How accurate, reliable supply chain visibility gives shippers unprecedented oversight of their cargo as it moves from Point A to Point B
If there’s one thing that shippers across all industries are learning from e-tailing giant Amazon, it’s that customers who are kept in the know will continue to come back for more. Whether that means visibility over cost, shipping times, shipping fees, or the movement of their products from point of origin to front doorstep, both B2C and B2B buyers love having that information at their fingertips.
“Organizations have increasing demands for real-time, or at least near-real-time, visibility into their orders, multimodal shipments, and inventory across a network of business partners, both stationary and in transit,” Bart De Muynck, Gartner’s research vice president for transportation technology, told Logistics Management.
“This visibility might apply for both upstream—from brand owners to their suppliers, contract manufacturers, and service providers—and downstream,” De Muynck continues, “from brand owners to their DCs, distributors, service providers—and ultimately customers.”
Tracking and Tracing
Within the logistics and transportation space, providers that manage full truckload (FTL) shipments in North America are offering shippers increasingly-detailed views of their supply chains. Long considered the Holy Grail of supply chain management, end-to-end visibility has been made possible thanks to advancements in technology and the plethora of data that’s generated by that technology.
Under the supply chain visibility umbrella is a specific component known as “track and trace.” The act of identifying both past and current locations of goods, track and trace enables real-time information sharing on both the status and the location of these goods as they make their way through the end-to-end supply chain.
A fundamental exercise, track and trace helps companies more effectively manage on-time delivery performance, control freight costs, meet regulatory requirements, and deliver higher levels of customer service.
Planning Ahead, Eliminating Surprises
Within the last few years, technology has propelled the logistics industry beyond simple track-and-trace data into a whole new world of supply chain visibility. Customers can track their packages via text or email to receive alerts based on a whole host of criteria that gives visibility and allows for facility managers to plan ahead. This greater visibility allows facility managers more than just insight to deliveries. With intelligent data analysis this can facilitate other warehouse and logistics efficiencies.
DB Schenker views visibility as a key opportunity to mitigate risk and avoid unnecessary costs and charges that can come into play during the logistics process. It’s also about the ability to predict when things are not going as planned and then adapt with contingency plans to avoid any of the disruptions that could occur.
According to the company’s USA CEO Jeffery Barrie, DB Schenker continues to invest heavily in the technology space to improve transparency in every transaction across the entire supply chain. This year, for example, the company rolled out connect 4.0, an online portal where customers can track and trace shipments seamlessly from door to door, not only for ocean freight but for air freight and ground transportation as well.
“Everyone is tackling track and trace from different angles right now,” says Iryna White, Director, Ground Distribution, USA, for DB Schenker, which offers a 24/7/365 customer portal for tracking information, visibility into driver location (via GPS), and online imaging for the POD—the latter of which serves as acceptable, additional insurance that the goods get to their destinations in a timely manner. For high-value cargo, DB Schenker has a service team that manages the freight from door to door.
More Than Just a 360-Degree View
White says good supply chain visibility goes beyond just keeping shippers in the loop on the movement of their cargo; it also provides valuable key performance indicators (KPIs) that those companies can use to drive continuous improvement and higher customer service levels. “When you have the right KPIs, you can actually prove that you’re meeting the metrics that you committed to,” White explains.
That means the shipper that’s working with a large, contract customer now has the tools in hand to let that valued client know how well the KPIs are being met. “It’s one thing to say ‘we’re 99% on time,’” says White, “but if you have the actual reporting to back that up—and when the customer can log in and see the data and pull those reports themselves—it adds to the validity of your statement.”
Finally, having the supply chain data in hand also means avoiding stiff penalties for poor performance. That’s something more and more large customers are moving toward, and it can create major financial burdens and headaches for shippers. It’s also one more reason why supply chain visibility is, and why it will continue to be, important.