Container Tracking via API vs. Building In-House: 5 Areas to Consider

Container Tracking via API vs. Building In-House: 5 Areas to Consider

For any logistics tech provider looking to create their own visibility application, a lot goes into the initial design decisions that influence the rest of the project. APIs are essential to any visibility app, and the recommendation is to take an API-first approach. Developers must consider who will use the API and how, what functionality it must have, and other requirements like usability and scalability. With so many variables to consider, tech providers may wonder if they should build an API in-house or buy an off-the-shelf solution. We’ll look at the reasons to choose one over the other, plus the benefits of container tracking and visibility via an API.

Why is API-Driven Ocean Container Tracking & Visibility Advantageous for Developers?

APIs are the mechanism that facilitates interactions and transfers of visibility data. Users get reliable access to the data they need and flexibility and scalability for use in different applications. The API brings a unified experience no matter the platform it is integrated with. Given the API—either built by in-house developers or purchased from a provider—it is a straightforward process to integrate with any application. This integration reduces the amount of coding required for developers building an app. APIs can inject visibility into an ERP, TMS, WMS, and supply chain platforms for internal operations or customers as self-service applications. With a no-code option, an API can push container visibility data to a spreadsheet. APIs provide easy-to-access, complete visibility for users to know where their ocean freight’ is located, when it will arrive, and the reason for any delays.

Benefits of API-Driven Visibility

Connecting via API to container tracking and visibility gives the following benefits to support supply chain operations.

  1. Eliminate gaps in visibility with end-to-end tracking of shipments
  2. Reduction of errors compared to manual data collection and sharing processes
  3. Cost savings compared to time-intensive, manual investigation of issues
  4. Reliability for accurate and detailed status updates and alerts
  5. Standardized milestone events across all sources of data
  6. Risk mitigation when dealing with delays or other isues
  7. Agile decision-making informed by real-time data
  8. Performance analytics using detailed visibility data
  9. Support for customers seeking shipment visibility

What is an API-First Approach?

Developers of a new application have two initial options—to focus on the application or the API as the primary framework for coding. An API-first approach makes the design of the API the main priority, as it drives functionality inside the app. Once built, integration with any app or platform is a simple process due to the adaptability of the API structure. Using an API-first approach, developers next need to decide whether to build it in-house or go with an off-the-shelf solution.

Container Tracking via API vs. Building In-House

Here are five things to consider between designing an API from scratch or using one from a visibility provider.

1. Control

Building an API in-house gives developers complete control over the design decisions. Some companies may prefer this, and others would like the visibility provider to take on the weight of that responsibility, given the planning and execution that it requires.

2. Monetary Cost

Like the control that comes with building an API, this also comes with higher monetary costs to cover the developers’ time plus any third-party costs necessary for the functionality. An off-the-shelf API has a much lower cost—the initial fee and subscription fee—because the provider builds the API once and sells it to many customers.

3. Opportunity Cost

When taking the in-house route, an opportunity cost arises from diverting resources away from higher-profit projects. Companies should be aware of how much time it takes decision-makers to oversee the project. The off-the-shelf option is similar to outsourcing these tasks, so the opportunity cost is not a factor.

4. Maintenance

The company that develops the API is also the one to maintain it. This includes handling launch, bug fixes, user setup and training, new functionality, and updates. In-house, this is a long-term commitment, which an off-the-shelf solution provides, included with the subscription.

5. Time to Value

Designing an API from the ground up can easily take months to a year for just the first iteration, and the time to value may be significantly longer if there is complex functionality needed. Purchasing off-the-shelf has a much shorter time frame for companies looking to get up and running quickly.

Get the Benefits of a Visibility API Built for You

Between an in-house project and a purchased API, most organizations find it beneficial to buy their API from a visibility provider like VIZION. They can start seeing the advantages of supply chain visibility faster, with less monetary and time investment. VIZION’s container tracking API gives logistics tech providers, along with shippers, BCOs, and freight forwarders, real-time insight into the location and status of any shipment. To learn more about how to get end-to-end visibility integrated with your application, contact us today to schedule a demo.

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