Boston, MA — Global supply chain and operations consulting firm, Maine Pointe, announced its collaboration and support of a key industry white paper titled “Rail Optimization: Carrier/Shipper/Investor Relationships” in association with the Center for Railway Research and Education at The Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University. The paper, which was released at the Railway Interchange 2019 conference in Minneapolis, includes vital information on the future of relationships in the critical areas where supply chain management meets rail freight services.
The paper was created in response to significant carrier and shipper imbalances throughout the North American transportation network, a factor complicated by unpredictable economic growth, a shortage of drivers, new environmental restrictions and reduced capacity across the truck and rail network. Carriers, shippers and investors may face an uncertain future as the “Amazon effect” takes a grip and buyer behavior continues to change, along with freight traffic patterns and an increasing level of complexity in the supply chain.
With the US Department of Transportation predicting an increase in total freight demand of 88 percent by 2035 due to increased road congestion, stakeholders are looking to new technologies and business models to meet the Amazon effect head-on and prepare for the future. In a rapidly changing world, it has become essential for carriers, shippers and investors to gain a deeper understanding of the value drivers and find new ways to deliver a positive impact for all stakeholders.
The future of the rail industry will be driven by digital transformation
According to the paper, digital transformation has become an essential component in bringing rail transportation into the modern era. In particular, data and decision making, supported by the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC), provides a platform for service improvement and better planning.
“Freight tonnage will grow by 40 percent by 2045, and rail will have to play a significant role in creating this extra capacity,” said Nick Little, Director of Railway Education at the Center for Railway Research and Education at The Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University. “Yet over the past several years, the relationship between shipper and carrier has become increasingly dysfunctional. We created this white paper, together with Maine Pointe, to identify drivers of more successful relationships between railroads, shippers, customers and suppliers.”
Research findings point to a need for collaboration and a focus on the end-to-end supply chain
Initial findings of the research revealed that shippers using rail often found rail service quality was less than expected and unpredictable. While some anecdotal stories of productive communication between rail organizations and shippers were revealed, many reported that a breakdown of communications often existed due to yards being closed or staff being reduced. They expressed a desire to have the same level of information and communication on their consignments as consumers can receive when ordering online from Amazon.
“Findings from our research point to a need for greater collaboration and a win-win partnership that benefits all stakeholders and drives cost savings and growth,” said Michael Notarangeli, EVP Engagement Partner at Maine Pointe. “All shippers and carriers must also evaluate their buy-make-move-fulfill supply chain to eliminate bottlenecks, enhance throughput and optimize shipments, with the goal of improving cost, cash, growth and share price performance. Driving these enhancements and promoting collaboration across the end-to-end supply chain is what we call Total Value Optimization™.”
The paper includes a case study of how Maine Pointe resolved the challenges of its client, which mirrored many of the issues identified in the white paper’s research. Maine Pointe, engaged to work with the manufacturer and its rail, road and ocean carriers, implemented a new way of approaching the marketplace with a reconfigured distribution network built on collaborative relationships. As a result, carriers saw 80 percent growth in volumes and a 22 percent margin enhancement; the shipper improved product transit times from 7-12 days to less than 24 hours, and the company grew from $1.8 billion to $4 billion within two years.
“Our collaboration with Michigan State University has yielded a productive viewpoint that could address many of the challenges faced today by shippers and carriers,” said Simon Knowles, Chief Marketing Officer at Maine Pointe. “In keeping with our Total Value Optimization approach, this paper provides key insights on creating a win-win scenario for all stakeholders in a highly collaborative environment.”
According to the white paper, railway business models will need to move towards a more advanced supply chain management model characterized by end-to-end supply chain integration and value creation, as railroad leaders and managers acquire new skills and knowledge. The white paper is available for download at http://www.broad.msu.edu/move.