Autonomous, driverless vehicles are here! And they're hitting the roads with some of the most critical cargo known to humans—pizza!
That's right. Domino's Pizza partnered with the autonomous vehicle maker Nuro. Together, Domino's and Nuro will deliver pizzas to hungry consumers across the greater Houston area. The delivery driver will be Nuro's R2 robot, which looks to me like the robot in Big Hero 6, but on wheels.
Nuro might be considered a hero in some circles. That's because it's the first company granted approval for a self-driving vehicle by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
What Does This Mean for Logistics?
Sure, Domino's autonomous delivery program will be limited for now to one Houston neighborhood, on certain days—and to patrons who are tech savvy.
But those of us who work in the supply chain will notice some familiar components to our day jobs. Indeed, Domino's autonomous deliveries will look very similar to freight deliveries that use transportation planning software.
Transportation planning software has become a pillar of the supply chain. And pizza is a pillar of my diet. Thus, it was only a matter of time before the two things merged!
So today, we're reviewing one of these pillars—transportation planning software. We'll answer some questions like, What is it? How does it work? Who's doing it best? And of course, what does it have to do exactly with pizza?
Pull up a chair, and let's dig in!
Transportation Planning Software: What Is It?
First of all, transportation planning software (TPS) is similar to transportation management systems (TMS). Both TPS and TMS software help logistics businesses with daily tasks that include:
- Estimating rates
- Load planning and routing
- Tracking carriers
- Shipment tracking
- Data management
- Customer management
- Accounting and audits
- Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Integrating with other software platforms and providers
In other words, TMS and transportation planning software help you plan, execute, and optimize how to get the goods from point A to point B. In addition, a TMS helps you do it faster and cheaper, with the least amount of back-office effort.
Breaking Down the Tools of TMS: An Analogy
Another way to think about transportation planning software is from the ground up. In reality, a TMS works the same way as a Nuro and Domino's delivery! Allow me to elaborate:
- A hungry Houston customer orders a pizza efficiently online, selecting all the right ingredients (estimating).
- The hungry consumer then elects to have their pizza delivered by the Nuro R2 robot (load planning).
- Workers then load up Big Nuro 6 with pizza before enabling onboard GPS to identify the best route (routing).
- Our customer will then receive text alerts, updating the progress of their pizza-pregnant Nuro (carrier tracking).
- Domino's gets GPS location updates (shipment tracking).
- When the pizza pie arrives, the customer punches in their unique PIN into the R2's touchscreen (integration with other software platforms).
- Domino's can then send the customer a survey rating their user experience (UX/customer management).
- Nuro, Domino's, or both will certainly track delivery time (a key performance indicator).
- All corresponding data can be accumulated and managed in order to further optimize efficiency and performance (data management).
- And by 2024, Domino's might be nailing their global delivery metrics and saving costs thanks to Nuro (audits).
Now let's take a look at a few more examples of leading transportation planning software companies (other than Domino's Pizza, of course).
In honor of Domino's and Nuro's front-running autonomous delivery, let's take a look at some examples of software companies that are innovating in the TMS space. Here's who we'll get the deep dish on today:
E2Open In-Transit Visibility Software
Let's begin with E2open’s In-Transit Visibility software. It's an example of a TPS system that sends real-time updates. Real-time traceability fills all the holes in your data.
E2Open isn't the only company focusing on visibility, but its tech is worth highlighting. After COVID, the supply chain saw a lot of delays, disruptions, and general upheaval. Imagine if your Nuro pizza delivery robot got delayed between checkpoints. Without real time, in-transit visibility, you'd have no idea what was going on with your delivery! You could practically starve to death!
The value that real-time connection delivers is pretty obvious. Transportation planning software suppliers, including E2open, help make the supply chain more resilient and agile. In addition, decision-making based on a fuller picture and real-time intel is superior to guessing and wishing.
TransCAD is a transportation planning software platform that tries to check all the boxes. According to the company website, TransCAD is "the first and only Geographic Information System (GIS) designed specifically for use by transportation professionals to store, display, manage, and analyze transportation data."
Beyond that, TransCAD contends it has ideal software for a number of needs, including:
- Transportation modeling
- Demand modeling
- Building transportation decision support systems
- Mapping, visualization, and analysis tools
- Integrated GIS functionality
Think of GIS as a fresh take on the old TMS design.
Now, what's next?
Alpega markets itself as a logistics planning and optimization tool that integrates seamlessly with day-to-day workflow. The company designs the primary features of its TMS to reduce software transportation costs. It promises to accomplish this goal through route modeling, capacity planning, and real-time visibility. In addition, Alpega's cloud-based service logs any pickup and delivery constraints for data-backed decision making in the future.
Alpega combats the strategic, tactical, and dynamic challenges most logistics companies face regularly. The driver for Alpega is to help improve risk mitigation in the supply chain. Also, it's possible that Alpega's data sets can help your business be proactive in the face of supply-chain disruptions.
For example, Alpega features a 3D load-planning Software as a Service solution that helps fleet managers visualize loads, pickups, and deliveries. All this helps you spot issues before they occur. In short, Alpega's transportation planning software helps businesses optimize fleet usage and reduce cost with next-generation tools.
Next up is a company with a long history.
McLeod’s TMS has two well-known applications, LoadMaster and DocumentPower. Carriers, brokers, and shippers can all use McLeod's TMS software. As a well-known and established TMS, McLeod still makes this list because of its commitment to innovation.
One such innovation is McLeod's partnership with Vector. McLeod identified Vector as a way to improve its product. How? By aligning with Vector to make McLeod's document collection, billing, invoicing, and overall processes more efficient.
Vector's suite of products integrates with McLeod to accelerate fleet billing. This is true for for truck drivers, fleet managers, and back-office workers.
Finally, let's learn more about Vector!
Vector's platform integrates driver workflow software and document digitization. The adoption of digitized documents in logistics streamlines many previous driver workflow bottlenecks. In addition, Vector features a simple driver check-in interface, bill-of-lading scans, load docs scanning, and automated invoicing.
Vector integrates with several TMS companies. Beyond that, Vector partnered with many household names on an electronic bill of lading (eBOL) task force. Indeed, Vector joined forces with 25 shippers, 19 carriers, 11 retailers, and 7 associations. The goal? Collaborate on a new digital pickup and delivery standard for the entire logistics industry.
The global time and cost savings of eBOLs is a no-brainer. That's further proof that Vector is on the cutting edge of logistics with a common-sense solution that will usher in the future.
What Is the Next Domino to Fall in Logistics?
I suppose you could argue that it'll be awhile before we have nationwide autonomous pizza delivery robots. So why bother with blockchain in logistics, control towers, and autonomous over-the-road trucks? Well, wise decision makers look to the future and continue to integrate the best innovations tech has to offer! So don't be crusty. If you want to be proactive, start by checking out Vector and the eBOLs task force.
The future is coming, and in the meantime Vector can help you make everyone's life in the office easier. And you know what that means? More time for office pizza and Big Hero 6 viewing parties!
This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.