Visibility Matters to Supply Chain Management Improvement

Where is my freight?  It is an enduring question.  For manufacturers wanting to avoid idle production lines, up-to-the-minute visibility into inbound logistics is crucial.  For retailers, up-to-the-minute visibility into inbound logistics makes the difference between quick fulfillment/replenishment (for happy customers) and loss of sales to hungry competitors.  In fact, there aren’t many shippers that don’t benefit from increased levels of visibility into their freight movements – inbound and outbound.   Is your transportation program focused enough on visibility?   

Regardless of the degree to which your transportation logistics program may emphasize visibility, chances are there is much more you could be doing to leverage the latest technology and best practices to improve not only visibility levels, but more importantly, decision making based on visibility.  Data-driven decision making, based on improvements in freight visibility, can translate into more effective, profitable business activity and increased competitive advantage.  Here’s something to think about.

American Shipper’s 2016 benchmark study on visibility emphasized the growing expectation among markets regarding the ability to determine where products are within the supply chain in real time.  This growing expectation among shippers and consumers in the age of Amazon and “package tracking” has supply chain managers realizing visibility beyond freight already in transit is critical to improving supply chain throughput and performance.  This is prompting savvy planners to consider factors upstream (before goods become freight) and downstream from the DC to the point of sale.

Yet it is interesting to note that, “half of respondents have visibility capability but no execution capability, while another 26 percent have both a visibility tool and a TMS but little connectivity between the two” according to American Shipper.  What’s more, a majority reported they view visibility as a purely monitoring tool as opposed to one for decision making.    

Recommendation: With most high volume shippers already leveraging execution tools like TMS solutions to plan, execute and measure performance of freight movements inbound and outbound, it makes sense to take advantage of the visibility features already at their disposal.  Visibility via TMS comes from well-configured EDI requirements to log pickups, drop offs, and check calls in near real time.  Add to this, other comm channels like the driver mobile apps offered by some of the leading TMS platforms as well as online TMS portals for shippers, customers, drivers and other key stakeholders.

Does your current TMS offer any or all these visibility boosting features?  Are you making optimal use of them?  For very important loads, shippers can even engage more detailed, pinpoint visibility by using tools such as MacroPoint which turns driver cell phones into location beacons that can be pinged at any desired interval.  MacroPoint is integrated with many quality TMS platforms and can provide very accurate positioning information.

However, all this technology won’t amount to much without planning and execution of a strategic approach to harnessing visibility using the available tech tools.  That’s where the selection of a solution provider becomes critically important.  Not all providers take the time to help a shipper articulate their business requirements let alone configure a solution to maximize the use of visibility tools for planning and execution.   The right solution provider, like UltraShipTMS, have a reputation for going beyond the functional aspects of solution design, to ensure implementations are focused on efficient, effective execution based on a well-conceived methodology for transforming visibility into improved supply chain management.

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