Getting to high levels of rail car and truck fleet visibility requires a holistic supply chain approach that doesn’t leave anything out.

In the rapidly-evolving supply chain environment, companies can’t afford to have siloed technology platforms that don’t talk and collaborate with one another. To overcome the problem, many start “filling in” with manual processes that just create more confusion, errors, and rework. These “frankensystems” provide low levels of supply chain visibility in a world that demands 24/7 information about shipment statuses.

“When working in silos, as many businesses do, it’s hard to get a view of the end-to-end supply chain,” the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) points out in Developing a Holistic Supply Chain View in a Digital Age. “But to transform amid the evolving digital supply management landscape, they need to develop that holistic view.”

Having that view has become table stakes for both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2C) shippers that want to provide high levels of customer service in a profitable, sustainable way. Bulk and break-bulk commodity shippers aren’t immune to these shifts and are continually seeking ways to apply technology in a smart, efficient manner.

What’s the Big Deal?

Many organizations don’t realize just how tightly intertwined the various aspects of the supply chain really are. For example, the correlation between the tracking of in-transit shipments and holding carriers accountable for on-time pickup/shipment scheduling isn’t always clear. So where the dock scheduling system may show that a rail shipment left on Tuesday at noon, if in-transit visibility doesn’t begin until the following morning, then the shipper has no idea if it actually left on time. 

When this data isn’t linked, shippers never really know if a shipment left their sites on-time.

These questions can only be answered by a system that unifies in-transit data and dock scheduling data on the same platform. Anytime those important data points are in siloed systems and operating independently of one another, supply chain visibility plummets.

5 Reasons to Go Holistic

Whether they learned this from Amazon, by using the Uber ride-sharing app, or by tracking their Domino’s pizza delivery via mobile app, people know that they can see where their orders are at any time. These tech-savvy consumers are also your customers. Mimicking these B2C operations is possible, but only with a holistic supply chain approach that incorporates advanced technology. Here are five more reasons to make this move:  

  1. More accurate invoice auditing and fewer overpayments. Without a unified system that supports invoice auditing, companies really don’t know if they’re paying the right price for a shipment, what their shipment identifier is, and/or if they’ve paid for the same shipment twice. With a unified platform, companies always know when a car is billed and not This allows them to address origin switch issues with carriers and improve on-time delivery. Preventing these billing issues also greatly enhances customer service and prevents the billing errors (i.e., when a rail car wasn’t moved on time).

     

  2. Improved inventory management. Inventory management is all about having the right stuff in the right place and at the right time. Without a centralized platform providing a holistic view of all inventory in the supply chain, companies wind up with too many stock-outs and overstocks. Both of these situations can be costly in a world where all companies are being asked to do more with less. IntelliTrans’ vendor managed inventory (VMI) solution uses sensors to measure how much bulk inventory a company has on-hand, how fast that inventory is being depleted, and when it’s time to reorder. The solution also shows exactly how much product is stored in the in-transit and yard-based rail cars. This is a big win for companies that would otherwise wind up creating a new order for product that’s stored out in their yards, but that they didn’t even know about.

  3. Fewer detention and demurrage fees. When a shipment arrives at its destination, it may sit around for a while before getting unloaded. This translates into detention fees for the shipper, which may not even know about the problem until that extra $200 fee shows up on a carrier invoice. In most cases, this happens because the shipment scheduled wasn’t connected to the customer’s inventory requirements and/or patterns. IntelliTrans’ tracking information and auditing expertise helps pinpoint extra fees and accessorials, and it also handles the dispute process. For one company alone, the system has identified over $600,000 in erroneous carrier charges within two months of implementation.

     

  4. B2B visibility for bulk and break-bulk shipments. If you can track the journey of an $8 toy purchased online throughout its lifecycle, then why can’t a wire manufacturer see where a truck carrying $80,000 worth of copper is at any given time? This is the question that buyers are asking themselves as B2C shipment visibility becomes the norm in the B2B sector. Thanks to the application of RFID tags in rail cars, that transportation mode has been able to offer high levels of shipment visibility for years. The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate pushed similar capabilities into the over-the-road trucking arena. By tying this information into a holistic supply chain platform, shippers can now answer the question that all of their customers are asking: Where’s my stuff?

  5. Stay agile in an uncertain economic environment. The economy has fluctuated about 10 times since World War II, with the current environment greatly impacting companies across all industries. The current downturn is no different. With companies laying off workers and shedding inventory to free up cash, the demand for on-time deliveries has increased dramatically in recent months. This, in turn, is driving the need for a more cohesive, centralized supply chain strategy that factors in all aspects of the network.

A Clear View of Your Supply Chain

IntelliTrans’ Global Control Tower provides high levels of supply chain transparency; aggregates, completes, and enhances data from a variety of sources; offers visibility into and execution of different aspects of the supply chain; and generates data-driven alerts and analytics that ask deeper questions and deliver meaningful insights.

By leveraging tracking information, the Global Control Tower provides analytics that measures key performance indicators (KPIs) like fleet cycle time, origin/destination dwell time, lane and hauler performance, back orders, freight spend, load optimization, and more. With their rate, equipment, lease, tracking, and invoice data in a central repository that’s accessible 24/7, companies can position themselves for success in any market conditions.

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