3 Vital Steps Toward Contactless Supply Chains
Members of the supply chain are the unsung heroes of 2020. The chain kept goods moving throughout the country, even as the pandemic reached a fever-pitch. Each member adapted to new pressures and demands. Working to accommodate new requirements the best they could.
However, just like other industries discovered this year, the supply chain unearthed areas of improvement for the future, especially as the industry looks to bring products to market faster. For years, the many parties involved in manufacturing, shipping, transporting and delivering have tried to standardize on an electronic bill of lading which could enable contactless supply chains. A starting point might feel out of reach because there’s simply so much to consider. Here are three major steps that organizations need to take to digitize the pickup and delivery process.
It’s no secret the B2B space is abuzz with talks of digital transformation. It might feel like a cliché at this point but, it’s an initiative businesses need to take seriously. Because at times, the way the supply chain works is incredibly outdated. For example, using physical paper for a bill of lading. It’s proven that paper works, but everyone knows it's not the most efficient way of communicating. An electronic bill of lading makes it much easier for shippers, 3PLs, carriers and retailers to move freight. By digitizing the bill of lading, supply chain partners can get real-time visibility into the pickup and delivery process, improve collaboration to support their JIT manufacturing initiatives, and ensure that freight reaches the right place at the right time - all while minimizing waste to help their sustainability goals.
There are plenty of commercial, open source and homegrown solutions for connecting systems within an organization's four walls. It is much harder to connect systems that extend outside of the company’s network. For example, information about a certain shipment needs to flow from a warehouse management system (WMS) or an enterprise resource planning system (ERP) to a yard management system (YMS) and sometimes into a transportation management system (TMS). And that’s just the first part of the supply chain, before the shipment even goes anywhere! Once the shipment is out on the road it’s up to the driver to deliver the goods to the receiver, where more information is shared with the shipper so they know the goods arrived.
Now take into consideration, how many different types and versions of these systems exist. Supply chain partners need to work with each other to determine a common data set and format so that data can eventually be standardized over time.
Once the pickup and delivery process is digitized, it’s much easier to collect and report on the data to evaluate performance benchmarks as well as improve processes to become more efficient. With a paper BOL, it’s difficult to dispute dwell time a driver claims. But, if the driver uses a digital check-in system with a digital BOL, a digital timestamp is made when the driver arrives at a facility making dwell time less disputable.
Then, dwell time is available across the entire facility to analyze. Are drivers coming in at night waiting longer to be loaded? Is there always one door that’s slower than the others to load trucks? It’s much easier to improve operational efficiency through gathering data and making such observations.
Digital transformation, interoperability, and data collection and analysis are three key components of a contactless supply chain. Each step is tightly integrated, creating a solid foundation for any member of the supply chain to operate from. As the industry works toward a contactless standard, organizations can get a leg up on what’s to come by ensuring their operations are digital, interoperable, and able to collect and analyze data.
Will Chu is the CEO & Co-founder of Vector, a contactless pickup and delivery platform, that ensures supply chain partners get the right load to the right place at the right time. Prior to Vector, Will was the VP of Engineering at Addepar, a wealth management platform, which manages more than $2 trillion in client assets. Will is a problem solver at heart who enjoys leveraging technology to tackle major industry challenges. In his free time, Will enjoys camping with his family, cold IPAs and swimming in the San Francisco Bay.