In both 2018 and 2019, Gartner’s Supply Chain User Wants and Needs Survey revealed that among supply chain organizations visibility is the top-funded initiative year over year next to business intelligence and advanced analytics.
“The shipper and 3PL communities perceive real-time visibility as both strategic in the long term and tactically a must-have in the short term,” said Zack Gibbs, senior product manager for the visibility team at Trimble Transportation. “Shippers are pushing their carrier networks to provide more transparency than ever before.
“That is uncomfortable at best for carriers, but they do realize the pain points and problems that result from a lack of transparency into their operations,” Gibbs continued. “What we’ve heard from carriers is that without complete information for their customers and internal stakeholders there is a poor customer experience, a higher amount of dwell time at origin, intermediate and destination stops, and more phone calls and email traffic about current shipment and stop status.”
The Power of Shared Data
Research into the value of supply chain visibility, noted tech marketplace G2 in its online Learning Hub, shows that 79% of companies with high-performing supply chains achieve revenue growth greater than the average within their industries, making it evident that supply chain visibility is a strategic tool for manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
In addition, G2 related just how much having supply chain visibility integrated to a transportation management solution can help control and reduce costs. For example, it cites Forbes as saying that a TMS can improve freight savings by up to 8% and Logistics Management magazine as reporting that most users experience freight cost reductions of about 5% to 10% after implementing the software.
A carrier TMS is the backbone software that helps provide the data exchange that shippers are demanding, Gibbs stated. “But even rudimentary reporting and analytics around exceptions and on-time performance by location, lane or customer leaves a big gap in understanding operational issues and customer pain points,” he said.
For Terry Weiner, former senior consultant with California Manufacturing Technology Consulting, an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a challenge is that information in most organizations exists in silos. “The fragmentation of data is designed to serve the purposes of individual departments in the organization instead of the entire supply chain,” he wrote. “In addition, each of the suppliers and customers has their own silos of information, not commonly shared with other supply chain partners.”
Weiner went on to discuss how making key supply chain data and information available to partners to facilitate coordination can be helpful, but companies must also address making processes more collaborative. That, he said, requires data sharing and planning across departments as well as between organizations, and must tackle the challenge of sharing information between disparate systems.
“The key to visibility is software and data that can merge and manage information from multiple systems,” Gibbs said. “That can be difficult for a carrier to implement because different needs and requests put strain on internal systems. Carriers understand they must streamline the process of sharing data with shippers to better meet and manage those requests, so more carriers are tackling that with technology solutions and advanced analytics.”
Visibility for Shippers and Carriers Alike
Designed with higher levels of connectivity, data sharing and support, Trimble Transportation solutions link software products and mobility services for carriers and their shipper partners. For example, various TMS offerings can link to back office and telematics systems from different suppliers.
With solutions such as Trust Center, existing Trimble customers can enable and manage available and secure data connections. Trimble Visibility products include Basic, which is free for qualified customers, and a Premium real-time time tracking solution that incorporates custom sharing of views, custom automated notifications, a driver facing mobile application for iOS and Android devices, along with mapping and routing services, live traffic, weather and location updates.
Gibbs also identified visibility value propositions for carriers and shippers, some of which overlap. For example, with connected solutions both parties can manage data in a single place without needing different systems, provide tailored views to internal users and end customers on shipment status, determine top and bottom performing lanes and locations, and improve transparency with proactive notifications based on custom business rules.
“Everybody wins with the right tool sets, which is why we’re seeing increased rates of adoption for more transparency and visibility,” Gibbs stated.
That visibility takes center stage for a growing number of supply chain businesses shouldn’t be too shocking, considering the considerable extent to which it can lower supply chain costs and improve customer satisfaction, noted a blog by Flexis, a provider of integrated supply chain and operations planning software. The value-add for increased visibility should be obvious, it said, in its ability to help create better alignment between businesses and their customers.
Visibility Starts with the Right Technology
For the transportation industry, Supply Chain Dive notes that supply chain visibility may well be the buzzword of the 21st century. The digital age has brought with it the promise of data-driven insights, it added, but supply chains have to first invest in visibility technology.
Curious to see how supply chain technology could benefit your transportation operations? Contact us today to learn how Trimble is building the solutions to connect all supply chain stakeholders and enable new levels of collaboration, productivity and efficiency.