Note: This article was originally published on the DC Velocity Blog Logistics Problem Solving on March 2, 2018.

As consumers we demand visibility. As logistics professionals, it is essential. Accurate and timely visibility is now universally expected, thanks to a few key technology advances during the past 20 years.

Technology + ELD Mandate Advances Visibility

In the late ’90s, small parcel began to take off with the advent of online tracking. What started as a confirmation of delivery has evolved into tracking as we know it today. Eventually, tracking became not only possible but expected in every step of a shipment from the time it is picked up until it is delivered. This type of functionality allowed online shopping to gain popularity. Then about 10 years ago, old technology became new again’GPS. GPS has been around since the late 70’s and in commercial use since the early 90’s. In the last decade, affordable GPS and smart phone technology no longer relegated these logistics tools to high end and expensive devices. Since then, GPS is now a crucial part of the visibility toolset and the ELD mandate and compliance deadline of December 2017 has provided the means to have real-time visibility to more than just small parcel shipments.

No Visibility, No Customers

It’s not just technology that has driven the shipper to demand more and more visibility. It is the consumer. Consumers demand their product is delivered to them quickly and require the ability to view the progress of their package at all points in the shipment. This trend has required the shipper to have visibility to their own freight. The shipper’s visibility needs have matched the consumers. The shipper is tracking their inbound loads to ensure that they have the product needed to fulfill the outbound order to their customer. And on the outbound side, the visibility is a requirement from the consumer. Today, a consumer would never order a product from a company if they don’t have a way to view the progress of the shipment on a web site. No visibility may in time lead to no customers.

Without accurate and timely visibility to their shipments, shippers are at a huge competitive disadvantage in the market. Without automatic tracking, the shipper must have a large staff to manually monitor shipment status and deal with inevitable delays. The shipper also must have a call center that is bombarded with numerous calls asking the question ‘where’s my shipment’, which then requires customer service to make a phone call to find out (which is incredibly expensive). It’s just good business for shippers to seriously evaluate their current visibility tools and what an upgraded solution can provide.

Look for a Wholistic Visibility Solution

When evaluating a new solution, shippers should be looking for one wholistic solution that can solve the visibility needs that they have, as well as the visibility needs that their customer has. Unfortunately, these needs aren’t the same. A shipper wants to be alerted if a shipment isn’t picked up on time or if an exception occurs that will cause the shipment to be delivered late. Both exceptions will require the shipper to act to resolve the issue. For the shipper’s customer, they need an easy-to-use web site where they can view their shipment’s progress and have an accurate delivery date. This requires the order information to be integrated to the shipment information, and the tracking information’resulting in one clean standardized dataset that clearly shows the customer that their order is on its way.