Disruption is the new normal for global supply chains, making reliable estimated times of arrival (ETAs) and shipment visibility top of mind. Granular geolocation capability and quality underlying data are central to a truly predictive supply chain.
Here are five key indicators of predictive performance:
Resilience against disruption. Most conventional strategic planning for growth has gone out the window in the past two years of pandemic, climate and supply disruption, forcing businesses to focus instead on building supply chain resilience. End-to-end shipment visibility — both in real-time and predictive, through analytics — forms the core of any resilience strategy, from procurement to supply management to middle mile and last mile delivery.
The ability to respond in real time to sudden shifts in retail demand, input shortages or congestion has taken on new urgency amid increasing market volatility and heightened customer expectations, as more freight has shifted to B2C delivery models. The answer is better visibility.
“Visibility means different things for different companies,” explains Bart Coppelmans, global head of industry solutions at Amsterdam location-based solutions platform HERE Technologies. “Real-time monitoring of fleets and shipments helps identify disruptions and respond proactively. Accurate multimodal ETAs can make better decisions and coordinate with real-world events.” Early notifications allow customers to reduce idle time, optimize staffing and workflow, and better meet service-level agreement (SLA) commitments, avoiding claims.
Layering current and historic shipment data along a specific route or for a specific customer can reveal insights that help inform route planning and schedule improvements, resolve potential claims, and track system performance and compliance. But at the end of the day, location solutions are only as effective as the data is reliable.
Telematics and sensor data tracking goods at the vehicle and SKU levels is just the baseline for today’s complex supply chains. Constructing an accurate, real-time ETA involves layering variables like weather, road and traffic conditions, stops, loading/unloading times, rules & regulations and matching all of them to vehicle specifications. Other vehicle data — speed, fuel consumption, stops, diversions, truck-specific attributes like toll, bridge heights, environmental zones, driving patterns — assists with route planning, verifying key performance indicators (KPIs) and managing costs.
Meeting customer expectations. COVID-19 has blurred the distinctions between traditional B2B logistics and the fast-growing B2C e-commerce model. B2C continues to expand, as many people delay returning to brick and mortar and as small, cloud-based retail and services businesses proliferate. Time-definite parcel delivery surged from $15 billion to $23 billion over 2019-2021, initially as a workaround to transportation gridlock, and over time to meet customer demand. That in turn has forced downstream changes to picking and put-away, cartonization, load and route optimization, scheduling and last-mile delivery, all of which figure into ETA.
Business and retail survey respondents increasingly insist on three primary delivery metrics: faster delivery; time-definite, reliable ETAs and ongoing communication about shipment status, especially closer to destination and as ETAs are refined.
Location intelligence, real-time visibility and accurate ETAs are the building blocks for predictive visibility, layering current and historical shipment data with external mapping and locational context for richer, more accurate scenario planning. As processes and workflows are automated, real-time end-to-end visibility will become essential to resource planning, SLA fulfillment and customer satisfaction.
Supply chain orchestration. Supply chain complexity has steadily increased in the past two years, in terms of sourcing, stages of production and partners. Resilience strategies — reshoring and near-shoring, safety stocks, alternative product inputs and suppliers, relocating or reconfiguring warehouses, allocating freight to third-party logistics providers — have only accelerated the challenges.
Sensors, scanners, robots and mobile devices will eventually add billions of new data points to current and future supply chains. Most of these data points will add new granularity about shipment location, status and condition. The insights they provide help to balance cost against performance, while improving service reliability and ensuring more accurate ETAs.
Dealing with the proliferation of new data sources isn’t simple. Internal and external data from many sources must be normalized and structured for real-time sharing and analytics. A secure onboarding system with restricted permissions is needed to ensure that only the right people have access to the right data. An effective feedback loop is essential to tracking performance and optimizing workflow across the network. Finally, a location platform must be easily scalable, modular and available to open-source components, with user-friendly mapping and visualization tools. The goal is a single, shared, scalable source of truth across the enterprise.
Fast, data-enabled decision making. Data quality is critical to rapid response when a shipment needs to be redirected or replaced. Unfortunately, a lot of internal data isn’t always available where and when needed. Often, it’s generated to serve the limited needs of a particular division or group, with little quality control involved, and resides in data silos under varying systems and processes.
To be truly enterprise-grade, location data must come from trusted sources, be regularly refreshed in at least near-real-time and be coded to a standard specification.
Even with those capabilities, many disruptive events — COVID-19, war in Ukraine, China supply chain disruptions, the Texas freeze, a grounded container ship blocking the Suez Canal — have been neither predictable nor solvable. Manish Govil, global supply chain segment lead for Amazon Web Services, a HERE strategic partner, insists that in situations such as Suez, access to the right data is even more important.
“When we talk about visibility and predictability, it’s really about speed of insights,” Govil says. “I need to figure out if my container is stuck on that ship or a ship behind it, and what is in that container and where it’s headed. Can I redirect freight headed for Suez around the Cape of Good Hope? Do I have similar product coming from Thailand or Vietnam that I can redirect via the Indian Ocean or across the Pacific? What is the added cost, and is it worth it? If I can get that information quickly, I can begin to make those kinds of decisions.”
Sustainability. Geolocation and internet of things (IoT) sensor reporting are key to any sustainability strategy, from verifying the sourcing of finished goods and inputs, or measuring the carbon footprint of the end-to-end shipment.
Delays, changes in weight or temperature, and sudden shock raise questions of diversion or substitution. Shipment fuel consumption assessments require a layer of data across transportation modes, adjusting for the impacts of terrain, weather, congestion, use of temperature-controlled equipment, even vehicle condition and performance.
Commercial fleet analytics tools that leverage location intelligence can help shippers and fleet operators predict the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per route, considering factors such as vehicle and fuel type, traffic conditions, and the road networks’ physical attributes to then recommend the commercial vehicle with the most appropriate engine — diesel, electric, biogas or hydrogen — to produce the least carbon dioxide for any given route. Investigating the environmental impact of a company’s fleet drives the transition from diesel vehicles to alternative fuel options, helping to reduce CO2 emissions and achieve climate change regulatory commitments.
HERE Enables Next-Gen Visibility, Seamless Tracking and More
HERE Technologies is the world’s leading location data and technology platform. Customers across industries leverage the HERE platform to achieve better outcomes — from helping a city manage its infrastructure or a business optimize its assets to guiding drivers to their destination safely.
HERE draws on 30 million vehicles, access to 2.5 million API developers, its global network of more than 50 original equipment manufacturers, satellite mapping and its fleet of hundreds of mapping vehicles worldwide. It maintains detailed map coverage of more than 200 countries, which can be integrated with vehicle and partner-generated contextual data. HERE technology is embedded in more than 160 million vehicles worldwide.
Supply chain solutions include HERE Asset Tracking, which tracks the outdoor or indoor location and condition of mobile supply chain assets, including containers, roll cages, material handling equipment such as forklifts, and heavy machinery. HERE Tour Planning creates cost- or time-optimized tours for all vehicles in a fleet, incorporating vehicle type and capacity, current traffic, and truck-routing attributes, to maximize utilization. HERE Last Mile is an end-to-end software-as-a-service (SaaS) application for managing last mile and urban deliveries. It comes with a web-planning dashboard, mobile driver app, and real-time tracking for more accurate ETAs. HERE also brings many more advanced capabilities and solutions for T&L participants to leverage, such as shipment tracking, warehouse and yard management, as well as predictive ETA calculations.
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