Any cargo owner or freight forwarder knows that the key to any successful logistics operation is having data that helps monitor the supply chain. Even after gaining this end-to-end information, some companies find it challenging to connect the data effectively. For others who have completed the puzzle, the challenge becomes knowing if the data is high-quality. And for those who need a helicopter-view of supply chain information and flow, understanding the available data and using it to run scenarios on possible benefits is the key to supply chain optimisation, continuous improvement, and innovation.

Limited, partial, and hard-to-access data has a direct impact on two fronts for cargo owners and freight forwarders: operations and innovation. On the operations side, having blind spots in the end-to-end process can result in high unexpected costs for the company. The lack of visibility can also increase demurrage costs if the container has been discharged and the consignee has not been notified. Or it may add trucking wait fees if the container has not arrived as planned or is still within an ongoing release process. While thinking about data and how to make it more complete or less costly, there are a few questions you should ask.

1. Do I have access to the key data I need from all my logistics service providers?

Mapping out all your logistics providers and what milestones and documents are important is the first step. Supply chain data is not only a source of information for day-to-day decision-making and visibility but a strategic tool for improving the bottom line through increased profitability and reduced costs while also improving the end-customer experience. This article will help you gain insights into how supply chain data can make your transportation journey transparent. No matter where you are in this process— using manual information gathering via websites or already owning and controlling the end-to-end view — creating trusted insights while structuring supply chain data is a strategic requirement to make better proactive decisions.

2. How many hours are spent in gathering manual data on websites and emails to fill critical gaps in data?

For most importers and exporters, the ocean leg is only the middle part of a complex journey that involves a series of logistic providers. Their separate systems and data standards give rise to a highly fragmented digital landscape with multiple data streams that are difficult to integrate with one another.

Without automatic connections, a high level of manual work is required to ensure data completeness. Visiting websites, receiving emails or evaluating separate reports on excel is an added source of cost and inefficiencies.

3. How much work is necessary to combine different reports to make them available to everyone that needs it?

If all information is captured to provide day-to-day visibility for operations, you also need to evaluate how this data is organised, stored, and retrieved for detailed analysis and scenario work.

This process becomes even more problematic when we consider that each logistics provider may have different types of information to share, an uneven level of technical capability, and use different formats to provide the desired files and data.

Adding more entities to this data capture only makes the issues worse. While the data provided by ocean carriers follow similar standards, first and last mile extended visibility are a well-known pain point across all company sizes and industries. The data related to rail, trucking, inland gate-in or gate-outs are often unavailable or hard to access, requiring a high level of manual work.

4. How much do I spend on creating and maintaining EDI or API connections?

Allocating resources internally or hiring third parties to manage IT connections comes with a cost. Even within very sophisticated supply chain systems, there is a strong reliability on customised and costly EDI connections which are still peer-to-peer integrations that create silos. When direct connections are not available, common alternatives are manual input that requires hours of work or other types of reports that must be incorporated to the main system.

All these options have an impact and force companies to allocate resources, time and investment into less important activities. They also affect the ability of companies to react to exceptions in a timely manner.

5. How do I share this data outside my four walls to reach true collaborative efficiencies?

In a journey that includes multiple modalities of transport and services provided by different entities, the coordination and timeliness between them is key. Making information available to different partners facilitates handovers between entities, increasing timeliness, efficiency, and trust.

TradeLens is a platform that enables you to build your business on true end-to-end visibility, simplifying the connection and information exchange between you and your partners. Using open APIs and standards for information exchange, TradeLens allows importers and exporters to connect their logistics service providers in one platform, guaranteeing the appropriate level of access and information sharing to its participants.

Learn more about what TradeLens can do for you and your business here.

Article written by Alexa Rios and Adriele Pradi

Alexa Rios
Alexa Rios
Regional Product Expert - TradeLens, Europe at A.P. Moller - Maersk

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