DS Smith Gains Control with a Control Tower View of U.S. Freight

Multi-lane highway at sunset

DS Smith is a leading provider of corrugated packaging, supported by recycling and papermaking operations, headquartered in London. A few years ago, the company hired a logistics procurement manager for the North American Packaging and Paper division in Atlanta who was looking into what kind of historical freight data the company had available. He found that there was no transportation management system (TMS) or Excel database in use at the company, which made it extremely difficult to establish good baselines for freight rates and on-time performance to DS Smith customers across North America.

“We didn’t know lanes, we didn’t know spend—nothing,” said Aaron Clark, Director of Procurement at DS Smith, who was originally brought on as the Procurement Manager Head of Logistics NAPP in 2018. “My starting point was zero.”

DS Smith began searching for the right logistics platform to collect and transform its shipment data for better business insights. Aaron talked about the digital transformation of the North American business unit in “Logistics Process Excellence Through Digitalization” at CSCMP EDGE Live! 2020.

A control tower view

Aaron knew selecting the right transportation management platform would be key to the digitalization project. The platform would be the central network for freight information, allowing the North American division to analyze the data flowing in from its ERP system for better decision making across the transportation process. The platform also needed to be real time visibility-enabled to satisfy customer requests for ETA information and to measure on-time carrier performance.

To translate the freight and visibility data into actionable insights, Aaron needed a system with strong native reporting and business intelligence capabilities. He also wanted to be able to extract the real-time rate data from the system and benchmark it against top performers in the industry.

DS Smith chose Transporeon, the leading global cloud platform for smart transportation management. By adopting a data feedback cycle enabled by a centralized control tower view, Aaron envisioned being able to set new standards for initiatives like creating backhauls for carriers to keep drivers in the network and making long-term decisions that could positively impact his cost center.

The benefits of centralization

The centralized control tower solution gives Aaron’s team the ability to plan overall regions and divisions, as opposed to only being able to plan at a site level prior to the company’s transformation. Trucks are now able to flow with shipments from recycling plants to mills, from mills to box plants, and from plants back to recycling—which keeps carriers in the DS Smith transportation network for weeks at a time rather than tendering to carriers who would rack up empty and out-of-route miles for numerous single loads.

“All of this can only be done if you have a central group in a central team looking at it,” said Aaron.

Beating market rates

Aaron reported that DS Smith has reduced trucking prices by 20% over the last few years in the region, beating market rates. They can now take a close look at carrier KPIs, along with acceptance and on-time delivery rates for specific carriers.

“We’ve been able to really capitalize on the intelligence and data that we were able to receive,” he said. “We now have real data on actuals paid, accessorials, carrier KPIs. We can identify issues as they are rising and nip them in the bud so that we’re not having these carry on for months and years on end where we’re spending more on detention than we should.”

Additionally, the Transporeon platform has helped DS Smith achieve vendor compliance. The logistics department is now able to assign the carriers centrally and enforce the rates through the system, with automated reports that go out whenever locations tender to a non-approved carrier.

What’s next?

DS Smith recently announced the rollout of real-time visibility provided by Sixfold across its North American locations. Aaron said the ability to fully track shipments in their movements across the U.S. is going to take the company’s digitalization initiative to the next level.

“We want to incorporate every stick of freight into our TMS,” he said. “We want to be able to look at our entire network, at one overview, every single load back and forth, where its coming from, where it’s going to—and really look at it as a holistic global company rather than just a country within a global company."

To learn more about the benefits of a centralized control tower view of your freight operations, we invite you to check out the Gerdau North America and MAPEI North America stories in the video link, or contact us.

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