Rail tracking has long been the missing link in seamless supply chain operations due to its lack of availability. For those operating in the modern digital supply chain, a dark void when containers entered the rail yard often negated many benefits of intermodal freight shipping. The cost savings, freight safety, and greater sustainability of rail also meant the potential not to know the location of cargo and become subject to exceptions that might not be known for hours or days.
Cargo transportation must be seamless in the post-pandemic supply chain to meet customer expectations, keep costs low, and realize operational efficiency. Seamlessness was being disrupted when the freight entered the rail void in the past.
Fortunately, the days of the rail void have ended.
The Significance of Rail Container Tracking
Container rail tracking combines container sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the Global Positioning System (GPS) to generate comprehensive information. This information comes together to include end-to-end visibility with the locations and ETAs of containers. Shippers also receive notifications of milestone events, exceptions, performance data, railyard notifications, car information, and cargo health alerts.
Previously, managing rail shipments without real-time visibility left shippers vulnerable to variable costs and events. A derailment might not be known for a significant amount of time, leaving shippers in the dark and disrupting customer planning. The shipper wasn't alerted if a container sat in a yard past its free days, resulting in significant demurrage expenses.
All of the progress made in countering exceptions and managing timelines in other modes with real-time visibility could be lost due to one rail exception.
With rail tracking, shippers follow their freight throughout its entire journey, always knowing ETAs and can react swiftly to exceptions. They see when the cargo is delivered to the starting rail yard and reaches the next and can appropriately schedule a pickup to avoid demurrage charges that can be higher than ports.
Most importantly, consistent tracking across modes means customers are always kept in the loop and can plan appropriately.
The benefits of visibility across other modes now extend to rail, making for seamless supply chain operations, continually leveraging data and visibility.
Enhancing Visibility and Tracking
By combining multiple technologies, rail tracking container gives shippers access to numerous data points. They have access to real-time locations due to GPS, and can measure temperature, impact, theft, movement, shocks, and weather from devices attached directly to the container.
Using the combination of GPS, IoT devices, and other sensors, real-time rail tracking is now much more than a blue dot on a screen. Shippers have access to information that can convey the health of their freight, accurate ETAs, and provide proactive issue resolution.
Optimizing Route Planning and Resource Allocation
Rail container tracking provides information now but also uses that information later in the form of data from which AI analytics may produce actionable insights. Those insights are a window into the past to predict the future, including which routes are more efficient. The data identifies trends, knowing which events correlate with route congestion so that the specific route could be avoided and another utilized.
Utilizing route optimization, transit times and operational costs see tremendous reductions. Moving a container to a less congested rail yard could mean the difference between getting picked up on day one or day three. Freight gets to the customer on time or early and for less money.
Minimizing Delays and Disruptions
A rail delay could impact the following leg of the journey and leave a container sitting while things are rescheduled if the postponement is unforeseen. When early detection is possible, so is proactive rescheduling to ensure the next leg of the journey happens shortly upon the freight reaching the rail yard.
Automated push alerts and notifications let shippers and other supply chain stakeholders know the status of their cargo. With notification of milestones and events, delays can be offset with timely container movement for the subsequent parts of the journey and keep delivery on track.
Suppose a container is running late over rail, and the ETA changes. In that case, the trucking company can be immediately notified and on-site when it arrives to meet subsequent time frames that might have included a waiting period to begin with.
3 Steps Toward An Effective Rail Container Tracking Strategy
With technological advances, shippers rapidly adopt rail tracking solutions for a seamless intermodal strategy. Adoption, integration, and analytics are the three words best describing an effective strategy.
Adopt Advanced Rail Container Tracking Technology
The start of the strategy has shippers implementing advanced tracking technology that utilizes GPS, IoT devices, and sensors to monitor their container movements in real time. Containers equipped with these technologies ensure shippers gain access to accurate location data throughout the entire rail journey. With this visibility enabled, shippers track their cargo across modes, anticipate delays, and make informed decisions to ensure seamless operations.
Integrate Data Streams
Seamless operations depend on integrating data streams from various sources. Shippers need to aim to integrate rail container tracking data with existing systems to eliminate data silos and realize maximum functionality.
More accurate forecasting becomes possible when tracking data is fully integrated with other relevant data points, such as schedules and inventory levels. The optimization of routes and allocation of resources happen with optimal efficiency.
Utilize Predictive Analytics
Moving from being in the dark to the ability to be proactive is a game changer for shippers. Shippers gain new insights into potential challenges by leveraging predictive analytics to understand historical tracking data, disruptions, and weather patterns. These insights enable contingency planning, shipment rerouting when needed, and strategic resource allocation.
With a predictive analytics approach, disruptions and downtime are minimized. Operations remain seamless in the face of unforeseen events.
Seamless Supply Chain Operations Require Rail Tracking
Even if all other shipper supply chain modes have visibility and data analytics, operations aren’t seamless without rail tracking. In fact, benefits gained during one leg could be erased when the container enters the rail void where visibility is non-existent. Rail tracking isn’t a luxury but a necessity for the realization of the power of the digital supply chain. Fortunately, it is now readily available.
When rail tracking is utilized, shippers continue to reduce costs, find the optimal routes, and delight their customers. They gain a competitive advantage over those that continue to lose freight in the rail void.
For Industry Leading Intermodal Visibility, Today’s Shippers Turn to Vizion API
Vizion API allows shippers to overcome the rail void and realize real-time visibility of their containers riding on rail cars. Shippers gain access to event notifications, last-free-day alerts, ETAs, and push notifications that can be shared with other stakeholders.
Vizion API easily integrates with existing systems for rapid deployment. There is no cost or wait that would be associated with internal development. An easy-to-use interface ensures employees utilize the system to its full capabilities from day one and it continues to scale with the organization.
Book a demo with Vizion API today to see what seamless looks like.