What to Look for When Picking Shipment Tracking Software

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The shipping software market is worth billions and is growing extremely quickly.

This means it’s more difficult to choose the right software for you and your company. Many programs promise a lot, but cannot accommodate larger companies. Others don’t integrate with your existing systems.

Technology drives the entire modern shipping process. So it’s worth taking the time to drill down on which software can streamline and improve your operation. You also want to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the tech that exists.

The problem is, how do you know which program to pick? Keep reading to find out what you should look for when picking shipment tracking software.

Conditions Awareness

You need real-time, instant information on the condition of your shipments. Sensors give you the capability to monitor changes like these and make decisions quickly.

Look for software that monitors conditions such as location, temperature, and humidity. There’s also the ability to monitor for shock, so if the shipment is dropped the software knows right away.

Some software can also monitor and warn about external conditions like the weather. Extreme heat or cold is another variable that can be sensed using the best shipping software.

Integration With Your Systems

One of the top recommendations when picking out software is ensuring it works together with what you already have.

It’s likely that your company has already invested a lot in its current systems. Maybe you are looking to improve their capabilities. Or, you just want to streamline them all and make them work together.

Find a solution that integrates with them and you’ll save a lot of headaches. Remember, you should determine at the outset. The worst case scenario is finding out later that the new software you’ve invested in is incompatible.

Data Security

When choosing shipment monitoring software, you should be confident the software is safe.

Cyber attacks and data breaches have become more common. Disruptions like these can interrupt your ability to collect package tracking data. They can also negatively affect your company’s reputation.

Ability To Scale And Evolve

Is the software you’re considering able to scale and change with your business?

In the initial stages, you may only need or want it to work on a few workstations. Good software, however, will be able to scale enterprise-wide as your business’ needs and demands evolve.

Good features to look for include a simple multi-channel platform that can support unlimited users. Cloud-based storage is also a technological advantage. It works well for both small and large companies.

Find The Right Shipment Tracking Software For Your Company

Hopefully, now you’ve got all the information you need to choose the right shipment tracking software. Investing in the right technology can totally transform and improve your shipping process.

No matter the size of your supply chain, we can help. Have a look at our plans and check out our frequently asked questions. You could be on the way to optimizing how you track shipments today.

What is Supply Chain Visibility? Part 1: Operational Visibility

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What “visibility” truly is has plagued the supply chain industry for decades — and while it’s something that the industry talks about a lot (even though nobody really seems to understand what it is) our definition of “visibility” has pretty much devolved to Justice Stewart’s infamous “I’ll know it when I see it.”

That being said, it’s much easier to talk about the operational, financial, and strategic aspects of visibility in the supply chain. So that’s exactly what we’ll do. In this post, the first of our three-part series on Supply Chain Visibility, we’ll focus on the operational aspects of visibility in the supply chain.

 

Operational Visibility in the Supply Chain

Where is my shipment? When will it arrive? Is it being handled properly? Is it in good condition? Is my carrier doing as promised? Will I be notified if an abnormal event occurs? How do I know the information I’m receiving is accurate and timely? If you’ve dealt with logistics in any way shape or form, you’ve probably had to ask these questions. And frankly, in order to have visibility into the areas you can’t control, the best option is to affix a tracking device onto your shipments.

There are many different options for devices to track your shipments including RFID, WiFi, Bluetooth, Cellular, and Satellite devices. Let’s take a deeper dive into each tracking solution.

RFID tag

RFID

RFID tags are cheap, about $0.25 or less, but the RFID reading infrastructure can be prohibitively expensive. Ever facility that you try to wire up will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. The facilities that you do wire up must be under your control, which is a contributing factor as to why the technology never really took off, even after Walmart mandated it.

Satellite

Satellite on the other hand costs hundreds of dollars per device, and there’s also a monthly satellite fee on top of that. It’s a great way to track shipments but it’s only economically feasible for high value goods that you need to see all the time. This is why it’s taken off in reefer tracking.

 

 

Cellular

Cellular tracking is somewhere in the middle between RFID and satellite. It’s still a little expensive, around $50-$100 per device (sometimes more), and you also have to pay a monthly cellular fee – just like you do for your cell phone.

Bluetooth + WiFi

Bluetooth and WiFi devices are the emerging tech in shipment tracking. Bluetooth is relatively low cost, at around $10 per device. However, it still requires some infrastructure, think of the Tile devices that some people use to find their car keys or tv remote. The infrastructure required isn’t too expensive but it still requires additional manpower (which ends up adding a lot of cost — we’ve even seen people walk around with BLE scanners).

WiFi on the other hand costs even less, potentially as little as $5 per device, and may not require any additional infrastructure. We’re a little biased, considering that we’ve built our whole company around this, but we’re all about saving you money. And when you don’t have to spend anything on infrastructure, that helps.

IoT Alternatives

There are also some built in tracking solutions to trucks (ELD/GPS-enabled telematics), airplanes (ADS-B/ACARS), and ships (AIS). These solutions will allow you to track the shipping mechanism’s location but environmental and tampering data doesn’t usually exist for those devices. There are various data aggregators that will give you access to the data, for a fee.

 

 

Every option has benefits as well as downfalls and each company must decide for themselves which is the best and if the unit economics make sense.

 

What next?

Once you have decided on a device to track and relay information about your shipments, you need to decide what kind of additional information is important to you. There are all sorts of sensors out there that can be included in the tracking devices. Sensors can track temperature, humidity, acceleration, vibration, shock, etc. There’s even a sensor on the market to help determine if the container you are shipping goods in overseas has been opened or tampered with during transport.

There are many ways you can apply the knowledge you are gaining from the data once you start capturing it (although we highly recommend you decide on a use case before choosing an asset tracking provider).

Example use cases

1) Inventory optimization/synchronization

Once you are tracking a statistically significant number of your shipments you can start optimizing your inventory. You can answer questions like “Where in my supply chain do I have the longest dwell times?” and “Are certain distribution centers performing better?” When you see where inventory is being built up in your supply network and how long it is sitting at each node, you can then determine if you have enough inventory in your end to end supply network to satisfy demand for a specific period of time. This allows you to hold off on manufacturing additional unnecessary inventory, therefore reducing waste and loss.

As a manufacturer, seeing into the retail supply chain and your raw materials supply chain is incredibly valuable as it allows for synchronization from where the raw materials were sourced to the final point of retail. As you build up inventory, you can see how your retailers are consuming it so you end up building up just the right amount. A truly synchronized supply chain has enough inventory to keep high levels of customer service (low out-of-stock) while keeping low levels of in-transit inventory. You’ll be able to determine when raw materials will arrive at your manufacturing center and reduce the risk of disruption due to delays. Synchronization leads to low leads times, which in turn decreases working capital costs and increases efficiency. Being able to trace end-to-end allows for this.

2) Loss (time + shrinkage)

When considering loss, keep in mind that loss can be anything from lost or stolen goods, lost time, and wasted working capital. By tracking your shipments you will be able to determine exactly where the black holes in your supply network are, determine if goods are being lost or stolen, and see where you are losing time.

There are enormous implications for food safety when tracking perishable shipments. Remember that big romaine lettuce e-coli outbreak and recall? That all could have been prevented if it was easier to determine exactly where the unsafe lettuce originated. Now let’s look at other perishables like refrigerated steaks. Often the high temperate threshold will only make the food unsafe if the environment has that temperature for a certain period of time. The current solution of temperature tape, which will show the highest temperature reached, does not show for how long the environment was at the temperature. Using an asset tracker or temperature logger will allow you to prevent throwing out pallets of steak when they are in fact, safe. On the other hand, say the temperature did reach unsafe temperatures for an extended period time. Within a pallet there are many cases of steak. You will be able to determine if all the cases need to be destroyed, or if just the outer cases are unsafe and the inner cases never reached the unsafe temperature because they were insulated from the heat by the outer cases.

3) Customer service

It’s incredibly frustrating to hear that your customers received damaged product, and that eventually increases your insurance costs. By tracking shipments you will be able to see exactly where damage occurred whether it’s because the environment was too hot, too humid, or your shipment was jostled and experienced a high level of shock. You can also show carriers precisely where damage or out of bounds (bounds that you previously specified) events occurred, if your carriers are performing as promised, and which carriers, trade lanes, warehouses etc. pose the highest risk to your shipments.

You can increase the efficiency of your operations (and increase customer service level) by utilizing predictive ETA’s. Now it will be easy to ensure slot availability for trucks, manage delays before they become problematic, and ultimately keep your customers happy by giving them insight into when their shipments are arriving.

4) Quality control

The last use case I will leave you with today is quality control. Being able to monitor the environment of a shipment throughout it’s lifecycle allows you not to remove it from the supply chain for testing. If you can remove a day of checks, that’s one less day that inventory is on your books. Some companies that provide asset tracking devices will allow you to set alerts for anomalous or out of bounds events, so you know exactly when and where each shipment had some sort of a problem.

 

Takeaways

The most important thing to take away from this blog post is that if you can measure it, you can manage it. Being able to measure your supply chain and it’s performance will help you make better decisions and allocate funds and resources in the best ways possible.

If you want to see how ODYN can help increase your operational visibility, we’ve recently reduced our Quickstart package to just $499 — get started today! Or if you want to get in touch with our sales team, schedule a meeting here or contact us on our contact page.

IoT and the Supply Chain: What You Need to Know

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The Internet of Things, or the IoT, is drastically transforming the way in which we as human beings interact.

What exactly is it? It’s a system of computing devices across the globe that nowadays are linked to the internet, which makes it easy for them to share and collect data.

The IoT will impact just about every industry across the globe. Supply chain management is one area, though, that hasn’t gotten quite as much attention as self-driving vehicles and drones have.

So, how exactly will the IoT optimize supply chains?

Here’s a rundown on the IoT and the supply chain in 2018.

IoT and the Supply Chain: The Tracking of Assets

Managing supply chain goods has traditionally involved bar codes and tracking numbers. But the IoT is quickly changing this.

Global positioning system and radio-frequency identification sensors can easily track products. In fact, a manufacturer can utilize such sensors to obtain granular data such as an item’s storage temperature.

Other data you can get from these sensors include how long items spend in cargo or how long they sit on store shelves.

All of these pieces of information can help your company to boost your product forecasting, quality control, and on-time delivery capabilities.

Inventory and Forecasting

Let’s take a deeper dive into the IoT and forecasting.

An IoT sensor can offer a more precise inventory than a human being can by himself or herself.

For example, companies can use WiFi robots for the purpose of scanning their products’ quick response codes to triage and track their orders.

With a single button click, you can keep excellent track of your inventory (this includes the supplies available in stock). As a result, you won’t have to worry about missing a deadline ever again.

Plus, the data you collect may prove helpful for finding trends with the goal of making your manufacturing schedules more efficient.

Fleets That Are Connected

With a growing supply chain, it is critical that you make sure that all of your carriers stay connected.

These carriers may range from shipping containers to vans and the delivery trucks of your suppliers.

Why is this so important? Because the data you can gather from having connected fleets is like pure gold.

Just as municipalities are utilizing such data to reach emergency scenes or address traffic issues more quickly, you can use your data to get higher-quality products to your customers faster.

Vendor Relationships

Another benefit of tapping into the IoT is that the data you gather can help you to easily pinpoint subpar relationships with vendors.

Research shows that the majority of your service’s or product’s value comes from your suppliers. This means you need to be more cognizant of the way in which your vendors handle the supplies they send to you. You also need to know how they handle your products after they have been made.

The better your goods are, the stronger your customer relationships will be. And this great for retaining your customers long term.

How We Can Help

We take pride in our ability to help companies to better track their shipments and optimize their supply chains worldwide.

Contact us to find out more about what you can expect from IoT and the supply chain this year and beyond.