Activity Based Costing Can Be Used With Job-Based And Process-Based Workflow Management Makes The Whole Enterprise More Efficient

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Workflow Management Makes The Whole Enterprise More Efficient

Workflow management aimed at reducing costs and improving operational efficiency is an idea whose time has come, especially for trucking. With easy-to-use tools to assist in the process, workflow management offers clear cost advantages and competitive advantages.

Until recently, trucking software focused on specific functions like dispatch schedules, mobile communications, maintenance management, and automated driver logs, for example. But like a cinematic shot that shoots out of a close-up to reveal a vast panorama, technology purveyors are broadening their view of the trucking enterprise. This makes it easier to see, analyze and improve your entire business with what we now call electronic workflow. Basically, the basic workflow consists of action flows, the individual pieces of which comprise almost everyone’s working day.

Perhaps the most obvious example of trucking is in operations: a customer requests a pickup, a forwarder sends a truck, someone picks up the load, and someone delivers the load. One person may have answered the call and another person assigned to be the pickup driver. With those involved in the actual pickup and delivery, everyone was part of the one stream of action, or process that started with the customer’s order.

The pickup-drop-off process has long been monitored by mobile communication devices with GPS and associated software. However, taking the broader view, technology providers also see other streams of activity that lend themselves to definition, analysis and improvement. An example would be the process of recruiting, qualifying and hiring drivers; another might receive, evaluate, and pay — or not pay — cargo claims.

Once you’ve decided which processes to handle with electronic workflow, the next step would be to select the right tool for the job. The software application should be easy to use and capable of creating a real process map, a workflow visualization that shows not where it thinks the process is going, but how it actually goes in the real world. You should be able to see each stage of the flow, each person or department involved, and understand what actions will take the flow to the next stage and desired results.

The system should be able to illustrate even complex processes, not just linear ones; perhaps they involve simultaneous streams of action at different levels of a company. Each step should become noticeable and understandable in the big picture. So should steps that can be eliminated or redesigned. It should allow management to visualize any “deceptions” and then engineer safeguards into the process.

Workflow solutions need to work across multiple platforms, especially in the trucking industry where separate systems are common in areas like accounting, shipping, maintenance, document management, etc.

Yet a single process, perhaps starting from a simple customer order, could involve them all. A workflow application should be able to cover all departments so that no process can go off the radar screen, so to speak.

After a manual process has been mapped into an electronic workflow, managers, analysts and consultants usually walk away. This is where electronic workflow technology takes on great importance. It maintains the integrity of the flow, ensuring the right thing happens in the right sequence and at the right time.

Workflow can establish consistent and repeatable processes that generate optimal results regardless of the specific people involved in the process. Constantly measure overall performance and report metrics. Management can analyze any process for improvement opportunities.

Remember the old adage: “You can improve more by what you measure and provide feedback on.”

Management should select a workflow tool that adapts quickly to evolving business needs. All of us have experienced a major account that imposes new requirements around things like paying freight bills or claims. Fast reaction translates into better customer service and can lead to a competitive advantage.

At a more detailed level, a good workflow program is an everyday business tool. It knows where a particular job is in a process and can notify management of anything that was (a) supposed to happen and didn’t happen, or (b) anything that is happening that is inconsistent with intent. For example, it knows if a particular chauffeur application has been submitted, who received it, where it went next, and whether it is being processed on time. How many times have you missed out on hiring a good driver because the process took too long or went sideways for some insignificant reason?

Good employees will consistently perform better if they have a process to follow and get reports on their results and efficiency. Some departments double their previous productivity after implementing effective workflow tools – another way to save money and improve profitability.

Electronic workflow can manage data, forms, documents and processes, all within specified windows that drive critical timely results. The acceleration of the cycle from delivery to cash is a typical example. The workflow can handle all the steps from the moment a load is delivered until the money arrives at the bank.

In an industry like trucking, where profit margins are so tight and where every possible efficiencies need to be found, enterprise electronic workflow solutions are having an immediate impact on a fleet’s cash flow and profitability .

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