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Optimizing Transportation Operations at C.H. Robinson


C.H. Robinson (CHR), a Fortune 500 company and one of the world’s largest logistics platforms, faced the intricate challenge of efficiently managing and coordinating their extensive transportation networks. At the core of their operations was Navisphere ©, CHR's proprietary global and multimodal transportation management system. Navisphere streamlined load consolidation and managed a myriad of logistics elements, including customer orders, shipments, and overarching data. It provided a global overview of operations, offering near real-time insights and scalability. Despite Navisphere’s capabilities, CHR encountered complex logistics challenges. These challenges stemmed from a variety of constraints, such as adhering to strict regulations on working and driving hours, managing the capacity limits of trucks, and coordinating across different transport modes and carriers. 


To effectively address these challenges, CHR pursued a tailored solution, leading to the development of the “Optimizer”. This tool was designed to integrate with and enhance Navisphere, aiming to improve the overall management and coordination of their transportation networks. The Optimizer initiative was a strategic step to elevate their logistics operations in an increasingly interconnected and demanding business environment. 



The development of Optimizer faced several key challenges: 

  1. Data Challenges: Integrating diverse data sources and ensuring data accuracy was crucial. 

  2. User Skepticism: Convincing the experienced planners, who relied heavily on their expertise, to trust and adopt a new system. 

  3. Technical Challenges: Developing a tool that could handle complex constraints and integrate seamlessly with existing systems, specifically Navisphere. 

  4. Design Challenges: Creating an intuitive, user-friendly interface that would be readily accepted by the users. 



To address these challenges, C.H. Robinson focused on developing a robust, intuitive tool. Optimizer was designed to integrate with Navisphere, streamline the process of route optimization, and reduce reliance on manual adjustments. The development team actively involved end-users from the managed services division (TMC) and the North American Surface Transportation consolidation unit (NAST) to ensure the tool met real-world requirements and garnered user trust. 



The implementation of Optimizer brought substantial benefits to C.H. Robinson: 

  1. Reduction in Setup Time: The time required to set up customer profiles was significantly reduced from 40-80 hours to less than an hour in most cases, due to Optimizer's integration with Navisphere. 

  2. Reduction of Software Maintenance Fee: By replacing several transportation optimization tools with Optimizer, CHR cut the number of commercial software licenses needed by 98%. 

  3. User Productivity Improvement: Planners and analysts can now focus more on collaboration with customers and capacity representatives, ensuring the best service and lowest costs. 

  4. Integration with Existing Systems: Optimizer's full integration with Navisphere's rating systems allowed for streamlined operations, eliminating extra work for analysts. 

  5. User-Friendly Interface: The intuitive interface of Optimizer reduced the learning curve, making it more accessible to users. 

  6. Increased Load Building Efficiency: The tool enabled faster and more efficient load planning, allowing users to review and adjust output more effectively. 



C.H. Robinson's journey with “Optimizer” illustrates the impact of embracing innovative solutions to address complex logistical challenges. It serves as a concrete example of how targeted, user-centric design, and custom-developed tools can effectively address specific operational needs. For a detailed understanding of the project’s execution and outcomes, the open-access paper provides an in-depth analysis of this collaborative effort.

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