accept shipment tender, on-time pick-up, on-time delivery), exception summary reporting, and customer and supplier satisfaction metrics.

Classify and quantify current inbound operations. Evaluate your current inbound shipments and classify by who controls the freight (prepaid or collect), where the freight costs lie, and whether the carrier is selected via a routing guide.

Consider investing in TMS technology. Transportation management solutions and business-to-business connectivity can provide both a systematic approach to your inbound processes and financial controls.

Evaluate best landed cost by supplier. To calculate best landed cost, you must be able to allocate freight charges plus fuel surcharges plus assessorial fees to get the true picture of your costs. Select a software tool to help you rate and re-rate shipments based on all available scenarios. Ask these questions: Does your organization really want to take on the freight? If a supplier is larger than you, it may have better freight rates, but what is being invoiced in the cost of goods? This is where the visibility to freight costs segregated from the costs of goods gives an organization the opportunity to control expenses.

Survey supplier technology capabilities. Make sure they have EDI capabilities, and a supplier portal with a web form to provide "ready to ship" information. Don't underestimate the amount of work required to "cleanse" the data from suppliers.

Prioritize suppliers for quick results. In any project, delivering quick wins or payback should be a goal. Prioritize your suppliers by ease of implementation and largest payback. Typically these are non-compliant collect suppliers or new suppliers where you can influence the freight terms.

Execute. Communicate the plan in advance to all involved parties, both internally and externally, to get their buy-in to the process. Then implement the targeted changes.

Measure/monitor compliance and performance. Share with your suppliers how their performance will be measured. Establish routing compliance reviews with each supplier and ensure data is available for analysis by both parties at any time.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

SQL Reporting Services - Your "Free" BI Tool!

Many senior level executives and IT Professionals are not aware of an extremely powerful report writer that is already part of their database SQL Server installation and it’s free!

This report writer has come a long way from its initial SQL 2000 debut. With the newest release under SQL 2012, SQL Reporting Services or SSRS as its’ known, delivers enterprise, Web-enabled business intelligence (BI) reporting functionality so you can create reports that draw content from a variety of data sources, publish reports in various formats, and centrally manage security and subscriptions.

SQL Server Reporting Services combines a single, complete reporting platform with a scalable and extensible architecture to meet a wide variety of reporting needs, including:

o Enterprise Reporting: Enterprises can use Reporting Services for their operational reporting or business intelligence applications. Using Reporting Services, corporate IT staff can design a variety of reports and deploy them to individuals throughout the enterprise.

o Ad-hoc Reporting: SQL Reporting Services includes Report Builder 2.0, a new ad-hoc reporting tool that enables business users to create their own reports and explore corporate data. Report Builder incorporates a user-friendly business query model that enables users to build reports without deep technical understanding of the underlying data sources.

o Automated Subscriptions: Users can create reports and have the system automatically run the reports at specific times along with distribution of those reports via multiple methods such as email in different formats including CSV, PDF and Excel.

o Embedded Reporting: Organizations can access predefined or ad-hoc reports from third-party applications that use Reporting Services and use these reports as-is, customize them, or create new ones for specific business needs.

o Web-based Reporting: for Internal Users and Customers. Organizations can deploy interactive Web-based reports to deliver information to customers or partners over extranets or the Internet. SSRS isolates report consumers from the complexity of the underlying data sources, while providing personalization and interactivity.

Whether you want to outsource or do it yourself, SSRS allows you to write sophisticated reports that leverage your existing database investment! Besides, the price is right as well!