Below is a transcript of the podcast episode. There may be inaccuracies, or edits of the audio version added for readability.
Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of talking trucking tech with Microdia I'm still Radek and I'll be your host each week as guests. And I talk about how technology is transforming the transportation and logistics industry. The goal of TTT is to help carriers and brokers successfully manage the rapidly changing landscape of freight technology, including trends, platforms, best practices, and business results. Today on T T T we have Sean Jennings, director of solutions engineering at Trimble transportation. Shannon's an industry veteran with over 20 years of experience implementing, designing, and selling technology solutions to hundreds of carriers across North America. And beyond today, we're going to go in depth on transportation management systems and talk about the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing carriers today. Welcome Sean. Thanks for being here. Glad to be here. Steel. Thank you. When you look at the state of technology being used in the industry today, I guess, what are some of the biggest differences between what you're seeing now and maybe wait, what you first saw when you started in the industry?
Well, when I first started most computer systems were really, you know, they were back office other than very large carriers. You never really use computer systems for operations. It was all manual. You used a board whiteboard, or it was more of a, you know, a paper board that you would, you would do visually and manually. And I remember then what windows came out and we would go in and we would have this screen with a filter of drivers and a filter of trips that we could kind of Swart any way we wanted. And with a mouse you could drag the the driver routes, the load and, and that at the time, that was just the cat sauce. That was the one thing that, that really kind of, you know, brought the operation side with the back office and kind of integrated that whole operation side of the business.
As far as today, you know, that's all a given it's, it's more about business intelligence, right? Tools to make better decisions, you know, which trucks do you buy, which customers are profitable, which customers aren't profitable, which lanes were profitable, that sort of thing. Yeah. That's how I get. Yeah. That's a lot of change to have gone through in 20 years. Did it all at the end, did it all, did it all happen kind of gradually and like bits and bits and pieces along the way here? Well, you know, initially you were, you were using the platform to exploit coming to the tools of the mouse and the graphics. And then you started to build the functionality on top of that, right? So the sophistication just grew because you learn from the industry and move, move on from that what's changed the most, I guess then in terms of what carriers are looking to achieve or less sorts of capabilities they want to see in a TMS these days, it seems like table stakes have kind of really, really been raised over the years here.
Sean Jennings (03:09):
I guess when you have technology sales people knocking on your door, that the two big expenditures for a trucking company are, are there, you know, the computer system and their telematics, right? So the, the integration of those two so that they talk together and even talk with the maintenance solutions. That's been big, you know companies have done that so they can make, you know, effective decisions with real time data. And they've done that for internal reasons, but I, you know, increasingly I see they're having to expose that, right. They're having to expose it to their customers. Their customers want constant visibility. It's the whole, world's been kind of you know, let's say Uber eyes, right? I want to know where am I free? It is all the time. I've got, you know, 50 loads coming into my, my plants in four different carriers. They want to see that however they can, you know, on a map, they want the data show up. They want to know the ETA. It's all those demands from the customers that are really driving a lot of the technology that the carriers have to adopt
The kind of mentality like shifting there. And they're like, people always want to be like somewhat protective of their data, or they're not looking to like expose some systems, but I know, I know you mean like shippers all want to know exactly where their freight is at all times. They want to be able to make better decisions themselves. So do you see like the, there is some sort of shift toward being more collaborative like that or,
Sean Jennings (04:48):
Well, I don't think carriers mind being collaborative with their customers. I think at one point they, they, they didn't want to give people a constant visibility, but they've just gotten used to that. Right. I mean they, they, they tend to work in partnerships with their carriers and they're happy to kind of share that information and they're, they're ultimately not going to get the business unless they have a decent partnership with the carrier and you don't want to to, you know, shop out every load to a different customer. You want some really core customers that, you know, really fulfill the majority of your business, I think.
Right. Right. So in your TMS, like now it's really a lot of Bo both getting your operations like streamlined, but then also making sure that's like a very easily shared platform that you can then, like, it's, it's more about customer service or more about making shipper, like giving shippers that visibility to, and making sure all those, all those things all happen in real time.
Sean Jennings (05:52):
Absolutely. Everyone wants it real time. They want to know now what happened two minutes ago, right? Yeah.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you've seen carriers make then over the years when it comes to implementing a TMS solution?
Sean Jennings (06:08):
Oh, well I seen lots. But you, you know, what a lot of people or companies will do is, is, is they'll they'll search for a computer system or a piece of technology. It doesn't necessarily have to be a computer system. You could, you know, a document imaging solution or a telematics solution, or what have you, but they'll spend six months still the do all the due diligence, they'll see a variety of different vendors. And then the write a check and they'll, they'll think, wow, that's great. It's done. Let's all go home. And you know, it's, it's not that simple, it's just started. Right. you know, I think installing a a computer system for your business, especially in a transportation, it's, it's really an order to cash sort of a task and it involves a complete re-engineering of your business, right.
Sean Jennings (07:03):
So, you know, you have to have complete buy-in, you have to have everyone on board and, and, and you really just don't want to get it installed and then walk away from it, unless you're maybe a private carrier where your business is very static. You want to get it installed maybe in, you know, six, nine months, but, but understand the tools so that you can constantly change it for, you know, moving demands of your customers and you can tweak it because it's, it's never, it's never really a, an ending process, right. Every year you're going to look to incrementally change that system based upon the dynamics of your business, because you know, as you know, truckers just have to reinvent themselves all the time.
Do you have any, yeah. Do you have any good tips then on how to get the sort of like buying that you need or really do a good job of that, like change management of, of, of getting people to understand that like yeah, implementing a new solution does require a change in changing behavior often or a change in how you're going to do things?
Sean Jennings (08:14):
Well, you know, I think, I think that's more a focus of management style. So I won't pretend to know how to, how to enforce people to do things, but I think it's, it is relevant to know that you know, if you're going to spend X dollars buying a solution, you know, double that up to really install it supported it and take it seriously. You gotta be all in, right. It's like a adopting a religion, you know, you've got to agree at the onset of whatever the decision is. We're all on this. And we are going to breathe and live this solution for the next 10 years or so.
Yeah. Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. Do you, yeah. Do you have just started just the last on that point? Do you have any, any thoughts on, on how, how they, how they should think about like the, the longterm, like how, how, how, how a carrier can kind of assess whether there it's going to be a tool that they can, they can grow with, or they can kind of change or improve,
Sean Jennings (09:22):
You know, looking at how other carriers have used the tool and, and speaking to them going to, you know, you know, the users, groups, meetings to see what other carriers are doing with the solution, what technologies they're introducing. I think every year you can find incremental sort of enhancements, you know, and, and, and you might want, you might have an agenda for things that we want to do and find that, you know, the solution isn't really ready for this one pick the ones that you can succeed with and every year just tweak it, improve it and move forward. Right. So you're looking for incremental enhancements every year. It's bit by bit.
Maybe you've already covered this one a little bit then, but what are some of the best, what are the, some of the best investments or best bets you've seen carriers make when it comes to technology or what carriers would get the most out of their tech investments do really well.
Sean Jennings (10:22):
You know, I, I just don't see truckers as being you know, outside of, you know, playing roulette in Vegas is being big betters. But but I, I, you know, I, I find in my experience, they're rather risk adverse and it's, it's partially due with the fact that you have to drive a lot of revenue to, to drive income or profit, right? So I think most truckers make money by being, you know, consistent, steady operators and their, their clients see them that way. You know, they, they want to see a carrier that I give 30 loads to a month and you know, they deliver 20 or nine of them on time. And you just as easily see a carrier, you give them 30 loads, and they're lucky if they get half of them one time, so good operators are consistent. And I think those same good operators do their research when they make a decision, you know, they, they, they, they do it diligently. They, they check different vendors, they check references, they go to their local associations, they ask their contemporaries. And then when they do make the decision, they, they, they, they commit to it and they follow through. Right. I would maybe even add to that, and it's not always the case, but,
Sean Jennings (11:54):
You know, curious that make good partnerships with their vendors tend to succeed. You know, it's not the case that some don't, I mean, I I've walked into customers that have installed the system and you never hear much from them. You walk into their office and they just use the system beautifully and you would never have suspected. But I do think it's, it's sort of it's conducive of the fleet that's heavily involved in our users, groups and whatever that they also are very good users.
Yeah, no, that makes, that makes a lot of sense. Definitely. I've had the same experience here at Microdia with the most engaged customers do tend to get a lot out of the solution for sure. Sure. Yeah. Alright, well, this one's a little bit more specific, but it's common for carriers or, yeah, I think it's common for most businesses to believe their business is unique. And maybe to some extent, you know, all businesses are in their own way and transportation has a lot of different niches and segments and that sort of thing. So there is lots of differences throughout, but when it comes to getting the most out of a TMS, how tailored does it need to be to a specific company's needs? Or how should carriers think about finding solution? That's a good fit for them.
Sean Jennings (13:13):
Yeah. Yeah. I know. No, that's, that's, that's an interesting question. Is they've, I've been through thousands of carriers in my career, you know, following their workflow, you know, before doing a demonstration. And it's amazing how many carriers will tell you that they are totally unique. And when you show them the solution, they are as vanilla is anything, it just, you know, the software fits them out of the box. And then conversely, you'll have someone else that'll sit down and tell you, it's a very simple business. I don't understand why I need a big computer system. I move freight from a to B that's all there is to it. And then, and then when you go through the workflow, they've just got so many curves and angles because it's just impossible. Yeah. You know, but you know, what I think you gotta look at is that these solutions that are on the market today, you usually their second and third generation solutions.
Sean Jennings (14:21):
So the, the, you know, the, the original writers of the solutions already had previous experience. They weren't new to the industry. It was, you know, but, but nevertheless, the solutions have evolved through input from clients over the years. Right. And they've grown and they've matured and, and it really makes them a product and best practices. Right. So they're just follows that. And I think if you're, you know, if you're a truckload carrier, you know, you've got a variety of different options, you should probably just because of the sheer size and the market you got more than one option to see what fits your little nuance. You know, if your LTL, you have less, if your fuel transport, you have less, again, if you're auto hauler, if you do a combination of those things, it gets more and more difficult. So, you know, the trick is, is when you don't have a really good fit.
Sean Jennings (15:29):
Right. I guess that's what you're asking is, you know, when, when it, when it gets difficult, how do you approach it? Right. Yeah. So you know, I think being able to configure and tailor this solution is fine. You know, I've always been an advocate of avoiding customizing the solution. Sometimes you have to do it by necessity, but, you know, I think if you, if you customize the solution, you've, you've put an inherent limited lifespan on it. It's just gonna degrade and get old. I think you're better off understanding the framework of API and B2B tools and integration of Hawks and kind of, you know, getting, clearing your mind and accepting what it will do, that's core to your application and then build around that. So you can let the core kind of, you know, evolve through the standard, you know, vendor upgrade process. And and then you can work around it that way. You know, that, that would be my approach. If, if, if I was in the, in the seat of a carrier that was, was struggling to find the ideal solution.
Yeah, no, that, that sounds like, that sounds like good advice. What's, what's one piece of technology or trend that the industry was dismissive of at first that turned out to be a game changer, or at least, you know, more important than people first thought it would be,
Sean Jennings (17:04):
Oh, you know, I got a couple for that, but you you'll, you'll, you'll be amused by this one document imaging. If I back, it has seriously if I go back 15 years ago and maybe it was jealousy you know, we Institute when it counts and sell them a a complete TMS that would run, you know, 90% of their business for say a hundred thousand dollars. And, you know, we install it over the course of six, nine months in, you know, it's always a painful process and, you know, I'd eventually get the customer to where they're happy and they, they forget the pain and suffering and learn to, to get the benefit out of it. And then, and then my buddy would go in after words, Microdia $50,000 solution. And in six weeks they'd be up and running and they'd be still happy and overjoyed and how easy that was.
Sean Jennings (18:03):
And, you know, I didn't understand was, was the ROI, right? I mean, just the ROI from, you know, print additioning and invoice management extreme. Like, I mean, I got to assume almost every carrier will, if you don't, if you don't have print repositioning solution in, in your, in your Oregon, that's like leaving $200,000 in a non-interest bank account on the table. Right. that, that would be, that would be one that, you know, that hit me years ago now it's, you know, it's, it's part and parcel with, with, with you know, any, any, any technology, no, appreciate that. But I think, you know, the one that comes to me today, that's more recent. And, and, you know, it came to me from a cost to remind that met me at a trade show and he just volunteered. He said, Shawn, I just spent the money on the simplest piece of technology I've ever bought.
Sean Jennings (19:07):
And it was easy. It was effective. It was my best investment anywhere. It wasn't my dispatch system. It was video intelligence, excuse me. I just thought video intelligence it's, you know, it's, it's a, you know, a video cam big deal with he. Right. But he, he, he went on to say how you know, he put this in 80 trucks and then he sat down after 30 days and would look at each driver, go through, you know, 10 to 15 incidences on the road, which were just atrocious, right. To scare the hell out of, you know, hard braking, this, whatever you said. I couldn't, I couldn't sleep. I went home at night, but he said after about three months after showing the drivers that information he got that down to one instance a month, you know? So just, just as ability to sleep at night, nevermind the safety and the insurance. It's, it's, it's what you think is relatively simple, but it's, it's a really, really an obvious piece of ROI in that, in that, in that solution. Yeah.
No, that's a, that's a great one. The, the yeah, that makes a ton of sense. All right. Last, last question. What are some technologies today that you think have great promise and will likely Tran like transform the transportation management systems in the years to come, but maybe aren't quite there yet.
Sean Jennings (20:41):
Yeah. Yeah. You're asking me to look into a crystal ball way. Isn't, that's not
Sean Jennings (20:49):
Well, you know, it reminds me of a story the mirror of Toronto what's his name? John Dory GHR and Tory. He was telling his story. He was being interviewed and he used to run Rogers. And someone asked him a question like that and he volunteered that, Oh, I, I worked with someone that could see the future. And he was, he was talking about his boss Ted Rogers, and a little story was that they they were deciding to change the cable platform, to can't remember what it was to move it from 30 channels to accept 50 or a hundred channels. And they were making that decision. And Ted said, no, no, no, no, you gotta make 500 channels. It's like, well, why would we possibly ever need 500 ankles? No, no, you're going to need, you're going to need, you're going to have Italian cooking, Portuguese cooking, Chinese cooking, knitting golf, women's golf, you know, in a, gonna go on and on and on.
Sean Jennings (21:58):
And he was totally correct. Right. So he built his business off of that. And I guess the way I've gone to build business in, in, in the past is, you know, I've, I've always looked at that little extra feature. You know, you put this in there, we'll sell more of this because it will look better. They'll add this module in like this. And that's the way I kinda did things. But I think that the present leadership that Trimble you know, they've got kind of the vision changed Langley and it all revolves around solving that, that universal problem of matching, you know, capacity with demand. Right. And you know, our way about going about it is you know, using big data, you know, business intelligence, artificial intelligence, that sort of thing, and ensuring the data so that, you know, we have a framework and, you know, our hope is, and, and I think curious will, you know, they'll share their data. If they have a framework where they could utilize that data and, and they can get results and they can, they can solve capacity planning issues. I think that's gonna be a, a big thing in the future. And we're, we're, we're kind of aiming to be there, or, you know, rather than be ready for it kind of opened the door towards that. And you know, I'm kind of excited about that.
Yeah. Or the, just like, just a little more specifically are the, so the big savings are around like better, if you can better match capacity and demand. Like, it's just all about minimizing deadhead
Sean Jennings (23:46):
Miles or it's about like maximizing how, like drivers, like you integrate like hos and figure out like how all that data works to get like it's about, or where, where are the biggest where the opportunities are like, where is there still like waste, or, or what are you, what are you really trying to solve there? You're, you're trying to increase efficiencies. Right. And, and, and currently, you know, people look at saying, okay, well, I'm going to, I'm going to increase efficiency by, by, you know, giving you a load off for like Uber rising freight, where all your, your here, I've got a load right there. And I'm going to sort of present a load in a certain cost to you on demand. But, but, you know, I think you take the economics out of it. You let the shippers and carriers worry about the economics.
Sean Jennings (24:40):
You give them a platform where they don't have to look at it almost at the last minute. They can look at alw it fulfills their whole network. So rather than planning their network for, Oh, I'm in a bind and I've got to, you know, fulfill capacity why don't I plan my network so that, Hey, I've got the right lane set up. I'm taking this customer on this lane, knowing I have a customer on this lane. So it doesn't have to be last minute. It can be, it can be planned ahead. And I, and I, I don't even know where all the applications, you know, are, there's probably tons of different applications. I think the important thing is if you create a framework where you give people access to the data, applications will present itself, right. Some of them, you know, will anticipate at Trimble and we'll offer it as a, you know, an obvious tool, but I can see customers just taking the data and coming up with their own introspections back to view on, on that data and, and, and moving that way.
Sean Jennings (25:54):
Right. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Figuring out how you, how you visualize it or how you, how you're going to interact with it to drive value. Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. That's really interesting. That's all my questions. So, yeah. Thanks a lot for joining us today. We really, really appreciate your time. This was, this was super interesting. Excellent steel. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Thank you. And thank you to everyone out there for tuning into another episode of TTT. Be sure to click, subscribe, to hear about future episodes. And if you'd like to learn more about Microdia, you can always check us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaker 1 (26:35):
Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Markham, Ontario, Microdea is a fast growing document management and automation software company serving hundreds of customers in the transportation and logistics industry, including truckload and LTL carriers, private fleets, brokers and 3PLs.