There’s a disconnect between your tracking data and your business improvements

Track and trace has been the holy grail for shippers and carriers going back decades. It was a black hole that defied a practical and straightforward remedy; one where the most popular solution was calling the driver every 30 minutes to ask where they—and your freight—was. That was after cell phones became ubiquitous.

Some would argue that even today, an effective solution providing accurate, complete, and timely freight visibility—where goods are, how fast products are moving when they will arrive, and how much it costs—all remains a problem.

In many cases, they would be correct. The challenge of track and trace has become particularly vexing as technology platforms, and the data they generate, have proliferated.

Today, track and trace systems are fed by a multitude of platforms with various acronyms – ERP, SCP, WMS, TMS, SCE, AP, AR, as well as trucking, freight-forwarding, drayage, logistics, and freight audit systems. It’s yet another example of being data-rich and intelligence-poor. You have all this data in front of you, but little definition as to what it means or how to use it to improve your business.

Incomplete visibility is hindering your proactivity, budget—all of your logistics initiatives.

The answer requires us to redefine what track and trace—or real-time visibility, as we now call it—really means. It starts by understanding three things your visibility platform is not telling you.

1. Your real-time visibility is limiting proactivity.

In today’s mobile, GPS-connected world, it’s easy to find out where a shipment is. Query the driver’s smartphone or a truck’s ELD telematics, and find out, within minutes and feet, a shipment’s location. However, what does that do for you? Also, how does that help fix a problem?

Real-time visibility in today’s e-commerce driven world consists of receiving and fulfilling the order today, scheduling and tendering the pickup, delivering it on-time tomorrow, and accurately knowing the cost and exceptions. However, this requires far more than just a location ping. It is a snapshot of customer service in terms of the flow of goods. It demands reliable tools built on immediate and accurate data, pulled in real-time from multiple platforms. Real visibility provides the ability to analyze and act quickly. As a result, this reality shift renders the old world of historical metrics obsolete.

2. Your data is not informing your budget.

Don’t misunderstand. Monthly KPIs showing your supply chain’s performance, on-time delivery percentage, and your expenses remain valuable. However, waiting a month or more to discover 30% of your shipments last month went to the spot market and cost you 40% more because your qualified core carriers are rejecting 25% of your tenders, does you no good. That is old news — the money is gone, and it’s not coming back.

RateLinx Named in Gartner’s February 2020 Market Guide for Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms

The industry-leading data platform is named in the report for the second time.

3. Incomplete visibility is hindering your logistics strategy.

Visibility is a much more holistic view of your supply chain network and logistics. It includes not just in-transit status notices and transportation documents, such as bills of lading, delivery receipts, and freight invoices. In addition, it includes supplier invoices, purchase orders, remittance advice, and other data tied to the overall transaction.

Visibility should be completely integrated and up-to-date with your carrier’s rate-base with defined accessorials. Invoices can be accepted, matched, and audited in real-time. Well-defined business rules guide good decision making. Critically, alerts help you correct errors before they cascade into other problems. Moreover, this visibility provides a real-time dashboard of defined KPIs which give a clear picture of how your transportation operations are running, problems that need attention, and what you are paying. Finally, complete visibility delivers this accurate information today, not 30 days from now.

3 ways to turn real-time visibility into a strategic advantage:

  1. Be prescriptive, not reactive. Are my current systems providing me with a reactionary look in the rear-view mirror? Or does it show me the view ahead—a heads-up into obstacles or decision-exceptions which hurt service or cost goals—and proactively recommend a solution?
  2. Identify and fix ineffective business rules. Are my business processes and rules, some of which are legacy to my company, addressing the right issues and compliance needs of today? Do they incentivize correct behavior, or are they hindering decision-making in a way that limits performance?
  3. Understand the full lifecycle of visibility. Do I see the entire transaction cycle and all elements that can affect service and cost with timely, accurate, and complete data to make informed, effective, and fast decisions? Are my current tools enabling or inhibiting my ability to be flexible and responsive?

Your freight is delivered, and you pay your carriers. However, real visibility tells you if you’re paying what you planned. It helps identify problems in processes and resolves issues, so it doesn’t happen again. Ultimately, it powers problem-solving outside of your processes to see, correct, and adjust to get your operations back on track.

That’s the holy grail. It is achieved by recalibrating our view of track and trace from a simple tracking function to a long term strategic logistics management and visibility lifecycle. With the right tools and an open-minded, data-first approach to change, you can turn a traditionally reactive, low-value process, into a proactive, high-value, strategic imperative that elevates you above your competition.

Does your real-time visibility deliver results?

Discover ways to overcome errors, omissions, and exceptions in your freight tracking and improve results.