Supply chain disruptions affect all players in the chain, from suppliers to end customers. When they happen, we usually tend to focus only on a single phase of the supply chain, and we do not consider what is happening in its different segments to accumulate these delays.
But adopting strategies to monitor transportation activities in real time and knowing where these situations occur through data analytics can improve forecasting and prevent reactive decisions, thus helping companies that use both unimodal and intermodal transportation to perform domestic and international shipment tracking operations.
The logistics chain and the problems on delivery time
Today, an increasing number of logistics companies are setting up different solutions to adapt to the increase in demand for deliveries, so it becomes crucial to know exactly what state the goods are in.
Supply chain managers are often unable to get real-time information from carriers and consequently have difficulty both knowing exactly what state the goods are in and adopting strategies to monitor transportation activities.
Problems on delivery times can, of course, have different causes, and they can be found in all logistical phases – and not only in the transportation stage:
- Production is easily interrupted by human errors such as contamination or poor demand forecasting. And even if the production team is top-notch, we can still expect delays from time to time, such as if machinery is defective or if trade duties suddenly impact the accessibility of materials. Indeed, manufacturers are vulnerable to several global externalities that can impact orders in the production segment. These setbacks often trigger a domino effect in the supply chain that impacts all subsequent stages.
- Suppliers use the warehouse to store, fulfill, and transport orders, and each of these services corresponds to complex operations. Warehouse delays can occur when management lacks dynamic strategies in warehouse operations or when outdated technologies are used (or even when only pen and paper is used). An experienced team is needed to ensure that inbound and outbound shipments are on time, inventory is accurate, and order fulfillment is efficient.
- The completion of an order ends with transportation and delivery to the end customer by carriers and freight forwarders. Both suppliers and consumers rely on collaborative order management to avoid the most common last-mile shipping incidents. Just like production and inventory delays, transportation problems are sometimes unavoidable. In addition to things beyond human control, such as weather, traffic and mechanical problems, disruptions can be caused by poorly managed transportation services (such as cross-docking) or inadequate communication, time management, and decision making.
Thus, the importance of having real-time supply chain visibility emerges, so that data analytics can be relied upon to perform domestic and international shipment tracking operations on unimodal and intermodal transports.
The importance of having real-time supply chain visibility
Supply chain visibility has gradually become more important in parallel with the fact that companies have outsourced parts of their supply chains and lost control and visibility over what used to be part of their own operations, or they cannot exchange real-time information with suppliers to know exactly what state the goods are in. The inclusion of various actors in the supply chain increases the variety and amount of information involved in the process and complicates management, so it becomes crucial to adopt strategies to monitor transportation activities.
Take for example a retailer who is preparing for a new product launch and has very little visibility into the product's arrival time. This will have a direct impact primarily on the distribution of products to stores, which will create a domino effect on other activities. The warehouse that receives the goods from the supplier will not be able to plan inbound and outbound activities; the stores will not be able to plan inbound activities; and the marketing team will not be able to plan the launch of advertisements and TV commercials. Moreover, in the case of an unexpected event, all this will turn into increased operating costs, poor customer service, and even loss of profit.
In this framework, the value of real-time data cannot be overstated: with real-time tracking of domestic and international shipments and intermodal transports, supply chain managers have the ability to maintain visibility and have the information they need to quickly make the best decisions to optimize their business.
From RTTV platforms to scalable, functional and collaborative solutions
We have seen that supply chains seek to increase the agility and visibility of real-time transportation. Every supply chain manager therefore needs to know where their shipments are and, more importantly, when exactly they will arrive at their destination.
“However, in an uncertain and evolving industry, some supply chain leaders are hesitant to adopt visibility technologies.”
There are all sorts of reasons for this: the technology is too new and suppliers do not have enough experience to provide the value we need; the solution probably costs too much; it is impossible for the solution to connect to all carriers and subcontractors quickly and cost-effectively.
The market for real-time transportation visibility has only recently emerged from the emerging technology stage, so some supply chain managers are hesitant to implement a technology they have not used in the past. Although the choice and implementation of a new technology may seem uncertain, the adoption of visibility technologies has grown rapidly in recent years: in the Market Guide for Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms1 Gartner estimates that "Business customers and consumers continue to have increasing demands for real-time visibility into their orders and shipments. This is true for any organization, regardless of size, geography or industry. It is applicable across all regions, with North America and Europe leading the way in adoption."
And so, the goal of supply chain managers should be to integrate the real-time transportation visibility platform with a collaborative digital platform that automates activities throughout the whole supply chain and has collaboration features and AI technology.
This solution can help create comprehensive visibility that can unify data from different systems and manage supply chain network data to plan, execute and orchestrate activities in the most efficient way.
Such a technology solution makes it possible to rely on data analytics to perform domestic and international shipment tracking operations on unimodal and intermodal transports, gaining comprehensive visibility of global processes, making effective decisions, streamlining costs, mitigating risks and improving service levels.
1. See the Market Guide for Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms by Gartner