Manufacturers lose billions of dollars every year due to lack of visibility into vital shipment data. That’s why more and more shippers are turning to solutions that enable easy data sharing across supply-chain stakeholders.
But what does a collaborative, data-driven approach to the supply chain actually look like? Here are three of the most significant ways in which new data-sharing tools and technologies are making an impact across the supply-chain industry.
Multiple Data Streams in One
In the past, shippers were often forced to make do with piecemeal, siloed data sources. They might rely on passive temperature loggers for condition data, various telematics systems for location data, and a lot of manual emails and phone calls to try to figure out where shipments were, and how they were doing. With so many disparate data sources, it would often be a challenge to connect the dots and make sense of all of this information.
For instance, a temperature logger may indicate that a sensitive pharmaceutical shipment has experienced unacceptable environmental conditions, but it won’t tell you when or where that excursion occured. Moreover, that logger data is only accessible after the fact, once it’s too late to do anything about it.
But with new multi-sensor trackers, it becomes possible to get location and condition data all from one source in real time. Instead of gathering location and condition data separately from many different places, these new trackers provide insight into the exact time and location of temperature, humidity, or shock events all in one system, independent of the carrier.
This enables shippers to identify when and where issues occur, giving them the information they need to resolve the root cause of the problem. For example, a multi-sensor tracker can shed light on the exact location and time of a temperature excursion, in contrast to a passive logger which just tells you after the shipment arrives that a temperature excursion occurred somewhere in transit. This is an insight that can be used not just to resolve the problem, such as a malfunctioning refrigerated container, in real time, but also to eliminate the root cause, such as a consistently suboptimal carrier or route. With access to multiple data streams from a single tracking device on a single platform, all of the data becomes more useful than any individual data stream could be on its own.
Of course, access to data is useful, but it’s even more so when you can easily distribute that data to relevant stakeholders. With new cloud-based supply-chain solutions, shippers can not just view data themselves, but also collaborate across teams to ensure that everyone who needs access has it. This enables smooth data sharing with customers and partners, instead of keeping stakeholders siloed and in the dark.
For example, if a real-time temperature alert suggests that a shipment may be damaged, the shipper can immediately reach out to the carrier to resolve the issue, such as a broken air conditioner, or contact the end customer to warn it in advance. Real-time data dissemination tools make it possible to provide to-the-minute updates regarding location and condition of in-transit goods, both internally within the company and externally. This can mean anything from an automated email or SMS alert sent to the recipient, to granting partners or other teams within the business full access to view shipment data. No matter the specific method, keeping data easily accessible in the cloud empowers everybody involved to embrace a more collaborative mindset, and improve efficiency through more seamless communication.
Integration Across Systems
Finally, it’s not just shippers who have been adopting an open, cooperative mentality. In response to the growing advantages of integrated systems and seamless data sharing, new supply-chain visibility providers have themselves developed a mindset of collaboration in their own offerings. Instead of shutting out third-party systems or insisting on strict proprietary data silos, modern solutions make it easy to integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other existing systems. With easy-to-use APIs for integration, it becomes simple to incorporate real-time sensor data into the digital platforms that shippers are already using.
These integrations with existing enterprise management systems make it possible to view and analyze data from sensors alongside other data sources and relevant analytical tools. For example, webhook or API tools allow direct communication between supply-chain tracking solutions and internal systems such as Oracle or SAP. This reduces complexity and makes it easier to access and act on pertinent real-time data.
Similarly, integrations with AIS vessel tracking, road traffic, and other publicly available data sources make it possible for supply-chain management teams to stay up to date with all information on one dashboard. Instead of having to switch between different systems or manually connect with different data sources, an integrated supply-chain visibility solution provides everything you need in one place.
For instance, the manifest for an air shipment from one country to another may show that a product has arrived, when in fact it’s still stuck in customs. Without a real-time tracking solution, this would result in both the shipper and the end customer having inaccurate information, and potentially the end customer assembling and paying for a construction or manufacturing crew well in advance of the actual shipment arrival. But through integration between sensor and AIS vessel tracking data, the receiver can access location and condition data from multi-sensor trackers on land alongside real-time vessel location data while at sea, enabling seamless non-stop location tracking even as a shipment travels across the ocean. Armed with this information, it becomes possible for companies to gauge when the shipment will arrive, and have land transportation equipment and personnel ready.
Building for the Future
Ultimately, sharing data is the key to building the supply chain of the future. The era of information silos is at an end. As the world grows ever more interconnected, modern manufacturers must embrace a mentality of sharing and transparency to stay competitive.
We all know that sharing is caring. But when it comes to the modern supply chain, it’s also everything from leveraging comprehensive datasets provided by real-time multi-sensor trackers, to ensuring relevant information is shared with the right people, to integrating seamlessly across systems. When systems and data sources are designed to be shared, it becomes natural to adopt a collaborative mindset, improving supply-chain operations and increasing efficiency from end to end.
Dagny Dukach is director of marketing at Tive Inc., a provider of sensor-driven supply chain visibility technology.