Which Supply Chain Visibility Technology is Right for You?

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Are your shipments domestic or international?

What modes of transport do you use?

Do you need environmental (temperature, humidity, shock, etc.) data?

What kind of infrastructure do you have in your supply chain end-to-end?

Do you need to be able to see movement within a facility, such as a warehouse?

What is your top goal in gaining visibility?

Chassis Shortages at LA-Long Beach

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Los Angeles, Long Beach is the largest US port complex with 12 container terminals and whilst operating efficiently in the past, it has more recently been experiencing difficulties. The difficulties are due to a shortage of chassis with which to move loaded containers from one terminal to another and the return of empty containers back to their relevant terminals. More specifically the shortage is in chassis being available for the moving of empty containers as the drayage company responsible for doing that has least priority in chassis allotment.

Although the returning of empty containers may seem like a trivial problem, it does have a significant effect on the efficiency and productivity of the port as a whole as it can cause delays in full containers reaching their respective terminals. This problem had now also become a problem for the Harbor Trucking Association as their members now complain of a significant drop in dual loads. A dual load is when a driver will transport a full container in one direction and then return with an empty container, maximizing efficiency and of course providing the drivers with extra pay. Because of the shortage in chassis and the resultant congestion in the terminals, dual loads have dropped from 80% of driver’s jobs 5 years ago, to 20% today.

There are of course several users of the chassis within the port’s supply chain including BCOs (beneficial cargo owners), carriers and IEPs (intermodal equipment providers) all of whom take priority over the drayage companies responsible for the return of empty containers. Although all parties agree there is a problem and the problem continues to get worse, ideas on how to resolve it are few and far between. It would appear that the problem started when carrier alliances changed without full consideration of the possible problems it could cause.

As would be expected, the problem is most significant and therefore most detrimental, at peak times in cargo receipts and movements. At these times some shipping companies, due to the quantity of full containers they have to ship, refuse to take their allotted numbers of empty containers which of course leaves those unwanted empty containers in the wrong terminal or at least in the wrong place within a terminal. This then results in there not being enough vacant space for full containers and that affects the efficiency of the whole port operations.

It would now appear that the shortage experienced at the port is not due to a shortage in chassis in the Southern California region, which has a total of 65,000 chassis dispersed throughout the region at ports, rail terminals and distribution warehouses but more in the coordination of chassis dispersal. Although daily monitoring of the chassis is done, it has been suggested that a more active monitoring should be undertaken as estimates suggest that as many as 6,000 chassis are used to hold containers which have been stationary for 60 days or more. It is hoped that by better monitoring, allowing these inactive chassis to be brought back into full use, the port’s shortfall will be met at critical times.

What Are the EDI Standards? Here’s a Comprehensive Guide!

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Business transactions involve the exchange of documents such as purchase orders and invoices. Manual preparation and sending of such papers can be cumbersome. Humans can introduce errors and cause complications to the business process.

Automation of these procedures contributes to speedy processing, fewer errors, reduced costs, and improved relationships amongst business partners. Parties in a transaction can enjoy these benefits by using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI is the transfer of business documents between computers in a standardized electronic format.

EDI standards provide a uniform format for conversion and transmission of data in your trucking business. They determine the sequence and position of units of data in an EDI document.

There are many EDI standard formats designed for different types of transactions. Keep on reading to learn more!

Components of EDI Standards

Every EDI standard format comprises of elements, segments, and transaction sets. An element is the smallest constituent of an EDI standard. You can compare it to a word in a natural language.

A segment matches a sentence while a transaction set mimics a paragraph or a document. EDI standards are like reading and writing rules. Elements make segments, and segments create a transaction set.

How EDI Works

EDI is a substitute for email, fax, and postal mail. Documents flow through an application on the recipient’s end, and processing commences. This is different from sending emails since there’s no human effort at any point.

EDI documents have to be in a standard format since they need computer processing. The computers exchanging data must understand the information. It’s like how human beings have to use a common language to communicate.

The most popular method of transmitting messages through EDI is utilizing a value-added network (VAN). The VAN reviews the signal to and routes it to the intended recipient.

A more recent EDI mode of communication is called the Applicability Statement 2 (AS2). It offers Secure Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions and uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP/HTTPS) to send data.

AS2 is an advanced version of AS1, a slower method which uses Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. HTTP and HTTPS enable real-time communication between computers over the internet. These EDI standards enhance data security and integrity using digital signatures and encryption.

Examples of EDI Standards

There are many EDI document standards used in different industries. Some are regional while others have international acceptance. Here are four of the most common EDI Standards.

1. ANSI ASC X12

The American National Standards Institute and the Accredited Standards Committee developed the ANSI ASC X12 standards to ease business transactions. ANSI X12 used to support firms in different sectors within North America in the start.

The standards have gained immense popularity across the world. More than 300,000 international companies use ANSI ASC X12. The standards provide a uniform platform for the electronic data transfer.

2. UN/EDIFACT

The UN/EDIFACT is a United Nations EDI standard for Administration, Commerce, and Transport. This is an international standard.

Its further development occurs through the UN/CEFACT (United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business). The UN Economic Commission for Europe oversees the maintenance of this standard.

UN/EDIFACT provides the syntax necessary for an interactive data exchange protocol. It offers standard messages which enable countries and industries to exchange transaction documents.

Europe was the first to adopt the standard, and this makes it popular with companies in the region. There has also been a significant acceptance of UN/EDIFACT in some Asian countries.

3. ODETTE

The ODETTE standards are a creation of the Organization for Data Exchange by Tele Transmission in Europe. The association represents stakeholders in the motor vehicle industry in Europe.

It develops infrastructure and advises on how to enhance the flow of goods, services, and information across the automobile manufacturers. ODETTE has developed useful communications standards like OFTP and OFTP2.0.

4. TRADACOMS

TRADACOMS is one of the earliest EDI standards developed for the United Kingdom’s retailers. It came into being in 1982 as part of the UN/GTDI syntax, a predecessor of EDIFACT. The UK Article Numbering Association used to maintain and improve this standard.

The standard may seem outdated since its development stopped in 1995, but it persists. Majority of the retail traders in the UK today still use TRADACOMS for EDI purposes.

Benefits of Electronic Data Interchange

The cost of paper, printing, storage, reproduction, filing, and postage is enormous. EDI eliminates most of these expenses. The budget for processing and sending hard copies is much more than sending an EDI document.

Manual processing of documents often results in mistakes. They may come as a result of typographical errors, illegible handwriting, and loss of emails or faxes, among other reasons. Using an EDI system improves accuracy and reduces disputes among trading partners.

Error-free processing also saves employee time in reworking orders. It also reduces cases of order cancellation. Automation allows workers to focus on critical tasks which need their attention.

A transaction which requires days in a manual system can take a few hours with EDI. Computers can process and exchange orders and invoices in minutes without human intervention. Typing the documents and sending them by mail or fax requires considerable effort and time.

Shortcomings of EDI Systems

EDI technology comes at a price. All partners intending to communicate using EDI must install the appropriate infrastructure and have a budget for its maintenance. The cost can be high for small traders of firms with minimal technical resources.

Companies with older systems may not be able to generate or accept EDI orders. Some receive orders electronically, print them out, and enter them into their systems.

EDI Standards – Final Thoughts

EDI is a phenomenon which has helped business partners to have quick communication in a secure environment. Electronic transmission of documents saves traders money by eliminating paperwork. The system is doesn’t need human supervision.

Various EDI standards come in different versions. Trading partners must agree on the standard and version to use to exchange documents. Businesses may have to use an EDI translator to interpret EDI documents for processing by internal applications.

Traders who are always sending documents should integrate their business processes with EDI. The long-term benefits of using an EDI system surpass the cost of installation.

We’d love to hear from you, so just reach out to us if you have any question.

The 7 Benefits of Supply Chain Intelligence For Your Business

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The costs of a poorly managed supply chain aren’t hard to imagine. You’ve got to pay for the space to hold your excess inventory, your vendors aren’t happy with the inconsistent orders, or you aren’t prepared with the right amount of product when the market demands it.

It’s essential to have a grasp on how to optimize your supply chain. If you don’t, you risk losing money and ruining relationships. This is why it’s so important to invest in supply chain intelligence.

As you’ll soon find out, the investment is well worth it.

The Importance of Supply Chain Intelligence

The supply chain is clearly important, but the wide-reaching effect that it has doesn’t come to mind clearly. Supply chain intelligence gives a systematic understanding of each level of your supply chain.

This means you know specific quantities and timeframes, and have the quantified data to refer to in the future. We’ve compiled a list of seven important benefits that supply chain intelligence gives.

1. Accurate Forecasting

When you’re able to see specifically how much product you use during certain periods, you’re able to have a pretty good grasp of what you should be expecting in the future. Accurate supply chain data will give you an extreme advantage in the market.

Some intelligence allows you to monitor any business changes or alterations at all points in your chain, which gives you the ability to prepare when issues arise. Any hiccup in the chain will trigger an alert that allows you to make adjustments when needed.

You’ll also be able to prepare for those times when your customers purchase the most and know how much you should expect to sell. All of this is streamlined when you have a close eye on your supply chain.

2. Faster Responses

Those hang-ups that we discussed in the previous section can cause serious delays at times. These delays can extend for as long as it takes for your vendors to fix the problem or for you to find someone else to replace that link in the chain.

This will establish you as a company that is reliable and trustworthy. The more faith that you can command, the more profitable your business will be.

3. Save Money in the Chain

Every link in the chain involves some kind of cost. Whether it’s the weight of the excess goods you ordered or the change in warehouse arrangement that you didn’t know about, small mistakes are going to add up in the long run.

Understanding as specifically as you can the details of the supply chain will help you eliminate costs you didn’t even know were there. Not to mention, the time that used to be tied up managing issues in the supply chain can now be used to do other productive things.

So not only are you saving money, you’re able to generate more with the time that is now free.

4. Make the Vendors Happy, Keep Relationships

As we’ve mentioned, each link in the chain costs money, involves a relationship, and needs to be reliable. If you are consistently on top of the data, you will not make nearly as many mistakes as you would if you just let things go casually.

You’ll develop a reputation as a reliable company that can be trusted, and this will make your friends. Reputation is huge, and if someone gives you a recommendation, you’d better thank the efficiency of your supply chain.

5. Have a Zero Waste Operation

Supply chain intelligence will also allow you to analyze the routes, locations, and delivery methods of all of your materials. This means that your route is going to be streamlined by incorporating the most efficient and convenient locations to stop.

That will save on fuel and man-hours, and the product will be at your door faster, freeing up time for you to make future plans.

6. Have the Ability to Plan Ahead Accurately

All of these things will culminate in a state of high-efficiency, one that is predictable and consistent. Freeing up all the spare time and money that you have floating around in your supply chain will allow you to make moves to expand the business.

Whether the time that you gain will allow you to spend time with your family, thereby improving your mood and everyone else’s, or you will toil away, making that perfect business plan, you’re going to have the option to do something new.

7. Be Able to Factor in Outside Forces

Some advanced supply chain technology is beginning to predict the effects that certain events might have on shipping demands or traffic hold-ups. Cultural influences are huge, and you want to be prepared for whatever comes your way.

It’s great because these services tailor their efforts to your business’ niche, your area, and your desires. The fact that these services exist also takes away a significant amount of risk. You have the ability to make better, more informed decisions about where your materials are going.

Whether your issue has been weather damages, poor relationships with shoddy suppliers, or issues that could impact your insurance and damages, supply chain intelligence will be able to give you a rough estimate as to how these things will affect you in the future.

Another factor that reduces risk is the ability to know when an issue arises, address it, and have a laundry list of alternative options to fall back on when you’re forced to make decisions. A lot of the damage comes in the time between the issue and reparations, which is why it’s essential to act quickly.

If you make the investment in supply chain intelligence, you will be able to react quickly, make vendors happy, streamline your chain, save time and man-hours, and gain the ability to look forward with your company.

Interested in Learning More?

You might be thinking, “how much is this going to cost?” Well, it’s likely not as much as you think. If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to us on our website.

Contact us and we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about supply chain intelligence.

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.

3 Trucking Industry Trends Dominating 2018

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Are you facing increased demand and low trucking supply? E-commerce is changing the world of trucking: experts predict that spending will surpass the $3 trillion mark by 2020.

Keeping track of trucking industry trends is important, especially for large manufacturing companies. The battle for final-mile shipping is being fought all over the United States as companies like Uber and XPO Logistics gear up to get a larger share of this lucrative market.

1. Driver Shortage

As Walmart and Amazon rush to meet increased order volume, the transportation industry is struggling to find drivers.

Despite increased pay and bonuses, the freight transportation industry lacks more than 50,000 drivers. Long hours make for a tough job and many younger workers do not see trucking as an attractive lifestyle.

While some truckers report making up to $100,000 per year, the typical pay is closer to $50,000. Some trucking companies have increased their pay rate by more than 15% but are still having trouble finding willing workers.

2. Electronic Logging Devices

The trucking industry is experiencing some pushback from experienced drivers after new electronic logging devices laws began last year.

The ELD laws require the installation of electronic tracking devices that will ensure drivers only drive for 11 hours in a row. They are then required to rest for 10 hours every day.

For some smaller trucking companies, the cost of installing the ELD devices comes as a shock to the system. With fewer drivers on the road than ever before, mandatory rest periods could slow down shipping times.

3. Rising Spot Rates

Spot rates should continue to rise through 2018, a trend relating to the shortage of truck drivers on the road.

Experts predict that the rates will even out, but for the time being there will be more freight shipped via railway. Shipping freight via train is cheaper than moving it by truck and many major shippers are already making the switch.

XPO Logistics arranged more than 10 million final-mile deliveries in 2017, but they have a fleet of more than 5,000 dedicated drivers and access to new shipment tracking software.

More Trucking Industry Trends

In the next several years, new technology is going to revolutionize the trucking industry. Uber Freight, Amazon, and Convoy are taking advantage of apps that connect truckers with on-demand freight.

In the next few years, these smaller companies stand a good chance of becoming competition for FedEx, UPS, and the United States Postal Service.

Tesla has also rolled out an electric truck that can go 500 miles on a single charge. Once there are more charging stations, these electric trucks have the potential to change the shipping market. Truckers who currently spend thousands of dollars on gas could find themselves a few pay grades richer.

New technology will continue to dominate trucking industry trends. We offer effective solutions for your shipping needs, allowing you to track delays, weather conditions, and damage to your shipment.

Drop us a line and let us know what shipping problems you’re dealing with. We work with businesses of any size and are more than happy to help.

How to Overcome Supply Chain Issues with Advanced Technologies

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There’s nothing quite like a supply chain issue to bring a business to its knees.

KFC proved it recently in the UK. Switching to a new supplier left them with a disrupted supply chain, a shortage of food, and lost revenue. But why do things like this still happen in 2018, with so much new technology available?

Below, we’re taking a look at how business can overcome supply chain issues with advanced technology.

Predictive Logistics

The Problem

If any of us are psychic, it’s a vanishing few. That’s why supply chains are at the mercy of our prediction models. That leads to excessive wastage or missed revenue opportunities.

The Solution

Technology makes predictive logistics easier every day. Companies are gathering and analyzing data like never before. That data can predict spending patterns, supply and demand, and even future changes in the market.

Tools for analyzing so-called Big Data are some of the most sophisticated in the tech industry. They’re in demand for everything from supply chain to politics.

Process Automation

The Problem

No matter how efficient your supply chain, it has an inbuilt weakness if it relies on people pressing buttons. Human error can disrupt a supply chain in seconds.

The Solution

An automated supply chain management system takes the uncertainty out of the supply chain. Supply chain logistics offer the perfect environment for process automation, as they’re simple logical chains with the primary variable being the hard facts of supply and demand.

Process automation frees up staff for roles that benefit from human intuition. That means you’re making more effective use of your human resources, filling in the gaps that even advanced technology can’t fill just yet.

Inventory Management

The Problem

Counting stock is a tedious job. Manual counts are subject to miscounts and lost goods. In turn, mistakes lead to over- and under-ordering, leading to additional ordering costs and wasted inventory space.

The Solution

Automated inventory and stock management systems take the margin for error out of the stockroom. Computers can handle tracking, deducting, and reordering of stock to keep the supply chain flowing coherently.

Technologies like RFID can track inventory without the need for extensive human input. They can sync with computer systems to maintain programmed stock levels.

Shipping and Tracking

The Problem

Once a shipment is out of your hands, it might as well be invisible. There’s no telling if your package will ever make it to your customer. In an age of instant information, that leaves customers in the dark.

The Solution

Advanced tracking solutions like GPS can reduce the risk of consignment loss. They can also improve the customer experience by providing live information on the status of their shipment.

This is increasingly important in a world of same-day deliveries. Companies are under intense pressure to deliver the consignment within tight delivery windows while maintaining customer contact along the way. If an issue occurs, customers expect swift responses to their missing delivery.

Erasing Supply Chain Issues

Supply chains represent an excellent chance for technology to change the game. By deploying advanced technology and doing it well, companies can bring never-before-seen levels of efficiency to their supply chain.

Looking for more logistics news? Make sure to follow our blog.

5 Expert Tips for Managing Your Truck Fleet

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Trucks are the lifeblood of the supply chain. Every year, they’re responsible for moving nearly $740 billion worth of shipments all over the country. Some of the largest fleets in the nation are made up of tens of thousands of trucks.

No matter what size your fleet is, you won’t be successful without a great management strategy. You need to be on top of tracking your shipments, keeping your fleet in great condition, all while keeping your customers and employees happy.

Sounds like a lot? Don’t feel overwhelmed! We’ve got five expert truck fleet management tips that are going to help your business thrive!

1. Cut Down On Paperwork With Geofencing

Geofencing is one of the truck fleet management tools you’re going to wonder why you didn’t use it sooner.

A geofence is like a virtual perimeter around an area. By using GPS, it monitors when your truck fleet arrives and leaves a certain location.

By using this technology, you can track when a package is delivered without filling out a lot of paperwork. You can also use it for employees to clock in and out.

2. Be Proactive About Maintenance

A truck being taken off the road due to maintenance. Threats to employee safety. These are just a few of the concerns that can crop up when trying to keep track of fleet truck maintenance.

Should you have to schedule a trip to the mechanic all the time? Not necessarily.

Using telematics and OEM data, you can predict when maintenance is needed. It can also diagnose the severity of check engine lights.

3. Upgrade Your Navigation Systems

The everyday navigation systems we use in our personal vehicle are good enough to get us where we need to go. Fleet trucks need something much more specific.

Look into a commercial navigation system that has truck-specific routes, safe places for trucks to pull over in case of emergency, and private yard mapping. These are just a few of the things that will make a big difference for your drivers.

4. Use Telematics To Improve Turn Around Time

Telematics is a truck fleet management technique that involves using GPS and sensors to monitor your fleet. Not only will it help on turn around time, it helps you keep an eye on your inventory while in transit.

Telematics shows you what a truck needs while pulling into their next destination so you can have it ready to go. You can use it to time how long a delivery takes. There are tons of telematics applications.

5. To Be The Best, Hire The Best

Your employees are the most important component of your fleet. They are the backbone of your company.

There are two ways you can make sure you hire the best people. Take advantage of targeted digital advertising and make employee satisfaction a cornerstone of your company.

Making Truck Fleet Management Easy!

As you can see, truck fleet management doesn’t have to be a struggle. There are so many tools for you to apply to shorten turnaround time, track your inventory, and help your employees make safe deliveries.

If you want to learn more about how you can use these tracking tools to manage your fleet, contact us today!

Which External Factors Most Commonly Affect Your Supply Chain?

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If you work in logistics, you know that your supply chain is like a machine with many cogs. As efficient as the chain can be when working properly, one wrench thrown into the works can cause massive delays and problems.

Identifying supply chain risks and developing methods to combat them is the best way to avoid disruptions in your daily business. To establish responsible risk management, suppliers must be able to mitigate certain risk factors.

Are you concerned about possible disruptions in your supply chain slowing down your efficiency? Read on to discover potential pitfalls you need to plan for.

Accuracy of Shipments and Delivery Availability

Once you’ve established suppliers, you need to know they can deliver with consistency. Their reliability is key to assessing any supply chain risks they pose.

Sometimes suppliers suffer interruptions in raw materials or parts availability. This can cause an interruption in product flow. Good suppliers partner with reliable suppliers of their own materials.

It is wise to confirm shipment times and frequency, transportation methods, and rerouting standards due to weather. Knowing the supplier’s procedures is crucial to maintaining supply integrity.

Does your supplier ship daily or weekly? Do they use ground or air transport? This information can help you plan for increases in demand and any other needed changes.

Do you know where your product is at all times? Maintaining accurate shipment tracking can keep you on top of any potential issues.

Environmental Risks

These risks are often the hardest to control. The geography of your supply chain can mean dealing with economic, social, and governmental factors. Local laws, threats of terrorism, political changes, and economic flux can all trickle down into your supply flow.

In addition, weather patterns and climate can have a constantly changing impact on your supply availability. While you can’t control the weather, you can invest resources to stay on top of any potential delays.

Business Changes

Much like any business, suppliers can suffer instability through financial or managerial upsets. These hardships can mean supply interruption.

A supplier could be unable to deliver on goods because their business is being sold. Perhaps a financial shortfall makes them unable to produce a product. In the worst cases, these setbacks may mean seeking out a new supplier or negotiating new terms

Facility Risks

The facilities of your suppliers can cause issues if they are ever cited for regulatory violations. If suppliers do not maintain compliance with local rules and laws, their abilities to process shipments may suffer as they work to correct these missteps.

Physical security of their location is also important. Do your partners have appropriate security and storage measures in their facilities? Those without could suffer theft, damage, loss, and more.

A facility that is out of date, in disrepair, or understaffed may not have the capacity to process increases in demand.

Mitigate Your Supply Chain Risks

While external factors create supply chain risks that are outside of your control, a solid plan can help head off any issues before they start.

Working to identify and minimize your greatest risks will keep you from suffering losses when upsets do occur. There are many tools available which can boost your supply chain visibility and help you forecast any possible delays before they happen.

If you’re looking for logistical solutions that will keep you ahead of the curve, try ODYN today. Our analytics platform can help you maintain the integrity of your shipments and optimize your shipment tracking for maximum visibility from end to end.

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.