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How to Use Carrier Scorecards to Drive Accountability

January 10, 2024
Joe Fitzpatrick

The performance of third-party carriers often feels like the one link in the supply chain that’s out of your control. 

Whether they’re contracted by your own organization or your suppliers, this unpredictability can disrupt the plans of everyone from warehouse managers to customer service teams. Delays, inconsistencies, and lack of data from carriers can hinder not just operational efficiency but also strategic decisions and stakeholder relationships.

While it’s true that carriers have their own challenges to deal with, some facilities have found ways to exert influence over their performance. Accountability is the foundational principle. That means having open, frank conversations with carriers, grounded in objective facts and mutual benefit. Here, carrier scorecarding emerges as an invaluable tool.

Amidst the demands of daily operations, keeping track of carrier performance might seem like yet another mountain to climb. But with streamlined processes and the right tools, it doesn't have to be a drain on resources. And the benefits of doing it right are much greater than many facilities realize.

Manual v.s. Automated Carrier Scorecarding

Manual scorecarding is a time-consuming process that can lead to inaccurate evaluations of carrier performance. Different people may have slightly different methods for recording the information, and during peak times, the data might not be collected at all.

This can lead to disputes with carriers and make it difficult to improve performance.

Automated systems can enable a more objective form of carrier scorecarding. You’re able to give more consistent feedback to service providers, back it up with data, and avoid slowing down your team or diverting them away from the task at hand.

Automation means you can identify trends, anticipate issues, and make strategic adjustments swiftly, all while fostering transparency and trust with your carriers.

Commercial teams can start factoring in the potential for delays or disruptions into the estimated total cost of goods.
Your ability to turn their trucks around quickly will improve alongside their punctuality.

Carrier Scorecarding Streamlines Internal Operations

Even before you communicate the content of your carrier scorecards to the service providers themselves, they can start driving efficiency.

Armed with a reference sheet as to what they can expect from each carrier, your shipping and receiving coordinator can make more informed scheduling decisions. They’ll leave a little extra margin of error for unreliable partners, and when it comes to peak demand periods, they can make smart bets like lining up successive appointments from the more solid carriers.

The knowledge gained from carrier scorecarding percolates down into shop floor wisdom, too. Loading dock workers will have a better idea of what the day’s deliveries will mean in terms of rhythm and workload, allowing them to plan their breaks and conserve their energy. That can do wonders for morale.

Finally, for the warehouse manager - carrier scorecards make it easier to plan manpower allocations for the loading dock, giving them breathing room for other warehouse operations. As for inventory, knowing what can be expected from carriers is a key piece of the puzzle in striking a balance between lean operations and having a buffer for uncertainties.

Even if carrier scorecarding shaves off a mere 5 minutes from the average dwell time per load, the cumulative effect over weeks, months, and years is transformative. Small operational tweaks can, over time, result in major improvements to throughput and bottom-line savings.

Carrier Scorecards Support Strategic Sourcing

Besides being useful for operations, carrier scorecards are a powerful tool for the commercial side of the company.

For procurement teams, knowing how different carriers perform can impact supplier selection, negotiations, and risk planning.

When two or more suppliers seem identical in quality and price, their choice of carrier is a differentiator. With mature carrier scorecards, this can go even further: commercial teams can start factoring in the potential for delays or disruptions into the estimated total cost of goods.

Carrier scorecards can also give buyers leverage in contract negotiations. Consistent lateness could be grounds for penalties or even termination. On a more positive note, they can also strengthen supplier relationships by passing on information about carrier performance or recommending alternatives.

Carrier Scorecards Can Benefit Your Carriers

Maintaining harmonious relationships with carriers is sometimes a delicate balancing act. But data can lay the groundwork for better collaboration, replacing blame games with objective problem-solving sessions.

For carriers, knowing how your own performance compares with their peers is invaluable insight. It can help them better understand their position in the marketplace, and troubleshoot issues with client acquisition and retention. 

The important thing is to be clear that it’s not a punitive exercise. Rather, it’s about collaboration and continuous improvement. To help with this, you might try to highlight their strengths along with their weaknesses. For example, a carrier might be poor at sticking to scheduled appointments, but have a flawless record for goods being properly stowed with zero damage.

You might also invite them to share feedback about their own experience with your facility, including checking in with drivers about issues like signage or amenities.

Another thing that’s worth pointing out is that your ability to turn their trucks around quickly will improve alongside their punctuality, as ever greater predictability is achieved. Showing service providers how their performance impacts your own operations and business makes the stakes clearer for them, and makes it more likely they will try to improve.

Accountability and understanding between carriers and facilities can be a competitive advantage for both parties.

Carrier Scorecards Help with Supply Chain Predictability

From the point of view of business resilience and continuity, carrier scorecards represent a valuable asset. 

A holistic view of carrier performance helps in developing backup plans, ensuring the supply chain remains robust even in unforeseen circumstances. Knowing the true capabilities of your supply chain empowers business development and logistics teams alike to optimize their plans and manage risk, both commercial and operational.

Salespeople can avoid overpromising and manage customer expectations more effectively. Senior executives can weigh the pros and cons of investing in an owned fleet, or opening up new facilities closer to major transport hubs.

Even your company’s brand management or PR teams stand to benefit from carrier scorecarding, since it empowers them to assess the risk of reputational damage due to delays fulfilling orders.

What’s more, well-maintained scorecards give logistics teams the ability to prepare for peak seasons or growth spurts. By analyzing past performance, it becomes easier to forecast which carriers are likely to face capacity issues during high-demand periods, allowing logisticians to adjust their strategies ahead of time.

By analyzing past performance, it becomes easier to forecast which carriers are likely to face capacity issues.
When carriers consistently fall short of the mark, having a data-driven scorecard can provide the necessary evidence to renegotiate terms.

The R.O.I of Carrier Scorecarding

The value in financial terms of carrier scorecards might not be obvious at first glance. But it becomes clearer when you ask: how much does poor carrier performance cost the business?

The ripple effect of delays can be profound, affecting everything from the cost of holding inventory to customer satisfaction. Tracking carrier performance is an essential tool in any business’s effort to diagnose the root causes of these problems and work towards mitigating them.

While all business relationships are built on trust, contracts exist to protect both parties' interests. When carriers consistently fall short of the mark, having a data-driven scorecard can provide the necessary evidence to renegotiate terms, instate penalties, or indeed shift to more reliable service providers.

How DataDocks Makes Carrier Scorecarding Easy

DataDocks logs the precise arrival and departure times for every truck coming into your facility. On top of that, it keeps track of no-shows, unscheduled loads, and appointments that have been canceled.

You can then look at that data from many different angles and spot trends. Perhaps your turnaround time is shorter on certain days of the week? Or you can see a comprehensive report for a particular carrier. These scorecards can be customized and exported into a spreadsheet format, or displayed visually and intuitively.

All of this is integrated seamlessly into the daily workflows of your team, including a drag-and-drop calendar for your logistics coordinator and quick access to load information for the loading dock supervisor. What’s more, the data can be synchronized with other systems via API.

To learn more about how DataDocks can help you track the performance of your carriers and get more accountability, give us a call on (+1) 647 848-8250, or book a demo.


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