The Happy Ending for Routing Spreadsheets
Keith LaBotz - May 19, 2022
Spreadsheets have been a staple for slicing and dicing transportation data for over three decades, and now it’s coming to an end. How does a transportation operation ensure this story has a happy ending?
A recent survey reported more than 50% of companies still use paper and spreadsheets to manage supply chain risk. These numbers will undoubtedly shrink as supply chain digitalization weeds out standalone solutions like spreadsheets, but the transition can be particularly risky for transportation functions like delivery planning and routing.
Delivery operations that rely on spreadsheets are cautious for a good reason - the supply chain depends on successful delivery. There's little room for something new with a supply chain wildfire demanding attention on multiple fronts. Why mess with a proven solution that’s working perfectly fine?
That’s a reasonable question. Maybe the question should be, what’s the best way to transition from the security of trusted spreadsheets to the brave new world of digital supply chains?
Once you understand the supply chain risk of using spreadsheets for transportation planning, and the fail-safe path forward, you’ll realize there's no point in delaying the inevitable. Let's look at the problem and the solution.
The Importance of the Delivery Process
The delivery process is a make-or-break affair for supply chains. A supply chain can execute flawlessly at every step only to undermine the entire effort with an ineffective delivery plan.
An effective delivery planning solution is the best way to reduce mishaps and over the years, many companies chose the spreadsheet as their tool of choice. Customizing spreadsheets with rules, scripts, and macros to support unique business requirements requires a significant investment. It's understandable why there's resistance to revisiting such hard-won success.
The Nature of the Spreadsheet Problem
How can using a spreadsheet be a problem if there are no visible problems? Most problems work that way; they go undetected, or risks are marginalized until a crisis forces change.
There was no problem when spreadsheets initially came into use for automating delivery planning and routing. They are an excellent choice if the primary concern is departmental efficiency, but the digital supply chain considers the efficiency of the entire network.
Supply chain optimization aligns processes across the enterprise and supply chain, including transportation routing. Standalone spreadsheet solutions are incapable of functioning at this level; they weren't designed for such a scenario.
No Spreadsheets = No Bottlenecks
As a network grows more integrated, supply chain processes need data visibility for decision-making. Data silos prevent visibility, leading to less effective decision-making and operational bottlenecks.
That’s how spreadsheets, which were invaluable solutions for thirty years, suddenly become a liability. Problems begin accumulating around the standalone solutions like spreadsheets, and no company can afford issues with its delivery process.
No Spreadsheets = Competitive Advantage
Companies free of data silos enjoy superior visibility, operational agility, and resilience. As supply chain digitalization continues, companies will realize an ever-larger competitive advantage based on how extensive their efforts are.
While a spreadsheet can improve the quality of a delivery plan and improve productivity, it presents a barrier to digitalization. Spreadsheets create a blind spot that impedes the rest of the enterprise. Blindspots cannot exchange data and interact with the entire supply chain process.
The result is higher costs, higher carbon emissions, and lower performance levels for companies that use spreadsheets instead of dedicated routing solutions, like flexis ProfiTOUR.
Spreadsheets Prevent Supply Chain Optimization
Supply chain digitalization is ultimately about optimization - a collaborative process that maximizes sustainability and profitability. Optimization assumes a holistic supply chain perspective where decision-making is shared across all functions.
Data must be available for this collaboration at every point in the process; there is no room for standalone automation like spreadsheets.
The requirement for data visibility applies to the delivery planning and routing process itself. An optimized delivery process must incorporate delivery execution systems such as sales order planning, ERP, WMS, IoT tracking devices, GPS mapping tools, telemetrics, and fleet management systems. Try doing that with a spreadsheet.
Dynamic Routing is the Answer for Routing Spreadsheets
Optimization requires a dynamic routing process like flexis ProfiTOUR that can integrate with processes across the enterprise and external supply chain. As part of the digital ecosystem, this enables transportation routing and planning to automatically adjust for the optimal outcome.
Delivery plans and routes can also be adjusted enroute for changing traffic and weather conditions, ensuring objectives are met under all conditions.
- On-time pickup and delivery.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon credits.
- Minimizing total delivery cost by economizing fuel consumption and driver time.
- Maximizing driver productivity by reducing wait times and avoiding traffic congestion.
- Compliance with driver time regulations to avoid costly fines.
The Fail-Safe Path Forward
Given the affordability, functionality, and proven reliability of a dynamic routing solution like ProfiTOUR, continuing to operate with a spreadsheet comes at a significant opportunity cost.
ProfiTOUR supports a collective superset of multiple companies' requirements, scenarios, and solutions. The functionality required by most delivery operations is readily supported, allowing quick, no-risk implementation.
As a cloud solution, ProfiTOUR can be implemented rapidly without consuming precious IT resources. Plus, it can be run parallel with a legacy spreadsheet solution to confirm all unique requirements are addressed and delivery plans meet expectations.
There is little downside risk in this approach and a great deal to gain.
The best fail-safe solution for replacing a routing spreadsheet is implementing a dynamic routing process like ProfiTOUR. The sooner a company makes the transition, the happier it will be with a solution that is free of spreadsheets.