6 Key Takeaways from Gartner’s Real-Time Supply Chain Visibility Guide

These early days of the growing real-time supply chain visibility market can be difficult for shippers, 3PLs, and carriers alike to navigate. Luckily, direction is coming from a reliable source.

Gartner, a technology analyst firm that closely monitors supply chain and logistics industry developments, released its first Market Guide for Real-Time Visibility Providers last year.

Their evaluation covers leading vendors in the real-time supply chain visibility market, trends among providers, consumer demands, and more. The guide clocks in as a 30-minute read, which we highly recommend. For a sample of the value you’ll find in the full report, start with these six key takeaways.

1. The Visibility Market is Growing Rapidly

Gartner’s own Wants and Needs Survey, sent to hundreds of supply chain leaders, ranked visibility as the highest priority in the supply chain. Visibility has been a strategic priority for decades, but the combination of the Delivery Economy and developments in technology has made visibility the top priority.

Gartner Report Top 3 Funded Initiative resized

To compete with the customer experience provided by Amazon, shippers have found they need real-time shipment data. As more deliveries are routed directly to consumers, final-mile visibility is now a major priority due to its impact on customer experience.

In line with this trend, the demand for project44’s Advanced Visibility Platform has grown substantially over the past few years. That increase isn’t an isolated incident. Gartner’s Smart Insights Report shows that visibility is now a “top three funded initiatives investment priority for many (46%) supply chain organizations.”

What was once a nice-to-have is now a bona fide need-to-have.

2. Customers Expect More Functionality from Visibility Solutions

Visibility is no longer about dots on a map. Users expect their solutions to provide them:

  • real-time insights
  • status updates
  • exception management
  • ETA calculations
  • analytics and reports
  • integrations into their existing systems

As customers embrace these features, they create a virtuous cycle. The more real-time data is consumed, the more businesses are finding new ways to use it. And the more ways they use the data, the more operations and customer experience improves.

Truckload and LTL customers are incorporating traffic patterns, weather, and road or port conditions to optimize routes in real-time. Some have integrated social events, such as protests or police activity, to bypass issues that were once largely unavoidable.

Achieving this level of insight requires:

  • real-time collection of telematic data
  • TMS, WMS, OMS, and ERP integration
  • a customer portal for ease of use

Marrying carrier data and supply chain systems unlocks real business value. Magna increased OTIF deliveries 40% within two months of using project44 to collect and normalize data across hundreds of telematics devices feeding multiple supply chain systems. Optimizing routes enabled them to double their number of shipments without adding headcount.

Results like Magna’s are commonplace among customers that opt for mature visibility solutions.

3. Multimodal Support is Growing

To see the entire real-time supply chain visibility picture, a shipment must be tracked from start to finish. And “start” doesn’t necessarily mean when the truck leaves the DC.

Most enterprises use multiple modes of shipping, and they want a single platform for all of their visibility needs. Integrating all multimodal systems into their visibility platform ranks as a top concern. This need is particularly acute for international shippers seeking ocean insights.

We’ve seen this demand from our customers firsthand, especially as we began building out our multimodal product portfolio. As a result, we now provide visibility for all modes (Ocean, Rail/ Intermodal, Truckload, LTL and volume LTL, Parcel, and Final Mile), consolidating them into one solution.

4. Demand for Multiple Geography Support Has Expanded

Similar to demand for multimodal support, the shipment lifecycle frequently spans multiple geographies. Visibility vendors are focused on expanding their reach to new regions, each with its own unique characteristics requiring sizable investment.

Major differences in carriers, prominent technology, regulations, and stricter privacy laws stifle many vendors’ expansion plans. For example, creating a fully GDPR compliant visibility platform precedes doing business in Europe.

We saw this firsthand while researching our own international expansion. Ultimately, we chose to work with a company that had already established roots overseas. In early December 2018, we acquired GateHouse Logistics, the preferred vendor for many of the largest shippers and carriers in Europe.

Our entry into Europe with coverage across the continent has paid off for regional customers. Austria-based race car shipper Cargoways reduced shipment status calls 80%, even while using multiple carriers between Italy and the UK. The team accesses data across all carriers and their telematics devices in the Visibility Operations Center™.

Choosing a visibility provider with strong relationships across European TMS vendors and carriers is much easier than establishing them yourself.

5. Shippers and LSPs are Reaping the Benefits

Unsurprisingly, the main benefactors of visibility are shippers and LSPs. More accurate ETAs are enabling them to reduce costs in many ways, including:

  • avoiding fines for missed dock appointments
  • improving warehouse and yard resource management
  • carrying less safety stock

We’ve crunched the numbers across our customer base and see similar outcomes to Gartner’s report. On average, shippers and LSPs reduce their transportation spend by 2-5% through hard-cost savings. Transportation team efficiency increases by roughly 20%.

Once hard-cost savings are realized, shippers and LSPs can focus on inventory reduction, recommendations on compliance, and other strategic initiatives. A tech-focused 3PL in our network did exactly that.

Opus9 achieved a $72k reduction in annual freight spend and 5% savings per shipment compared to traditional brokers shortly after implementing advanced visibility. After realizing these savings, they automated quotes and digitized paperwork. These initiatives have yielded Opus9 $24k savings in processing paperwork and 120 hours freed from quotes.

Before opting for a visibility provider, we recommend shippers and LSPs read our visibility buyer’s guide.

6. Carriers are Cutting Costs and Gaining Efficiency

Capacity is tighter, the ELD mandate is affecting service hours, and rates are increasing. Savings are needed now more than ever.

Beyond meeting customer experience expectations, visibility is providing carriers with operational efficiencies and cost savings. For example, dynamic dock scheduling is more accurate, allowing drivers to spend less dwell time and more time on the road. Carriers report better routing produces unexpected efficiency gains.

Drastic reductions in phone calls are common. RR Donnelley eliminated 700-900 daily phone calls. We’re also seeing additional visibility lead to better labor planning, further reducing driver dwell times at pickup and delivery locations.

Gartner predicts the real-time supply chain visibility market will continue to grow in the coming years. We agree. Visibility technology provides customers the ETAs they expect, enables carriers to be more productive, and creates numerous internal efficiencies for shippers and LSPs.

The benefits for investing in real-time visibility are clear. Deferring a visibility solution will devalue your investment from a competitive advantage to a catch-up measure. The time to act is now.