When it comes to shipping ocean freight, two of the more common questions posed to customer service staff are, “where is my container?” and “when will it arrive?” The ability to answer these pressing inquiries in the moment, without hesitation, goes a long way toward bringing confidence and peace of mind to stakeholders throughout the global supply chain.
However, that kind of great customer service does not just magically happen. It takes the right combination of highly skilled people, robust technologies, and top-quality data that can be shared in real time. This is where software-based application programming interfaces (APIs) are filling a great need in global supply chains by making it possible for two or more applications to communicate and share real-time data seamlessly.
To fully grasp the important role of APIs in the modern business landscape -- and in particular, within today’s supply chains -- one must also understand the challenges and barriers to achieving real-time ocean container tracking. Then it becomes clear how APIs are bringing confidence to stakeholders who ask, “where is my container?” and “when will it get here?”
The Role of APIs in Modern Business & Supply Chains
APIs are at the heart of the digital transformation movement sweeping the modern-day business landscape, but the benefits of this emerging technology are especially impactful in global supply chains. Establishing API connections with the help of a focused technology partner is like having a dedicated wingman sitting in the container with the cargo, at the ready to supply the data and real-time updates needed to answer questions like “where is my container”?
In the earliest days of digital transformation, companies went far and wide with their efforts to integrate software and automation into the supply chain. Only recently have industry leaders such as VIZION dug deeper to better define the underlying datascape and infrastructure. In reality, an API is only as good as the data it is transmitting. Data is the bedrock of digital transformation. By understanding the context of both the data quality and what is happening to the containerized shipment itself while in transit, it is easier to calculate more accurate ETAs.
That’s possible because APIs can leverage real-time validations, which is something electronic data interchanges ( EDI) cannot do. Though EDI has been the primary mechanism for sharing information between supply chain systems for the past 50 years, it does so by sending a series of self-contained updates. This is much slower due to the strain on servers and such. APIs,. on the other hand, offer much greater flexibility, have easy-to-use interfaces, and transmit data and updates much faster.
APIs also save companies time and money. Traditionally, companies had teams of customer service representatives that would field questions such as “where is my container?” Their investigations would require going to each shipping line’s website and other sources, a process that could take hours. And that is just for one container. Now, web-based APIs make it possible to condense that search to mere minutes, whether it’s for one or multiple containers. This also frees up customer service personnel to focus on other tasks designed to grow the company.
Challenges Threatening Confidence in Tracking
Perhaps Scott Friesen, Senior VP of Strategic Analytics at Echo Global Logistics, said it best when he told Supply Chain Dive: "It shouldn't be a surprise that intermodal shippers want more visibility. They can order a pizza and see it every step of the way, but they can't find out where their $30,000 container is located."
Without real-time visibility and data, key stakeholders are in the dark and left to wonder, “where is my container?” Visibility and technology work in tandem to overcome some of the challenges that are threatening confidence in container tracking, such as:
- Are we collecting the right data at the right time?
- Is the quality of the data high and latency low?
- Are manual procedures slowing the process and/or introducing the potential for human error?
- Can I get the information faster? EDI is too slow.
How Real-Time APIs Have Stakeholders’ Confidence on the Rise
APIs take the human element out of the equation and help ensure the highest levels of data integrity, reliability, accuracy, and validation. This, in turn, makes stakeholders:
- Confident they can track the exact location of their containers.
- Confident they can provide real-time customer service.
- Confident they can better manage multiple containers at scale.
- Confident of the level of proactiveness throughout the supply chain.
- Confident of their ability to build long-term relationships with shippers, freight forwarders and carriers.
Gain Confidence with VIZION’s Container Tracking API
The questions could be as simple as, “where is my container?” and “when will it arrive?” VIZION's world-class APIs help deliver those answers and peace of mind by empowering fast, efficient, and data-driven digital supply chains with a layer of connectivity and global visibility. This creates a seamless way to view data from a central location and helps all stakeholders make informed business decisions with confidence. Contact VIZION today to learn more about how APIs can help provide confidence and peace of mind to professionals from all levels of the supply chain.
To learn more, schedule a demo today.