The Artistry Hiding Within Transportation Optimization

There is beauty at the intersection of technology and transportation.  Most wouldn’t naturally infer any connection between the algorithms and data processing technologies TMS engineers build and the fascinating works of art on display in a museum.   But there is a hidden inner beauty beneath the TMS and the freight optimization software.The complex ballet of logistics orchestrated from a podium in the cloud, movements being calculated with precision by millions of lines of elegant computer code, directing thousands of vehicles laden with billions of tons of materials across countless miles of land, sea and sky.

Yet most of this work takes place behind computer screens or from behind the wheel of a tractor trailer, airplane or container ship.  And even from that perspective – where the actual rubber meets the proverbial road – there is only a short-distance view of the whole big logistics picture.  That’s why here at the Supply Chain Collaborator, we were struck by the hypnotic beauty in this amazing hi-resolution image of every single roadway in the United States of America.  According to techie website , the image “was created by redditor ‘thechao’ some months back.  According to thechao, the map is based on the 2010 Tiger Dataset – a package of road data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Seeing every single roadway etched across the face of the lower 48 really drives home the mind-boggling number of variables factored into transportation planning.  Clicking on any part of the map zooms the viewer in for a closer look at the selected area.  The country is veritably covered with a mesh of roads.  Freeways, main arteries, smaller highways and bi-ways, business loops, rural routes, city streets, suburban subdivisions, backroads, country lanes and even cart paths.  It’s no wonder some of the most powerful algorithms and technologies must be enlisted to help high volume shippers determine the best shipping routes and lanes.  There are nearly limitless possible routes to be built, but only a handful represents the most efficient and cost-effective way to get any given load of materials from its origin to its destination.  Is this really a business process that should be left to processing by hand?


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