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Why companies struggle to achieve real-time supply chain visibility and how shipping software can help to meet these goals

Posted on 29th April 2015 by YmeriHart

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Transport organisations often struggle with the integration of information between internal systems, processes and partner portals, concludes a new report by supply chain analyst’s eyefortransport.

The company surveyed over 200 organisations to ask about their information access, visibility and automation. The final report ‘The Rise of Automated Real-time Visibility’ illustrates and summarises some of the critical challenges that companies face and highlights some of the areas where companies can seek improvement.

How important is real-time visibility? 74.7% of respondents ranked it as ‘important’ or ‘very important’, with only 2.5% of respondents not ranking it as ‘important’ or ‘very important’. So why have so many companies been unable to deliver it?

One reason may be the percentage of manual steps utilised in processes for exchanging information with partners. In the survey, 46% of respondents reported that more than half of their processes for exchanging information with partners involved at least one manual step.

As the report says: “This means that ‘real-time’ is inevitably slowed-down through human error, human input, and all other problems associated with lack of automation.”

When asked what the top challenges were in the organisation’s supply chain processes, the respondents first choice was: limited visibility into the end-to-end supply chain process including landed cost and performance by node.

Second most important challenge was the need to acquire and aggregate information from internal and external sources more efficiently.

So how are these objectives achieved? The answer was: through increased automation. And the companies did recognise further advantages of implementing more automated processes including profitability and increasing capacity.

As the report says, benefits include “fewer errors in processes, increased throughput, reallocation of resources elsewhere, real-time efficiency, attractiveness to customers etc. Ultimately all of these benefits lead to increasing a company’s profitability.”

So why are companies – in this case transport companies, but it no doubt applies equally to shippers – not running more automated processes?

The respondents cited difficulties in implementation, including complexity and cost. This is not difficult to understand. Many organisations simply don’t have the resources to develop and maintain an in-house automated system that can interact seamlessly with all suppliers and other stakeholders to create complete, real-time visibility throughout the supply chain.

It is therefore not surprising that more and more global corporations decide to outsource at least part of their supply chain processes and one that is gaining popularity, not only due to the end to end visibility achieved but also the significant cost benefits, is outsourced shipping software that can be delivered as a service.

Transportation management software is becoming significantly more widely used amongst global shippers as a surefire way of increasing transportation efficiency, automating the decision making processes (e.g. what carrier to use, when and where) and dramatically reducing transportation costs as a result.

Integrating a transportation management software solution helps shippers gain visibility across the whole supply chain, helping them gain a real insight into carrier performance and customer satisfaction.

Supply chains are becoming ever more complex but with the right tools and insights, shippers can make real changes and improvements – the kind of changes that can put them firmly ahead of the competition.

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