The transportation and logistics industry is experiencing a digital revolution. Modern technology is finally taking hold in supply chains across the world, allowing for previously unheard-of levels of connectivity and data access. During this exciting transition period, the phrase “Business Intelligence” gets thrown around a lot, because who wouldn’t want their business to be more intelligent? But what does Business Intelligence actually mean to shippers, and how can companies utilize this growing tool to stay ahead of the pack?

Out with The Old

First, let’s understand what Business Intelligence in the digital revolution is replacing. It’s shocking to say, but today there are still shippers and carriers around the world sifting through stacks of paper invoices and combing through endless sheets of type trying to locate the single data point they’re looking for. A marginal step up from this antiquated process is companies working off EDI connections, passing confusing and esoteric data sheets back and forth and then spending hours trying to make sense of them. Often by the time someone can figure out what these EDI connections are telling them, it’s too late and the market has moved on. These methods of data access are outdated, to say the least. What today’s supply chain leaders mean when they say Business Intelligence is a new and groundbreaking level. We’re talking real-time connectivity across carriers and modes, with information connected from the warehouse to the final mile, producing easily identifiable, actionable data points. If this sounds like science fiction to you, your company may want to look into a Business Intelligence solution in order to keep up.

In with the New

Now that we better understand the modern capabilities of Business Intelligence, what’s the next step, and how do we utilize these advanced tools to increase profits? Though not an exhaustive list, here are several ways in which Business Intelligence can help optimize your supply chain:

Packaging Analysis: Your product is great, but do your customers really need all that empty air to go with it? Dimensional weight is a very big factor in shipping cost, so shaving a few inches here and there with the right box sizes can make a huge impact to your bottom line. Business Intelligence that can provide updated and accurate weight calculations and dimensions for your supply chain can be a massive step towards cutting costs.

Distribution Centers: Knowing what zones you most frequently ship to is great, but modern Business Intelligence suites are capable of pinpointing shipping distributions down to the county and city level. If you’re wondering where the best place is for your next distribution center, you can leverage your data to place it precisely in the most efficient spot, cutting costs and increasing service levels to your customers. It’s a win-win, and easy to do in the digital age.

Carrier Negotiations: This is the area of your supply chain where Business Intelligence can make the biggest impact, if utilized correctly. For decades, the carriers have been light years ahead of shippers in terms of visibility to their own supply chain, and that knowledge discrepancy has led to a drastic inequality during contract negotiations. Many shippers simply don’t know what they don’t know. Business Intelligence is changing that. It’s helping companies come to the table more prepared than ever. Easily identifying most used services, zones, weight breaks, and accessorials levels the playing field and gives businesses the actionable knowledge they need to get the rates they deserve.

As with technology itself, Business Intelligence is an ever-evolving field. Modern API connections and software platforms are bringing real-time visibility across all carriers and modes, and thus changing the way companies view their supply chain. Getting ahead of the knowledge curve and investing in Business Intelligence now may be the smartest move you can make for your company’s bottom line.

Brad A. McBride has been in the transportation industry for 30 years. He founded Zero Down Supply Chain Solutions in 2003 after many years in high-level sales and operations roles in the logistics industry. Determined to make an impact on traditional industry practices and provide considerable savings for businesses, Brad also launched FreightOptics, the cutting-edge technology that provides one-login access to view and optimize all modes of transportation. Brad can be reached at