The Truth About Shipping Technology and Supply Chain Visibility

In the shipping business, it was once an extra to have shipping technology which supplied supply chain visibility, but it’s become a must in a now competitive and shipping software run industry. Not everyone knows exactly what it means to have complete supply chain visibility, however, so what is supply chain visibility and just how does shipping software help it? You may have learned this stuff about supply chain visibility, so let’s figure out the truth:

Supply chain visibility in a glance

It’s pretty much exactly what it looks like. Utilizing quality shipping software or auditing systems, you’re given awareness over all your shipments through openness of shipping data, organizing, and auditing, and all involved parties gain access to this information: you can plainly view the entirety of your shipments from end to end.

For comprehensive visibility you have to be in a position to trade data around different systems, like shipping data and freight deals to implement the best logistics management strategies you can. How your business and systems connect to your shipping partners along with their system is the number one factor in achieving real visibility so that you can discover how you can save money shipping.

Can a business continue to be competitive without having supply chain visibility?

The quick and candid response would be no. Well, it isn’t really impossible for a shipping business to function without supply chain visibility, but they are more prone to be eliminated or surpassed in the freight or parcel shipping industry by more efficient companies. Merely staying in business differs from being competitive, and supply chain visibility is essential as of late to be able to keep a competitive edge.

Shouldn’t shipping software and visibility be a much more popular strategy?

Unfortunately, a lot of companies aren’t loaded with the proper shipping software and auditing services. Though proper supply chain management and supply chain visibility has been an acknowledged issue for decades, EDIs, manual spreadsheets, etc. aren’t good enough for visibility reliable enough to continue to be competitive. The best supply chain management and visibility option is to use a transportation management system (TMS) and auditing solution.

What does not having visibility mean for a business?

One of the things that can take place is serious damage to a company’s name. About 33% of consumers in the United States put the blame for stock-outs on the store. This gives an adverse influence on long-term consumer retention and brand loyalty. In addition, it will directly injure a company’s bottom line, creating both urgent and extended issues which are hard to remedy.

Where does responsibility for those effects fall?

The real issue ought to be about solving the problem by updating your shipping technology and auditing methods, not setting blame. You can’t position the blame on retailers when 75% of shippers report that their visibility tool doesn’t integrate with their shipping technology, and only 39% of shippers gather data with visibility systems in the first place. There’s just no way to prevent stock-outs without the ability to make radical decisions according to real-time data exchanges.

Approaches to fix the problem

Businesses must find solutions that would provide them with end-to-end supply chain visibility. While legacy systems remain, businesses must invest into transportation management systems and auditing solutions that can operate on both old tech like EDI, and newer technology like API.

API is a wonderful technology for shipping software as a way to join suppliers, shippers, carriers, etc. with real-time transportation data so that they can make better decisions for their logistics management.

You can save money shipping with thorough visibility and improved logistics management, just by embracing more progressive shipping software like a TMS capable of working with both EDI and API.

Shipping TMS delivers transportation software and logistics management services. Transportation industry leading parcel and freight shipping management software helps save money shipping and get cheap shipping rates to improve supply chains.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.

The Paramounted Importance of Critical Analysis in International Trade Policies

International trade is largely based on the constant fluctuations in the world-wide economy, this resulting in constant changes with regards to tariffs, trade subsidies and unending amendments of regulations with regards to international trade. “Trade policy and economic Growth”, a paper by Keith Maskus, PhD, focuses on the relationship between trade policies and the growth of the economy or lack thereof, the main point of interest of the paper was to establish whether the variance of trade policies will affect the economic growth of any country. The conclusion reached was that open economies tend to grow faster than closed economies, ceteris paribus. therefore concluding that open competition is good in the sense that it improves resource distribution and the country gains in Investment and innovation.

An organisation that is involved in international trade has to pay special attention to such information. There might not be any countries with closed economies however there are countries that have low imports to the point that they are regarded as closed economies for instance Brazil. In 2011 Brazil recorded 13% as its import percentage which was quite low for a country of its stature. Is it not then imperative to constantly be up to date with changes in the trade policies of countries one is interested in pursuing trade relations with? since there is a proven positive relationship between the openness of an economy to competition (thus meaning the country is greatly involved in trade) and the growth of that country`s economy, this serves as an indication of how lucrative and profitable a business venture would be under such circumstances. The Critical analysis aspect then comes into play by determining how much gain or loss would result from substantial changes to the policies, which are measures and instruments that can influence export and imports, the objective being the policies influence the trade sector to the result of profit for the business venture. one might feel a degree in commercial management is then needed in order to fully understand all the kinks and edges of the international business, and they would be right, but the eventuality is that it will always boil down to intelligence and efficiency in the analysis of trends, calculation of potential profit/loss, predictions of future stability or fluctuations in the world economy prompting changes to prices in the trade sector.

There is one other important factor that can alter potential business plans, and that is the politics of the country in question, policies are easily influenced by the politics of the nation, and it is thus advisable that critical analysis be also engaged, this results in better understanding of the country and its stability thus reducing the chances of incurring a bad business eventuality. Nations are not governed by robots, unfortunately, but are governed by people with interests and human nature desires to differ from individual to individual making it difficult to maintain a constant effective system. if politicians are elected they tend to focus on altering policies for their own benefit, and the benefit of those they promised (if there are still honest politician available) from that point it is important that international business consider such factors before pursuing business. Prime examples being, whenever there are strikes in South Africa investors tend to shy away, and most of the strikes are birthed from political influence, thus deeming South Africa an Unstable nation to invest in, or Zimbabwe a nation sanctioned, due to political infringements, making the country undesirable for investment irregardless of the profitability of the business idea. It is thus an excellent idea to firstly research in-depth to the politics of the country before hand and invest with,much-needed information, guiding the innovative decision made.