Trucking and transportation companies that were well-prepared to deal with disruption using technology and processes have typically done well during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Tom McLeod, founder and president of McLeod Software, kicking off his company’s 30th annual user conference, this year in a virtual format, Sept. 29.
“In the past, I’ve used the theme that change represents opportunity,” McLeod said in a pre-recorded address filmed at McLeod’s headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama. “It’s in times of disruptive events, that the biggest opportunities appear.”
One thing the pandemic has shown us, he said, “is the ability to service your customers and handle the unexpected is a critical ability.”
Many of McLeod’s customers have done remarkably well during these turbulent times, he said. “We have some companies that have told us they’re having a record year. The companies that from a technology standpoint were prepared, that had the processes and the automation in place, they really done well.”
He cited one unnamed company whose president told him that in the past, they would tell customers about what they were doing from a technology standpoint, and the customers listened. “This year the customers can feel the difference,” McLeod said. “They have felt and seen the ability the company has to act” during times of disruption.
A number of trends have emerged during or been accelerated by the pandemic, he said, such as e-commerce and the ability to work remotely. The pandemic, he said, is “showing companies how things like business process automation and business intelligence help set the stage for ongoing productivity during disruptions like we have now.”
McLeod highlighted some of the ways the new versions of its core software are helping customers do this.
McLeod Software Highlights
McLeod said the company has added to its core product in areas such as usability and efficiency, as well as behind-the-scenes improvements in system performance and security, in version 20.2 of its LoadMaster and PowerBroker updates announced in August.
There are more ways for customers to brand their companies to their customers, for instance with new web portals, which McLeod called “a great leap forward to have a truly useful web presence for your company.”
There are new EDI features, he said, as EDI adoption continues to increase – ways to help customers streamline implementation and accommodate new requests from shippers.
Powerbroker has taken its waterfall tendering capability to the next level, as well as added more capability for less-than-truckload business, he said.
In mobile communications, McLeod has added several new vendors. “It continues to amaze me the number of new players and the creativity and innovation they’ve got,” McLeod said. “Even incumbent vendors are adding new capabilities requiring us to scramble to keep up. We’ve been able to expand staff and are doing a good job with that.”
McLeod introduced a digital freight matching platform this year and has published a special API, that several of the major players are writing to in order to exchange the information necessary. “You’re reading about things like smart load matching; we are positioning our product in the platform you run on for better connectivity and information exchange, and we’re excited about where that’s going.”
“Business process automation, BPA, is something we’re spending a lot of time on,” McLeod said. “This has really gained traction. It’s really proven its worth in this time of pandemic when so many employees are working remotely.”
McLeod has put solid business automation in place for several hundred of its customers, he said, and it’s continuing to invest and work on new capabilities, such as robot process automation. “We believe there’s a lot of opportunities for us to help you continue to innovate with BPA,” he said. “We’ve now got prepackaged solutions that help to get you there quicker.”
One thing to watch for, he said, is a new Impact product for rate visibility, which builds on top of McLeod’s existing Market Insight product, which has been part of the software for nine years. This allows the software to show a company its rate on a lane-by-lane basis, compared against the market rates, and shows which way those rates are trending. “With the Impact product we’re taking the presentation of that information to the next level to make it easier to use to help you in negotiating with your customers,” he said.
McLeod said the new Impact product should be rolled out by the end of the year to all customers running the Market Insight product. “Market Insight and Impact are just the beginning of the ways we think we can contribute to your business through data science and business intelligence.”
McLeod also offered some advice for companies to get the most out of their software, noting that many customers stop once they’ve got the base product up and running and don’t really take full advantage of the process improvements it can provide.
“Get together your management team and prepare a two-year technology process and adoption plan. Line up your priorities in the processes you want to improve or technologies you want to adopt, and then go after that list in sequence and incrementally improve your operations almost on a day-to-day basis.”