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How to Use Predictive Analytics to Make Smarter Supply Chain Decisions

Your shipping network generates a wealth of data that can be used to de-risk process decisions. Most organizations are already making use of detailed reporting and analytics to understand historical performance and costs — but in the age of predictive analytics, that’s not enough to keep operations on par with more technologically advanced competitors.

By centralizing shipping data and running it through proprietary machine learning models, modern tools — like Shipium Simulation — can help you go a step further by understanding what’s likely to happen, not just what has happened.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the most impactful network simulation use cases that forward-thinking organizations (and some Shipium customers) are focused on, and the business impact of each. 

The two types of simulation use cases

Before getting into specific initiatives, it’s worth noting that simulation use cases broadly fall into one of two buckets — optimizing current processes in an effort to capture more savings and moderately improve efficiency, and planning future initiatives that represent a larger-scale transformation to the business.

Sim Report

Optimizing current processes

While modern shipping technology can help you reimagine supply chain operations in comprehensive ways, it’s just as important to make sure that your current processes are creating as much value as possible. Performing a large-scale overhaul of key shipping processes may not always be realistic, but there’s almost always room around the margins for improvement. Some examples include:

Base rate optimization

When it comes to process optimization, a great way to create value is to ensure that you’re paying carriers the minimum amount required to still deliver on customer expectations. Enterprises are usually paying more than they need to be here. Fortunately, simulation can help you address that.

Base Rate Optimization


By running simulations on historical shipments and applying constraints like desired delivery dates and maximum spend threshold, you can receive predictions on which carriers and service options are most likely to meet your defined criteria. This can power changes like intelligent downgrades, which involves moving volume to economy shipping options that will still meet required delivery dates.

Shipium also automates zip-zone mappings, allowing for more precise calculation of shipping distances and the ability to dynamically account for factors like fuel prices, weather patterns, and demand.

Accessorial avoidance

With the right technology, there’s no reason an organization should incur excessive accessorial charges, which are largely the result of limited supply chain visibility and poor planning.

You can address this by running a simulation to measure the impact of surcharge and accessorial changes to your network — for example, simulating the impact of increased Dimweight fees to determine if it’s worth moving volume to a different carrier or service option.

You can also simulate the impact of specific efficiency improvements on the overall bottom line. An example of this would be measuring the impact of enhanced packaging efficiency to determine if it’s an area that warrants improvement.

Transit optimization

Date constraint-based optimization enables you to run simulations on historical shipments to see which carriers can support specific timelines. 

You can also run a cost-based optimization scenario that’s focused on identifying the greatest savings possible, regardless of date constraints. If you’re like most organizations, you’ll likely set up your own custom criteria based on your customers’ expectations and larger business priorities — weighing both cost and performance implications in every analysis.

In either case, you can make transit decisions based on a detailed understanding of true performance and cost.

Planning for the future

As we mentioned earlier, simulations that are focused on planning for the future involve weighing larger-scale changes to your network and shipping operations that transform the way you’re currently doing business. 

When it comes to making such large-scale changes, it’s always worth considering working with strategic consultants who have experience managing such projects. At Shipium, we work closely with these types of partners to jointly ensure faster shipping, cost reduction, and greater process efficiency, and recommend our strategic partner Green Mountain as the best place to start. For enterprise retailers who choose to work with firms in addition to investing in Shipium, the process is straightforward — the consulting partner helps to develop a tailored shipping strategy, the retailer then automates execution of that strategy with Shipium, and both perform continuous monitoring of the overall shipping network.

When it comes to specific forward-looking use cases, here are some good places to start.

Carrier expansion

First, whether you’re currently single-threaded or not, adding additional carriers can be a great way to expand service capabilities, gain negotiating leverage (more on this shortly), and cut costs. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to determine which carriers or services will best help to meet your goals, especially given that each one prices and communicates value differently.

By simulating historical shipments with new carriers (Shipium’s Carrier Network covers >99% of the U.S.), you can quickly determine how volumes would shift to optimize costs, as well as how performance would be impacted. This enables you to make more informed decisions about which carrier(s) to add, including choosing from regional options, not just the big four.

Rate renegotiation

When you go into negotiations with carriers not knowing how changes to discount tiers, surcharges, and service options will impact performance and costs, you’re giving them the upper hand at the table.

By running simulations that account for these types of changes, you can enter into negotiations armed with the knowledge of exactly which contract terms will best benefit your future network performance.

Network expansion

Given the amount of time and money that must be invested to expand your network by adding nodes and/or services, it’s worth knowing the expected impact of those changes before committing to such an investment. Running simulations on historical shipments while changing network parameters can help you understand just how those changes will impact operations. 

Network Expansion

For example, if you’re considering adding a new warehouse to improve shipping speed in a specific geography, you can run simulations to determine the best place for that warehouse based on carrier performance and demand. Similarly, you can simulate whether shipping directly from stores offers a better alternative.

If you feel unable to keep up with growing demand and are considering working with a 3PL partner to scale shipping operations, you can test how working with that partner would impact performance and costs.

Wrapping up

Today’s leading operations and analytics teams are moving beyond reporting on historical performance — they’re using the wealth of data that’s generated within their networks to make predictions that inform key process decisions. These predictions can be focused on ways to cut costs and improve current processes, or be more future-oriented and provide insight on how to overhaul existing processes. 

In either case, it’s important for organizations who want to optimize their processes to find ways to better leverage their data and generate useful forward-looking insights from it.

If you’re looking for a more scalable way to do just that, reach out to our team of data and logistics experts here.