Shipment Visibility Gets a Digital Facelift
Q: Why is digital technology important to shipment visibility?
A: Asking why digital technology is important to shipment visibility is similar to asking why you need fuel to operate a car. Without collecting data through the many technology channels, shipment visibility is reduced to phone calls, manual web searches, and Excel spreadsheets.
This may be a viable option for companies with a very low number of shipments, but for companies managing thousands of international shipments a month across many trade lanes and trading partners, digital technology is the enabler and fundamental starting point for shipment visibility.
In the past, companies had to rely on carrier EDI or web forms, but today's emerging digital technologies are enabling companies to gather critical intelligence on the global supply chain. With a digital model of the global supply chain, companies can realize collaboration, automation, analytics and flexibility. The result is a transformed global supply chain with improved margins, greater agility, and reduced risk.
Q: How reliant on carrier data integration does this become?
A: Only six percent of 623 supply chain professionals across 17 countries think they have achieved supply chain visibility, according to a survey by GEODIS. Importantly, 70 percent of respondents described their supply chains these days as either very or extremely complex. To manage this complexity, companies need to maintain a control tower over their global supply chains, enabling action, visibility, and insight to cross-border business.
Shipment visibility can be achieved through a variety of channels—often through carrier integrations or freight forwarders, but also through brokers, 4PLs, suppliers, transloaders, and IoT sources. Through new digital technologies, data quality is improved and more accurate than the old EDI messages. With this data, supply chain managers can interpret, consolidate, predict, and automate to solve the more complex and critical issues.
Q: Is blockchain the panacea for shipment tracking?
A: The industry is awaiting the proof-of-concept to learn how much value can be derived from a blockchain technology solution for shipment tracking, but the potential is already evident. As the industry learns more about the implications of blockchain, reduced risk, greater cost savings, and improved supply chain transparency will continue to be the value-add differentiators that digital technology delivers.
In fact, a number of companies are already using blockchain to enhance transactional integrity, augment financial auditing, and improve operational effectiveness. One high-profile proof of concept is the partnership between Maersk Lines and IBM to bring efficiencies to all facets of the ocean container shipping business. Stay tuned for more as this transpires.