Having visibility across a supply chain means knowing what’s happening at any stage across it. The reality is that this is very difficult to achieve, as supply chains are complex, with lots of moving parts at any one time, relying on ecosystems made up of many partners, often using different tools and systems.
The value of supply chain visibility is not always fully understood or appreciated until something goes wrong and it’s really needed. Supply chain disruptions range from extreme weather, to natural disasters, damaged factories, political interference and trade wars, pandemics, canal blockages, and more. And while visibility can’t prevent these events from happening, it’s clear that a lack of visibility makes dealing with such crises much more difficult.
Organizations don’t always have data on where their suppliers and sub suppliers are based and can be unaware of the potential impact of a shortage of even just one small component. For an example, you only need to look at the many industries currently experiencing a shortage of semiconductors and other electronic components. Although entire industries can be affected by shortages, those organizations with better visibility across their supply chains will be more empowered to make agile decisions and often fare better than those with less sophisticated tools and capabilities.
Supply chain visibility is quite simply the ability to track and view, at any point in time, the status of raw materials, components or finished products, wherever they are throughout a supply chain. This helps organizations better monitor supply chain flows from suppliers and manufacturers through the organization’s own manufacturing facilities (or retail distribution network) down through to customers. It also helps product teams to identify and fix weaknesses within a supply chain, including inventory shortages or issues fulfilling orders, before they become bigger problems. Types of data that an organization would likely want visibility over often include receipt of orders by suppliers, the status of inbound raw materials, status of suppliers’ manufacturing processes, delivery and shipping details, customer information and real-time order status.
There are a number of areas of benefit that supply chain visibility tools can offer:
Across all of these areas of benefit, there are also cost savings, reduced risk, improvements in trust, transparency and accountability, and ultimately improved service levels which make for happier, more loyal customers.
These days, successful supply chain orchestration relies on supply chain managers having access to real-time data, shared amongst supply chain network partners, via a centralized hub, or control tower, capable of analyzing performance to allow optimizations to be made on the fly. The comprehensive data on product demand, sales forecasts, availability of materials or components to name a few, makes the tool a valuable resource for supply chain management.
Supply chain visibility tools that are used for supply chain management tend to help address the following categories:
There are a number of types of tools that have been designed to improve supply chain management and visibility across these areas, including order and inventory management systems, transport, warehouse and yard management systems. One of the most critical capabilities that can supplement all of these tools is real-time transportation visibility. In fact, the ROI from implementing many of these other tools can only be truly maximized when paired with a real-time transportation visibility solution. For example, real-time insights on the status and position of goods moving through the value chain can help sales and operations planning teams better plan promotions in retail. Customer service teams can provide a higher level of service when handling customer inquiries - or even avoid inquiries in the first place - with automated customer delivery notifications.
Implementing real-time transportation visibility is especially important alongside transport management solutions. The main reason concerns fine-tuning and maximizing performance. Real-time transportation visibility platforms leverage sophisticated machine learning algorithms to process vast amounts of data, in real-time, to produce actionable, predictive insights. Predictions and estimates can be compared with objective real-time data, enabling unequivocal root cause analysis to be conducted. This analysis can uncover the ‘gaps’ or areas within transport operations that need attention, and in turn what adjustments to make within the transport management system (TMS) accordingly so that ROI can be maximized.
Real-time transportation visibility bridges the gap between the core functionalities of a TMS, which are largely focused on pre and post shipment activities, with data derived from transport execution itself. This real-time information about delivery status, key events and ETA predictions, flow back into the TMS, avoiding double or manual entries and helping to reconcile shipment transport data with that of other operations and processes involved before and after a shipment.
For example, during the pre-shipment phase, objective real-time transportation visibility data tracking things like carrier performance, dwell times, ETAs and delays can be used to improve optimization and planning. Likewise, after a shipment, real-time transportation visibility data improves the granularity and reliability of reporting and cuts administrative burdens by doing things like speeding up invoicing processes. This data also helps to both reduce disputes and speed up dispute resolution between shippers, carriers and receivers thanks to readily available timestamped delivery data. Finally, throughout all phases of shipment, real-time transportation visibility helps boost collaboration between all supply chain partners, providing a single platform ‘control tower’ tool for monitoring goods and coordinating activities throughout the value chain.
The end goal for supply chain management when it comes to digitization is ultimately full ‘end-to-end’ visibility of supply chain operations. The reality is that without the real-time transportation visibility component, a TMS implementation cannot achieve this since it cannot provide real-time or predictive information about shipments in transit. When TMS and real-time transportation visibility solutions are combined, the capabilities of each system increase by order of magnitude. By relying on a carrier’s TMS, tracking data quality will always be more accurate, as carriers tend to run their daily operations directly via their TMS. These daily operations include, for example, the pairing of vehicles with their transportation orders, the advanced planning of milk runs and requirements for cross docks without the need for a dispatcher to perform anything manually.
The contextual information relating to each shipment extracted from a TMS allows real-time transportation visibility to produce more accurate and reliable ETAs and helps to generate powerful insights into transport network performance. Shippeo’s TMS partnerships make it possible to combine TMS offerings with our real-time visibility capabilities, producing an all-in-one solution for shippers. From transport planning, to execution and real-time visibility, these partnerships offer a unique approach to streamlining processes. In addition, real-time KPIs encourage excellence in execution and facilitate better analysis of operations by Exception Management. It also offers TMS users market-leading estimated time of arrival (ETA) accuracy and reliability thanks to our sophisticated proprietary algorithm.
Shippeo is currently integrated with over 200 TMSes, many used extensively throughout Europe. Shippeo’s integrations team are experts in integrating any TMS quickly, easily and most importantly at scale. This is crucial for onboarding large carrier fleets, across multiple regions or continents. This ability to connect with TMSes rapidly has allowed us to quickly grow our network, which comprises over 140,000 carriers linked to our 100+ customers. Once a TMS connection is created, it makes onboarding new customers who use the same systems lightning quick, speeding up the availability of valuable predictive data to shippers sooner.
Gartner ranked real-time transportation visibility as the most important supply chain investment in its 2019 Market Guide for Real-Time Visibility Providers and when you consider all the capabilities it brings to a TMS it’s easy to understand why. By 2023, Gartner predicts 50% of global product-centric enterprises will have invested in real-time transportation visibility platforms. With our extensive experience in TMS integrations, get in touch with our expert team to discuss how easily real-time transportation visibility can be combined into your TMS implementation or find out more about the importance of TMS integrations in our visibility guide 'Choosing the right transportation visibility provider'.
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