The shipment visibility, scalability, and adaptability required today are as unprecedented as the massive disruptions that have plagued supply chains since the pandemic began nearly three years ago. These disruptions to logistics visibility and supply chain services at the most simplistic level have done everything from increasing shipping prices to contributing to shortages of goods. Congestion at ports and delays among most of the world’s ocean fleet of nearly 6,000 ships has made real-time freight tracking and monitoring more critical than ever.
One of the leading issues brought to light by the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns and supply chain disruption is how out of balance the industry is. According to a 2021 report from Logistics Management, “more than 75% of U.S.-based industries, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did 20 years ago, adding that a lack of competition has increased consumer prices and also driven down wages for workers.”
Getting ahead and keeping up with the few industry giants is an ongoing struggle that government officials and industry leaders are working to resolve. In the meantime, continued improvements with shipment visibility, real-time freight tracking, and access to innovative supply chain visibility platforms remain critical aspects of the modern supply chain.
Causes of Poor Container Shipment Visibility
A long-time persistent lack of supply chain visibility has only intensified in the wake of the COVID pandemic. While many expect issues with shipment visibility and real-time freight tracking associated with standard delivery, these obstacles become more challenging and disruptive for ocean freight shipping. Some of the most prevalent causes of poor visibility in ocean transport and the ability to track a container vessel include:
- Siloed technology systems. Ineffective technology and techniques make it extremely difficult to implement advanced real-time freight tracking and monitoring systems fully.
- Outdated processes. Old-fashioned methods and techniques impact shipment visibility and make it challenging to collaborate and scale services to meet market demands.
- Limited carrier relationships. Without a large pool of carriers and drivers to choose from, shippers often must make do with less-than-ideal carrier and load matchups.
- Poor onboarding of technology. The inability to implement track and trace services in real-time on containers and cargo transported across the oceans.
- Changing port authority processes. Shippers will struggle to manage various methods from one port to another without an adequately integrated real-time visibility platform.
Overcoming the issues of poor visibility and tracking processes requires a rethinking of the end goals for deliveries and a renewed focus on ocean freight and container shipment services. If companies do not understand the importance of transparency and supply chain visibility, they will struggle, even as recovery efforts continue.
Costs of Lackluster Visibility
Understanding how a lack of shipment visibility and poor real-time freight tracking systems can affect container shipments comes down to accessing real-time data and working actionable insights into daily processes and protocols. Supplychain247 highlighted this staggering revelation in an article from 2021: “In a recent survey of 160 senior ocean supply chain leaders, 60% cited their need for better document management, and more than 40% said they intend to upgrade their systems by investing in the further digitalization of their international processes…. with at least six different parties [touching] a single container, and cumbersome documentation workflows that can account for upwards of 70% of detention and demurrage.” Less than stellar insight and visibility today can lead to several problems for ocean freight visibility providers and logistics managers:
- Demurrage risks increase as transparency fades and processes become blurry.
- Detention in shipping also rises with poor shipment visibility and poor insights.
- Per diem fees are more likely without real-time freight tracking and monitoring.
- Overpaying or underpaying for transit because of uncaught errors in processing.
- Impact on customer experiences as a result of stockouts and no shipment visibility.
- Spoilage and damage to refer type freight from ineffective real-time freight tracking.
Implementing innovative tools and technology and keeping sea freight visibility and real-time freight tracking front and center is possible with a supply chain visibility platform designed for the modern supply chain market.
Best Practices to Boost Container Freight Shipment Visibility
Some critical steps are needed to boost container tracking, shipment insights, and visibility from end to end. These best practices make it easier to weather changing market conditions and adapt to shifting customer demands more efficiently.
1. Track Real-Time Container Status
Real-time data, delivery insights, shipment visibility, and actionable steps are essential to improving delivery services. As more shipping companies embrace automation and innovation, it will become easier to collaborate and coordinate with real-time insights. In a May 2022 article, Forbes noted that “Hapag-Lloyd is one of the largest ocean carriers. They have a fleet of over 250 container ships and a transport capacity of 1.8 million TEUs. They recently announced they would equip their entire container fleet with real-time tracking devices. The devices will improve visibility by transmitting data on a real-time basis from each container.” Implementing these tracking systems and real-time visibility platforms allows for continued growth and recovery within ocean and sea shipping.
2. Leverage APIs to Integrate All Carrier Data Streams
Collaboration and networking improve significantly when managers, shippers, customers, and 3PLs have access to the same unified data from a transportation management or order management system. When real-time freight tracking and monitoring are in place, it is easier to integrate and coordinate with existing EDI connection opportunities. Bringing together APIs, EDIs, and TMS platforms effectively improves shipment visibility and easier management of data streams across the network.
3. Use Data to Forecast Demand Container Changes
Accurate and up-to-date data helps managers avoid risks commonly associated with container freight shipping and transportation. Real-time freight tracking and on-demand access to innovative supply chain visibility platforms allow all involved parties to speed up the process of loading, unloading, and transporting cargo containers. Thanks to automated communications and digital documentation systems, the risks of incurring additional container charges are significantly reduced with less dwell or hold time involved. Data analysis and application make forecasting demand and container availability easier to plan for tracking and predictive visibility.
4. Share Updates with Downstream Supply Chain Partners
Visibility is a two-way street, and shippers need to share updates accordingly with drayage service providers, drivers, customers, and other involved parties. With the correct data and improved shipment visibility, it is easier to communicate effectively along the entire chain of command within the shipping network. Data collected and shared through real-time freight tracking and communication platforms improved supply chain management when all partners and team members had access to the same reliable data.
5. Add IoT-Enabled Devices to Your Pallets
A challenge many ocean freight shippers face is container tracking, where there may be multiple orders and different destinations contained within. Pallet-level trackers can help shippers get a deeper level of insight and real-time freight tracking data.
6. Automate Notifications to Manage by Exception
The final benefit of improved ocean container shipment visibility is the ability to implement a manage by exception approach to disruption. When shippers and carriers can react more quickly and effectively to issues, it is easier to avoid such problems as rolled cargo and missed delivery deadlines. Improved end-to-end transparency and innovative real-time freight tracking tools make it easier to manage container shipping data. This makes it easier, in turn, to notify appropriate parties of disruptions and respond to them in the most effective and timely way possible.
Maximize Container Freight Visibility With VIZION API
The need for improved supply chain management, including better shipment visibility, real-time freight tracking, and innovative shipping services, has never been greater. These are unprecedented times when even government-backed executive orders begin to address the issue and focus on promoting competitiveness and improved services to bolster the American economy. It all comes down to optimizing logistics and internal processes while also working to enhance container track systems.
Container shipping and ocean freight will continue to dominate the supply chain as imports and exports remain essential aspects of the modern supply chain. Improving container tracking, enhancing supply chain visibility, and integrating improved technology are vital to ongoing growth and recovery. Contact VIZION API today to see how integrating real-time visibility platforms and innovative tools can help shipping companies of all sizes overcome the costs of poor container freight management and visibility.