Why is Freight Visibility Important?

Freight Visibility

Having the ability to track product movement outside of the warehouse is just as important as tracking movement inside the warehouse. Being able to track goods between destination and origin points, best known as freight visibility, has become an important characteristic of businesses that move goods throughout a network and to end customers.

Whether you are a supply chain operation in its infancy or versed in logistical operations, it is notable to understand just how critical it is to actively monitor freight interchanges.  


What is freight visibility?

The pace at which our global transactions occur is more rapid than in previous generations, and with the advancements in technology, we now have information more readily available and literally in the palm of our hands. The capabilities of the internet are constantly altering every aspect of our modern lives - personally and professionally. Supply chains have embraced these advances, which has led to an increase in customer visibility and satisfaction. One of the greatest wins for businesses and consumers alike has been the ability to trace freight, giving visibility to goods once they leave storage and distribution areas. Tracking movement can take place in various ways.

Freight visibility can consist of the following tools:

  1. Assignment of goods to a pallet number
  2. Recording trailer information where the goods are being loaded
  3. Attaching tracking numbers to packaging
  4. Attaching RFID information to packaging/pallets
  5. Scanning tracing methods on the goods at the dock of arrival and departure
  6. GPS technology that actively monitors goods en-route

It is important to understand that some methods update in real-time and some methods update once a new activity or scan is registered. Not every method provides all the information, but some can be used in combination to create a unified logistical picture of freight movement.  


The product is moving, but how often will new information be presented?

Being able to track goods does not mean you have to always monitor them (unless this is fit for your needs). The focal point of freight visibility is having the information available to view at any given moment. Receiving up-to-the-minute updates may be crucial for specific industries, shipments, or situations – this is certainly true when the recipient has requested expedited or next-day freight speeds. Daily updates in shipment transactions may work for other industries or circumstances, particularly when freight moves coast-to-coast via ground transportation.

In any situation, the presentation of the tracing information is based on the methods that the carrier uses. Carrier selection is also an important factor in freight visibility. If you aren’t seasoned in manually carrier and route selection, then dynamic routing software may prove to be worth the investment, not only for business efficiencies but for overall supply chain logistics visibility.  


Why is having freight visibility so critical?

Whether you are replenishing the shelves of a regional grocer or delivering COVID-19 vaccines to several states on the West Coast of the United States, it is imperative to have a freight tracking system in place. Demand cannot be met in a timely manner if freight coordination is not backed by verification through freight visibility. There are situations where the unknown status of freight is not acceptable, especially when it comes to matters that support the maintenance of human lives.

Supply chain planning is an especially important responsibility of efficient supply chain management. Scheduling the appropriate number of staff to unload freight would be a difficult task if you are not sure when the shipment is due to arrive. Planning for production via MRP, new product launches, and medical supply distribution to disaster areas cannot be done effectively without knowledge on when goods will arrive or their current status. Another way freight visibility enhances the supply chain is through a greater customer experience. Putting the tools to track shipments into the hands of customers empowers them in a way that leads to customer loyalty.

When users on both ends of the supply chain share the same information, a positive relationship based on information transparency and reliable service forms. Freight visibility is an effective way to solidify business relationships. It can be a competitive advantage over your competitors or a deciding factor in supplier onboarding when vetting new business partners. When it comes to supply chains, agility is a virtue. Rebounding from supply chain mishaps quickly is a sure way to gain loyalty and positive reviews.

Supply chain disruptions happen, even with logistics, but being able to bounce back from a setback displays the resilient nature of any organization. Allowing visibility of freight movements assists with early problem identification that gives way to timelier problem resolution. Freight visibility tools are an excellent way to keep your supply chain in shape. The fundamental importance of having visibility over both inbound and outbound freight movements is to have control of assets until the correct ownership is established (FOB, delivered to residential addresses) and to preserve revenue through strategic supply planning. This all begins with understanding what freight visibility is and how it can work for you.  


How do you increase freight visibility?

When it comes to managing an efficient supply chain, having control of freight movement is critical to operations. Part of that freight control is the ability to provide visibility of all of the movements within a network. Freight visibility is best defined as the capability to view products from origin to destination and every place in between.

While freight visibility seems like a simple tool used in supply chain functions, not every operation fully understands how to implement it into their organization.

So today we are recommending a few of the best ways to increase freight visibility within your supply chain. These recommendations are fairly straightforward as they are core concepts, but these are the first steps toward being able to increase freight visibility.   


Keep things in-house, but optimize

Maintaining control of operations that are kept in-house is a great thing to achieve...when it is performed properly, and there is a lot to it.

When that control begins to wane just a bit, this tactic may prove to be a detriment. A few ways to optimize transportation operations within the business include managing freight that ships within the network, increase monitoring of carriers, and provide internal real-time updates. These are the core areas that are going to require attention.

One way to increase freight visibility within the network is, obviously, to own and operate an internal fleet of delivery vehicles versus outsourcing this service. If the business owns its own fleet, a wise tool to implement is driver tracking software. This software can be installed on the vehicle or as part of a tracking application on a phone or other mobile device that can be removed from the vehicle whenever the driver exits. Driver tracking software allows for freight that is assigned to a specific person to be traced from origin to destination.


Work with a 3PL

If an operation prefers to dole out the responsibilities of direct carrier contact, the next option is to reach out to a third-party logistics firm to handle the freight. Most third-party logistics providers often offer an assortment of tools and services that optimizes both costs and delivery efficiency. As part of these efficiencies, freight visibility is at the top of the list.


Integrated Supply Chain

Another efficient way to increase freight visibility is to have a maturely integrated supply chain. This fully integrated supply chain includes information exchange between all stakeholders - from product creation to end-user receipt. This means that freight visibility also includes inbound freight shipping from suppliers into the facility or distribution centers. The operational benefits from having access to the visibility of their freight being transported by a team of preferred partners who understand and promote further strategic goals.


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