Jeff Rogers, CEO of Universal Logistics Holdings, Inc., sits at his desk with a spreadsheet filling one of his computer screens; assorted printouts indicating various numbers and charts are neatly arranged on top of his leather blotter. Nothing about this picture looks out of place for a busy CEO who leads a rapidly growing, billion+ dollar transportation and logistics company. Numbers are a critical and daily part of Roger’s world. “The numbers always tell a story,” he said.
As a more than 30-year industry veteran and leader of the Metro-Detroit-based Universal, Rogers laments that data has always been the key to organizational success in transportation and logistics, with so many moving parts at work – both literally and figuratively. However, he says it’s never more important than in today’s extremely competitive marketplace.
“Our industry is facing new and regular challenges all of the time,” Rogers said. “Challenges like a growing national driver shortage that shows no end in sight; challenges like increasing pressure from manufacturers who continually need to trim time and costs from their supply chains; and challenges like the positive yet still new facets that technology is bringing to 3PLs like Universal.”
"Technology is the driving force in transportation and logistics today"
According to Rogers, while the need for useful data has not changed, how Universal is obtaining it has evolved thanks to new technology within the industry. It’s allowing companies like Universal to get better, faster, and more accurate data in order to design the best solutions for their Fortune 500 customers, most of which are in the manufacturing or retail/e-tail segments.
“Technology is the driving force in transportation and logistics today,” Rogers said. “We continue to learn more from our equipment and technology-enhanced processes, all of which is allowing us to work much smarter than ever before.”
Among some of this latest technology are Electronic Logging Devices or ELDs that are now mandated by the U.S. government. ELDs are placed on commercial trucks in order to electronically and automatically track, manage, and share truck drivers’ Records of Duty Status (RODS) data. Though the mandate was created to eliminate the errors of antiquated paper tracking, create a safer work environment for truck drivers, and make the roads safer for everyone overall, Rogers said Universal sees many additional data-related benefits. In particular, he said the company is now able to work closely with customers to provide more accurate costs, design more efficient routes, and eliminate waste within the supply chain.
“The ELD technology is allowing us to determine better where there may be ‘sticking points’ along the transportation portion of the supply chain so that we can work with our customer partners to remove or reduce these obstacles,” said Rogers. “We now have much more transparency in our partnerships as we move data up the supply chain. For example, we can now provide spot-on validation of driver productivity and identify shipper delays. Our customers have readily embraced this enhanced knowledge, making modifications to their processes as a result.”
Another key benefit of the ELD-based data is tied to Universal’s new mobile application for drivers, called, Move-it. This app brings drivers real-time information to their fingertips via a mobile device and allows for two-way communication between Universal and its drivers. The ELDs feed relevant data to Move-it, including location updates. Moreover, these two technologies integrate to pull and share detention reports, also helping Universal work with customers to eliminate waste.
In addition to the transportation side of their business, Universal is also experiencing continuous data-based improvements within their value-added logistical services. This, Rogers attributes to the company’s Warehouse Management System (WMS), proprietary software that the company custom-created, called, AccuLinc. The architecture of AccuLinc was structured to integrate seamlessly with the most popular customer platforms in use. Universal’s WMS gives customers critical business intelligence, including immediate access to inventory, shipments, and costs.
“AccuLinc is designed to give our customers quick and complete oversight to their entire warehouse network so that they can make informed management decisions,” Rogers said. “This, of course, saves them time, money, and lets them eliminate waste. Though Universal is ready to assist our customers with key data at any point, AccuLinc puts them in complete control of their outsourced warehouse management services, a benefit our customers very much want.”
With the constant advancements of technology within transportation and logistics, including the use of autonomous-guided equipment, Rogers readily anticipates the climate for more and better data will continue to improve. “As I said, numbers always tell a story. And when they are readily available and you know you can count on the information, that’s a win-win for both suppliers and customers.”