How is Freight Visibility Evolving?
There is no denying that the ever-evolving technological enhancements have transformed our lives and dictate how most of us interact with the world. We can obtain information in a matter of seconds with the click of a button or have this information pushed to us via notifications. When it comes to supply chain activities, technology has afforded the same advances.
We are now able to view supply chain fulfillment and freight activities more closely than previous generations. This visibility of freight movement has enabled supply chains to be more agile and responsive than ever before.
Let’s take a look at how freight visibility is continuing to evolve…
Flow of information
Information regarding freight pick-ups and deliveries was previously conducted utilizing telephone and facsimile requests. There were rarely any delivery notifications or fleet vehicle tracking being utilized. Freight movement was a waiting game with little information available. With the advent of the internet, small package carriers began sending electronic confirmations of delivery. This capability has evolved from humble beginnings in the early 1990s to more developed freight visibility advances.
Although less-than-truckload and truckload carriers have been slower to adapt to providing ongoing freight visibility information, they are continuously working to meet customer needs. As supply chain information has moved from secluded silos to integrated openness, it is only fitting that freight movement tracking follow suit. We now understand that information flow isn’t as linear as previously indicated. Gone are the days where someone places an order and wait for it to show up, hoping that it will show up someday.
Gone are the days when someone ordered goods over the phone or through a catalog and wait 4-6 weeks for delivery. Consumer and commercial customers have increasingly demanded rapid fulfillment times and immediate access to shipping information from both suppliers and transportation organizations. With an increased flow of information now available, not only can you view when the freight is delivered, but you could also view the various locations and checkpoints through which the cargo has moved.
These channels are not to be confused with an omnichannel approach to supply chain overall visibility, although having the visibility of freight effectively contributes to the overall success of both the internal and external functions of a supply chain.
Omnichannel visibility and freight movements
Omnichannel visibility is a more recent trend in supply chain logistics. Omnichannel visibility provides all users the capability to view goods and with minimal logins on various platforms. The information can be stored centrally, granting senders, receivers, and transporters access to the information in real-time. This has led to the need to view freight movements throughout the various channels to ensure that stock levels are accurately reflected, ensuring suppliers, retailers, and customers have significant information to make decisions.
When all users are on board with how, when, and why the supply chain functions as it does, then those users are said to be committed to an integrated supply chain. Integrated supply chains require a sharing of information between one or more parties where WMS and TMS software systems prove to be extremely valuable. These software systems can be integrated throughout various organizations, facilitating the flow of information both upstream and downstream. The advantages include receiving notifications of pending shipments, or advanced shipping notices, along with delay information, product availability, and fleet selection.
With the introduction of software technology like WMS and TMS platforms alongside RFID and other various scanning tools, companies discovered that they are able to track and locate inventory more efficiently, as well as make decisions on how to schedule outbound and inbound freight transport.
Companies now regularly inquire about the location of their freight outside of the typical warehouse stops. As GPS technology has become readily available and in the palm of our hands (smartphones), improving freight visibility isn’t an extensively difficult task. Customers are now able to view freight movements in real-time using global position technology that pinpoints exact location and arrival times. This is especially true in the last-mile delivery of goods. Freight visibility has undoubtedly evolved from an in-house-only functionality to widespread availability for all stakeholders, knocking down the walls of information silos. The benefits achieved from this evolution are greatly appreciated and now expected by both consumers and commercial customers alike.
From order confirmation to final delivery, customers are now privy to the once guarded information that retailers, manufacturers, and shippers housed. As technology evolves, it is critical that supply chains continue to do the same.
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