Do you know precisely where any given shipments are currently located? For many shippers and freight forwarders transporting goods around the world, the answer is a resounding “no.” In fact, a recent KPMG study shows that less than one out of 10 shipping professionals has complete visibility into their supply chain, hindering their access to the data clients demand.
It’s an information gap that has proven costly for companies engaged in global trade or logistics management. As organizations work to keep leaner inventories, it’s more important than ever for businesses transporting goods across long distances to stay on top of expected delivery dates and to proactively manage processing delays. For example, retailers facing increasingly slim margins can’t afford to advertise a sale on a popular item if it isn’t on store shelves when expected. Manufacturers must safeguard against ramping manufacturing if a critical part is delayed. In order to drive decisions effectively, businesses need access to complete, timely and accurate information throughout the entire supply chain shipment process.
Fast, reliable access to high-quality data enables businesses to make course corrections and adjustments that protect profits and ensure prompt deliveries. Simply put, if a shipper can’t get the goods delivered on time, their clients and customers can quickly move on to someone who can.
Unfortunately, information transparency in the global ocean shipping industry remains a real challenge. The level of service provided by companies like FedEx and UPS has raised expectations of all logistics providers and their customers since they have been able to supply precise details on every package as it travels to its destination. Through a complete end-to-end system, these companies have comprehensive data from the point of pickup to the point of delivery, giving them a distinct advantage since they control the delivery and information chain. For shippers and freight forwarders who work with multiple carriers around the globe—and are reliant on many service and information partners—the issue of data transparency is a real challenge.
Many of the largest shippers have enough business to dictate a solution. Through the threat of decreased volume, they can mandate that carriers provide solutions for delivering timely, accurate and complete data. Facing loss and negotiated business penalties, many carriers are driven to supplement the systematic delivery of data with manual entry to fill in missing container status events. But what about the rest of the industry? Is it possible for even a small to mid-sized shipper to work with carriers to achieve FedEx-like transparency? Without a systematic approach to data quality improvements, it isn’t feasible for carriers to deliver it.
However, there is a way to achieve data equality for all, regardless of shipper size or regional location. Though there is no single magic bullet, there are three important steps you can take today to shake up the status quo and begin bridging the information gap.
Step 1: Broaden Your Carrier Selection Criteria
A recent survey has revealed that 36 percent of the data received from carriers is considered very poor to average. Even if your firm isn’t large enough to mandate that carriers track and provide the accurate information you need, you do have power—the power of choice. As the need for information increases, companies may find that basing carrier selection on the freight rate alone is not in the best interests of their company and clients, especially when considering the internal costs and time required to fill information gaps. Explore your options and ask questions. Look for carriers who can provide complete, accurate and consistent data—from end to end.