What Advanced Visibility Really Means And How It Can Help Your Supply Chain

This post was originally published on the MercuryGate blog. View the original article here.

Advanced visibility refers to the ability to go beyond traditional limits of visibility, such as “where’s my freight,” to understanding “what’s causing delays, what’s happening, what should happen, and when will it happen?” Traditionally, gaining access to this level of data was built on manual, outdated check calls and time-delayed updates within EDI-connected systems. However, advanced capabilities are leveraging automation to replace obsolete processes and complete the full data picture.

A Misalignment Between Expectations And Execution Necessitates Advanced Visibility In The Supply Chain

Advanced transparency and visibility are the evolution of a fundamental misalignment between expectations of supply chain technology and its execution. Customers want real-time data and updates on their freight, and according to past project44 research, 70% expect real-time status tracking. Unfortunately, 73% of supply chains lack that function. The only way to increase this ability lies in getting access to that information within the supply chain in the first place.

Visibility Data Provides Immense, Actionable Insights Into Supply Chain Processes

Advancements in visibility stem from the desire to know where a shipment is and more data about its status — regardless of where it is in transit. Gaining accurate, complete, and real-time data is what customers want. If a company wishes to deliver on this expectation, it needs trusted access to a range of information. For BCOs and supply chain professionals, access to this level of advanced visibility allows for continuous adjustment to workflows, ensuring the dock moves smoothly, preventing detention or demurrage fees, triggering alerts to ready bays for unloading, and tracking real-time location to avoid possible delays.Consider this: actual detention and demurrage fees can be compounded problems that add up after an organization mistakenly assumes free time on the dock. As reported by Dave Albanese via Inbound Logistics, “Hidden free time is another issue that plagues transportation managers. Free time is a line item in most contracts, but businesses rarely consider it when making routing decisions. Free time is often overlooked because there are other more notable “issues” grabbing attention, like carrier surcharges and GRIs.As a result, free time is seldom top-of-mind when calculating ocean rates and booking shipments, yet it can add up to 11 percent to a daily cost of shipment, according to global NVOCCs.Incurring demurrage and detention fees result in more than just increased transportation costs. They can also contribute to delayed deliveries, lack of product availability (or excess safety stock), and potential loss of sales—all of which impact cash flow, profitability, and brand reputation.”In a sense, advanced visibility-driven supply chain processes are all about one thing — planning out supply chain processes. When a customer expects a delivery at a given time, no other method, activity, or event results in a missed delivery. It’s that simple.

Advanced visibility also carries another benefit. Since visibility helps with planning, supply chain leaders can work to identify trends within the supply chain. This might include miscommunications with carriers, inability to arrive at the yard on time, or unloading delays due to inadequate packaging issues. Again, the ability to better know what’s happening allows for informed decision making. In this case, that data can be used for performance improvement, refining the list of preferred carriers, avoiding shippers that always seem to be running behind, and ensuring smooth delivery to the end destination.

Core Connections Used To Enable Enhanced Visibility

Enabling advanced visibility within the supply chain relies on secure and established connections that transcend companies’ traditional four walls and empower supply chain leaders with data. Jason Kerner, VP of Solutions Engineering and Lab Services at project44, outlined the technologies critical to the use and value of advanced visibility in the supply chain, including:

  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Utilizing an API allows two or more applications to seamlessly share data in real-time, reducing the issue with old, outdated data, and ensuring all parties stay on the same page.
  • ELD and Telematics Capabilities. The invention of electronic logging devices (ELDs) and associated telematics capabilities give rise to new ways to track shipment status in real-time and ascertain when freight will arrive.
  • Mobile Applications. Mobile applications that transform drivers’ and supply chain professionals’ devices into connected terminals offer the opportunity to track more information, share bills of lading, eliminate issues of managing manual paperwork, and even provide proof of delivery.

Leverage Advanced Visibility With A World-Class Logistics Solutions Provider

Today’s world-class logistics solution providers know the next innovation in supply chain management is here. It exists in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics that can more accurately predict outcomes and enable actual exception management without lag time. That’s the real distinction of advanced visibility; it goes much further than any of its predecessors could have imagined. And the ability to automate advanced visibility initiatives reduces the hassle and complexity of managing global supply chain processes.

Jason Kerner is Vice President of Solutions Engineering and Lab Services at project44.