How Does a Logistics Software Solution Compare to Third Party Logistics?

If you’re searching for new shipping solutions, you may have encountered the debate that asks: which is more beneficial to the shipping process: implementing a logistics software solution or outsourcing logistics to a third party logistics (3PL) provider? To answer this question, its helps to consider the three things that every company wants out of the shipping process: cost effectiveness, excellent delivery time, and safe delivery of freight. With these things in mind, we take a look at whether a logistics software solution or a 3PL solution offers the greatest value.

Cost Effectiveness

In terms of cost, you’ll always pay more to receive a comprehensive, innovative approach to the shipping process from a 3PL than you will to implement a logistics software solution, and the reason why is simple: when you hire a full scale 3PL provider (i.e. a customer adapter), you pay a company to do what logistics software does without employing anyone. In other words, the software allows you to become your own logistics provider. Although other types of 3PL providers can be hired for less than the cost of customer developers (i.e. standard 3PL providers, service developers, and customer developers), they don’t provide the same level of service, with standard 3PL providers and service developers only offering specific services, and customer developers handling the full shipping process without proposing new solutions.

Excellent Delivery Time

Excellent delivery time depends on route analysis and optimization, as well as the availability of integrated shipping solutions. In simple shipping situations, route analysis could consist of analyzing route time in relation to distance, road surface quality, traffic patterns, etc., while in complex shipping situations, such as global shipping or moving unfinished products from location to location during the manufacturing process, route analysis could consist of the strategies mentioned above along with developing integrated shipping arrangements that could combine road, air, sea, and rail shipping, or any combination thereof. Improved delivery time can be achieved with both logistics software and 3PL. But logistics software, due to its impartiality, will present a broader range of options.

Safe Delivery of Freight

The safe delivery of freight is achieved through freight optimization, particularly in terms of using the right stacking strategies and ensuring that like products are shipped together. The cost of broken freight is perhaps the least mentioned aspect of shipping cost, and preventing it from happening can be achieved with either 3PL (e.g. standard 3PL provider or service developer) or logistics software. However, unless a shipper is looking for freight optimization alone, using logistics software would be the better choice financially.

Why Choose Outsourced Over In-House Shipping Software Solution

Over the past two decades, automation of business processes has significantly increased in many industries including aviation, telecommunications, and banking. In shipping, automation has improved business efficiency by simplifying critical operations that require time and expertise. Nowadays, with increasing access to modern technology, it’s not unusual to find a small carrier using cheap off-the-shelf shipping software solutions to streamline and manage its core operations more efficiently. However, there are still quite a number of carriers who prefer bespoke IT systems despite the availability of much cheaper packaged solutions.

There are certain factors that motivate shipping business operators to develop their own IT systems in-house instead of buying cheaper off-the-shelf solutions. One of these is the advantage of having full control of the development processes which allows users to make specific improvements to the original platform as necessary. In addition, In-house platforms have been tailored to exact specifications, which is believed to deliver competitive advantage.

However, while bespoke systems offer full control of operation-specific features, they also require skilled IT staff and programmers to implement necessary upgrades. The fact that technology is rapidly changing means that IT platforms date and become unsupportable after a while. If a shipping business cannot keep up with the pace of change, it will find itself stuck with an obsolete technology which cannot support newer IT platforms. In addition, investing in a customized platform to automate only a single segment of shipping operation (e.g. a single segment of a terminal), is not worth the cost of the investment, which is significantly higher than buying off-the-shelf shipping software which can be customized to carry out various functions.

The following are some of the most prominent benefits of using off-the-shelf or packaged shipping software:

1. Price. Buying packaged software is calculated to be 10 to 50 times cheaper compared to developing an in-house IT system.

2. Flexibility. Modern packaged shipping software incorporate built-in switching options which allows operators to customize application to perform various tasks without doing any expensive reprogramming.

3. Upgrade options – Packaged software provides upgrade solutions to keep pace with fast changes in technology to make sure that users are always working from tried and tested, up-to-date, and well-supported platforms.

4. Guarantee. Customized or in-house systems do not offer test-runs prior to installation, and the end-product is not revealed until it has been delivered. Off-the-shelf solution allows you to use a system for a certain period to see if it delivers what you expect before you actually buy and install it into your existing IT infrastructure.

5. Efficiency. Packaged solutions are more cost-effective, require less resources, and deliver long-term solutions that can be customized to handle specific requirements of a shipping business.

While off-the-shelf shipping software offer a lot more benefits both in cost of investment and scope of features, accessibility to technology has significantly increased the number of software developers in the marketplace, many of which are not reputable. Carriers should be careful in choosing a supplier by checking their capability, reliability, and financial stability. After all, it’s not wise to buy from a company who’s not going to be around after two or three years, leaving you without support in a case of system failure.

Modern Digital Signage Software Solutions

In the early days of digital signage, folks would be happy with showing PowerPoint slides on big CRT monitors. They could show animations, pictures, videos and text in a continuous loop. The use of motion was better than static, printed material. It didn’t really matter if the content was well designed. The novelty factor was often enough to get the message noticed.

However, there were still lots of issues around updating and scheduling content. The first solutions were little more than scheduling engines with very basic capabilities. The other issues centered around connectivity. Network connections were slow and difficult to configure which often meant updating content by CD or DVD since this was before 3G mobile data and high capacity USB storage.

Plasma flat-screens were just coming out on the market. These were a big improvement over CRTs and rear projection LED TVs however they were still very expensive, heavy and were prone to “burn-in”. Content creators needed to make sure there were no static images on screen for too long otherwise the graphics would get permanently embedded in the display. This improved a lot in later years to the point where it’s no longer an issue. You can’t buy a Plasma screen anymore but some of them are still in use today.

Technological and manufacturing advances meant bandwidth increased exponentially as did PC and display screen performance. We now have a wide range of playback options for our content. We can use small form factor or “stick” PCs, Android media players that come in various shapes and sizes or even tablets.

Digital signage software solutions have also improved dramatically over the years. Solutions can be hosted locally or in the cloud. Content is now mostly video-based and there is a lot more streaming data available. Live data is also quite common so there is less and less reason to be showing cable TV programming on a public screen.

It’s also important to mention that dashboards have become more accessible via mobile devices so network operators and brand-owners can control their message from virtually anywhere.

Gone are the days of the “sneaker net” where CD-ROMs were shipped out across the country.

Modern solutions can trigger content and respond to various sensors. For example, motion sensors can be used to switch content with a wave of the hand. Digital signage screens can show on-demand content when an alarm is triggered or when a RFID tag is present. Lately, beacons have become more popular and some are used to trigger specific content based on proximity. Beacons are also used to exchange content with smartphone users. For example, promotions or other targeted content can be sent out when someone walks by a digital display.

Modern digital signage software products must evolve constantly and adapt to emerging technologies so they can benefit today’s advertisers and brand owners.