WHERE ARE THE MOST COMMON GAPS?
Supply chains are large and complex networks, and visibility gaps can occur at any of the many connection points. Within the larger network, there are key areas that supply chain managers need to keep a closer eye on based on recent industry research.
The top-five most common blind spots, according to the 2016 American Shipper Visibility Benchmark Study, are:
1. Inside origin container terminals
2. Inside destination container terminals
3. Port-to-port legs
4. Drayage at destination
5. Less-than-truckload (LTL) legs
For 3PLs, rail legs and final mile are also listed as top blind spots.
In the American Shipper visibility study, LTL and less-than-container loads (LCL) were listed as the worst modes for visibility among shippers. The study’s authors explain that anytime cargo is being consolidated that shippers lose considerable visibility. The authors write that “…in practice, nearly every company with visibility has one or more blind spots—areas where it loses sight of in-transit shipments, or where data accuracy is inconsistent.”
In discussing the visibility issue recently with a logistics service provider (LSP) that handles US-Mexico cross-border shipments, the company’s president explained how if you are a broker and you aren’t paying attention and don’t know the nuances, you could have freight that just sits at the border if you don’t have a carrier and you’re not pushing, checking, and validating. A Transportation Management System (TMS) can help put a flag on those shipments and alert the broker when a shipment gets to the border, so the broker knows when to follow up. Technology is indispensable in closing visibility gaps.
FOCUS ON THE BIGGEST GAP – TECHNOLOGY
In today’s always-on, interconnected world, it’s surprising that we can still have so many weak spots where manual processes take over. The key to closing visibility gaps begins with a focused effort to digitize every phase and link of the supply chain. With a fully connected supply chain, where systems are passing information from one system to another, freight is less likely to fall into one of these dark zones.
When it’s set up and operating correctly, technology can pass data in real time, reducing latency, breaking down siloes, and removing manual data processing. But let’s face it, even in the age of the internet of things (IOT), machine learning, and big data, dark spots still happen. So how do we close down these remaining, and sometimes elusive, gaps?
Digitization of the supply chain is still evolving. As recently as 2016, most shippers were still using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems as the predominant source to feed visibility tools. Less than half of shippers are using a modern TMS, which would provide the right set of tools to address visibility. To learn more about how a TMS with an ERP can help you keep up with the speed of modern commerce, read this white paper, The Case for ERP and TMS Integration.
A dedicated TMS can put you in control of your business by providing:
• A one-stop shop for real-time visibility of shipments across trading partners.
• Complete visibility of the supply chain both at the control tower and site levels.
• System integrations and carrier connectivity to actively monitor deliveries, pick-ups, and points between.
• The ability to see the real-time data for freight movements.
Eventually, as more systems are integrated, and freight can be can tracked at more points along the most-used lanes, it will create a more fully connected supply chain. Latency of data will fall closer to zero, so that we can act on any variances sooner. It starts with tracking real-time information from hundreds of checkpoints across the supply chain. This data can be used to alert supply chain managers when freight veers off track or is delayed.