The most effective logistics and supply chain networks are nimble, transparent, and customer-centric. Fortunately, our industry—like so many others—is undergoing a digital transformation that promises to deliver on all three counts. In particular, emerging technologies such as digital freight matching and advanced application programming interfaces (APIs) are designed to facilitate real-time collaboration, greater operational visibility, and data-driven insights.
"There will be greater transparency and efficiency, and we’ll all be able to make smarter logistics decisions"
At Technicolor, we’re testing digital freight matching, a technology designed to coordinate a shipper’s freight with available carrier capacity, with the goal of connecting shippers and carriers so they can optimize capacity utilization. This isn’t just about what some refer to as the ‘Uberization’ of the transport industry, but about creating new opportunities from all this real-time data and visibility, especially around supply and demand, so capacity is never wasted or ever falls short. For example, the federally-mandated electronic logging devices (ELDs), required by December 2017, can be used to capture critical real-time information dispatchers need to track drivers’ status and more effectively plan for loads.
We’ve also been expanding our use of APIs—these next-generation, web-enabled interfaces are much more agile and efficient than the legacy electronic data interchange (EDI) systems still prevalent in the logistics and supply chain industry. EDI in and of itself is not difficult to set up, but is rather rigid, introduces large gaps in data transfers, and requires constant testing and multiple iterations to ensure the efficacy of the data being transmitted. Additionally, there are a number of different series of EDIs that all have to be maintained. If you have thousands of service providers in your 3PL network, it’s cost-prohibitive to set up EDI with all of them.
APIs, on the other hand, are a scalable messaging format that simplify communications among multiple systems and allow data to be transmitted in nanoseconds. They’ve been in use in other industries for some time, and finally the transportation and logistics industries are catching on. Here at Technicolor, APIs are enabling us to automatically find and collect information related to the current status of shipments and proof of deliveries so we can better meet our customers’ timelines.
Of course, when you get down to brass tacks, effectively implementing these new technologies can be challenging. While still in its early stages, there will be a lot of smoke and mirrors, and in some cases the promises over-reach. Rather than go it alone, enterprises should consider partnering with service providers that are focused on simplifying logistics and supply chains, and that understand how to leverage technology to achieve better outcomes.
When done right, real-time collaboration and data sharing can streamline today’s disparate, multimodal networks that make up most logistics and supply chains. A provider can share real-time data with partners and customers about the location of a shipment—not just where a particular truck is, but the goods themselves. Any potential transport snags can be discovered well before any damage is done, and alternative capacity can be acquired elsewhere to mitigate the problem.
The bottom line is, as these various digital technologies make their way into networks like ours, expect to see robust changes in logistics and supply chains. There will be greater transparency and efficiency, and we’ll all be able to make smarter logistics decisions more quickly, resulting in fewer headaches, always on-time deliveries and happier customers.