Entire supply chain benefits from real-time transport visibility

real-time transport visibility

Real-time transport visibility is about much more than just providing insight into the current positions of trucks and container ships. This was demonstrated during Supply Chain Media’s Webinar Wednesday, where six real-time transport visibility software vendors showed how the market has evolved. “It is also important for inventory managers not to use a theoretical average, but accurate and up-to-date data on delivery times.”

By Marcel te Lindert

Research by Lora Cecere’s US analysis firm Supply Chain Insights shows that there is a big gap when it comes to visibility. Companies attach great importance to transparency, not only in transport, but also in production processes, their supplier network and internal systems. However, they do not sufficiently succeed in actually achieving the required transparency. Marc Boileau of FourKites understands how that can happen. “Initially, companies were happy just to know where their trucks were going. Now they are asking for much more than that. They know the negative consequences if certain parts of their supply chain are hidden from view. It is up to us to close the gap.”

FourKites, like Transporeon, DeliveryMatch, Wakeo, Shippeo and Mixmove, provides software in the field of real-time transport visibility. “For us, this is all about end-to-end supply chain visibility. Companies want a single view of all their shipments, regardless of the mode of transport they use. And they want a prediction of the expected arrival time,” explained Boileau. “Optionally, additional intelligence can be added to that. Think of continuously recalculating the expected arrival time and automatically informing stakeholders inside and outside the company.”

7 value drivers

With real-time visibility, multiple problems can be solved. Nestlé uses FourKites’ platform to measure carrier performance, while Henkel uses it to give its customers more insight into their shipments. Boileau called it the ‘Amazon effect’. “And take Bayer, which saw its transport times cut by 44%. If you invest in real-time transport visibility, it is important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve.”

Shippeo has identified a total of seven value drivers, from reduction of transport costs and cash flow optimization, to better workforce planning and reduction of carbon emissions. “Often it is not just about efficiency, but also about promises to customers and reduction of emissions,” stated Thomas Spieker of Shippeo. “And about the contents of shipments. Customers want to know how they can speed up their invoicing process so they can have their money sooner. Those are the topics we talk about with customers.”

Accurate and up-to-date data

When Shippeo started building a visibility platform five years ago, the company decided to do things thoroughly right from the start. Spieker: “Not only did we create links to freighters, but we also wanted to receive data from transport management systems. We wanted to have shipping schedules from shipping companies and information on activity at container terminals. Using artificial intelligence, we can generate extremely accurate predictions from that data. We then share those insights with other partners in the ecosystem, from warehouses to finance departments.”

Today, visibility platforms offer a wide range of features. “As an inventory manager, the key is to use accurate, up-to-date data on delivery times. Not a theoretical average, but a delivery time based on the actual arrival time,” said David Watson of Wakeo. “In addition, you not only want to know the position of your shipments, but also to be able to analyse carrier performance. And perhaps adjust your supply chain accordingly. As a supply chain professional, you want to make informed decisions based on reliable data.”

Trusted routes

Houthi rebels’ attacks in the Red Sea show the importance of trusted routes. Watson: “We enable companies to choose the best transport options based on up-to-date information. So that you are not forced to switch to air freight at the last minute. In other words, our visibility platform helps you to make the right choices in advance. And to have meaningful discussions with carriers about this when purchasing transport and to make better agreements.”

E-commerce has other challenges, explained Roland Slegers of DeliveryMatch. “Integration with other systems is a key issue. During the purchase process, we extract data from the e-commerce company and its carriers. The moment the purchase decision is made, we already know which carrier can deliver the shipment at what price and with what emissions at what time. Sometimes we have to calculate 50,000 options within a second to do this. The e-commerce company can let its customers choose, or decide to go for the fastest or most sustainable option by default.”

Once the shipment is booked, DeliveryMatch’s platform monitors its progress. Is the order picked and packed in the warehouse on time? Is it picked up by the carrier on time? Is the transport running on schedule? “If something goes wrong, the light jumps from green to orange. In that case, the company has to make an intervention. And if the light jumps to red, the customer must be informed,” Slegers added.

Visualization of nodes

Mixmove has its own method of capturing these kinds of events. This company uses a ‘graph database’. In it, data is not stored in tables but visualized in the form of ‘nodes’ and the relationship between them. “Those nodes can represent an entity, a transaction or an object such as a package. All those nodes are somehow related to each other. That way, we can digitally record what happens in the supply chain,” stated Nuno Bento of Mixmove.

An example of a node is a truck. When Mixmove’s platform receives information about the truck’s position via the telematics system, the arrival time is adjusted. “But because we also record transactions, we know which shipment is in that truck. So if the position of the truck is adjusted, it also affects the arrival time of the shipment. That way, we provide insight into the supply chain,” said Bento.

Transporeon emphasized that real-time transport visibility must be linked to planning and execution. “When it is integrated into the broader picture, it really shows the potential of a visibility platform. Then you see what you had planned and what is actually happening. Only then do insights really emerge that you can translate into action,” commented Transporeon’s Alexis McCubbin.

McCubbin concluded by explaining how real-time visibility will change transport operations. Manual efforts will give way to automated processes. Instead of reacting to disruptions, it will be possible to proactively respond to anomalies. This will improve the customer experience. McCubbin: “We see a shift towards automation of decision processes. Driven by shippers and carriers who use parameters to determine what is permissible and acceptable. This is different for each company.”