In today's global supply chains rife with numerous challenges, few capabilities are more vital to modern organizations than the ability to track ’n' trace container shipments. Being able to track and trace your shipping container in real time is something that can solve a lot of challenges. For example, it can help you:
- Ensure that the right amount of inventory is always in stock.
- Reduce demurrage and detention fees.
- Better anticipate and respond to supply chain disruptions.
Despite all of its benefits, the ability to track trace sea cargo remains out of reach for many businesses. To help you take full advantage of all that real-time container tracking has to offer, we'll take a look at everything you need to know about container trace, including the current challenges of container track and trace and the step you can take to dramatically improve your own container track and trace process.
Why is Track and Trace Important?
Everyone likes to know when their order is going to arrive. Tracking those shipments in real time is especially important for organizations buying and selling large amounts of commodities. For one, the ability to track and trace container numbers enables companies to manage their logistics in a way that will minimize demurrage and detention fees. When these fees are on the rise due to port congestion, this can be incredibly impactful to a company's bottom line.
The second reason why track-and-trace is essential is that it allows companies to better manage their inventory. When you don't know when products will be arriving at your warehouses, maintaining healthy inventory levels becomes a challenge.
Finally, real-time container tracking empowers supply chain managers to anticipate shipping events before they can turn into costly problems. By making it easier for companies to anticipate and respond to delays and other disruptive events, the complete supply chain visibility provided by real-time container tracking can go a long way toward minimizing the likelihood of extended supply chain disruption.
What Are the Challenges and Problems Related to Container Track and Trace?
The benefits of effective track and trace container tracking are undeniable, yet the ability to track containers in real time remains out of reach for so many organizations. There are a number of substantial challenges that must be overcome to enjoy the benefits of real-time container tracking:
- Challenges Collecting and Managing Data – The most significant challenge associated with real-time container tracking is simply collecting up-to-date and accurate tracking data. Manual data collection—the method most organizations continue to employ—is time-consuming and inefficient. It is also prone to yielding inaccurate and messy data that creates as many problems as it does solutions.
- The Time and Cost to Build Container Tracking Solutions – Manually collecting and managing data is not a viable long-term solution for organizations that want to enjoy the benefits of real-time container tracking. However, building a custom container tracking API is something that necessitates a substantial investment of both time and money.
- Data That is Messy and Not Standardized – Even if organizations can collect tracking data on their shipments, this data is often too messy and unorganized to offer any real value. In addition to information that is difficult to analyze for actionable insights, another critical challenge associated with data quality is that data that is not standardized between partners makes communicating with those partners a struggle.
- Lack of Synergy Between Automated and Manual Operations – No matter how much an organization manages to automate its supply chain, there will still be a range of manual operations that it relies upon. A lack of synergy between an organization's automated systems and manual operations can complicate the process of sharing data back and forth between the two.
These challenges make something as simple as knowing where your ocean freight is and when it will arrive a real burden. The good news, though, is that all of these challenges can be mitigated and overcome with the right technology and approach to container track and trace.
The Steps to Improve Track and Trace
If you would like to optimize the benefits of real-time container tracking while mitigating the challenges that make tracking containers such an expense and hassle, here are the proven steps that you should follow:
Step #1: Leverage No Code/ Low Code APIs
Container tracking APIs can connect the various systems and operations that make up your supply chain and automate the data collection process, yielding higher-quality, more reliable data while eliminating the need for manual data collection. However, we've already mentioned how building a custom container tracking API is a project that requires a substantial amount of time and capital. A far more feasible solution for most companies is to use no-code/ low code container tracking APIs such as VIZION API. With VIZION's no code/ low code container-tracking API, organizations can receive accurate and organized real-time container tracking data pushed via API to any software system or spreadsheet without working with a software development firm.
Step #2: Integrate With a TMS, WMS, or System of Record
Once you have procured a reliable container tracking API, the next step is to integrate this API with whatever transportation management solution, warehouse management solutions, or system of record that your organization already relies on. Fueling these solutions with accurate container tracking data will go a long way toward providing a more transparent and efficient supply chain.
Step #3: Collaborate With Suppliers
Creating a transparent supply chain requires efficient collaboration between partners. This starts by working together to combine tracking tools to form mutually beneficial setups and ocean tracking systems.
Step #4: Customize Your Container Tracking API
If you decide to purchase a container tracking API rather than build one yourself, it is essential to choose an API that offers plenty of room for customization. VIZION API, for example, allows you too customize both the data you receive and how you receive it. VIZION API can also integrate with a wide range of other systems and solutions for even more specialized uses and customizable features. Choosing a customizable container tracking API such as VIZION will allow you to create the customized features and services required to meet network needs and consumer demands.
Step #5: Create Alert Systems to Identify Exceptions
One of the most significant benefits of real-time container tracking is that it enables organizations to respond to shipping exceptions much faster. If you don't have a system in place to alert you when these exceptions occur, you could miss out on the biggest advantage of container track and trace. Fortunately, automated and customizable exception alerts are yet another feature that sets VIZION API apart from the competition.
Step #6: Streamline Shipping Processes With Accurate Documentation
Another key benefit of effective container track and trace capabilities is that it enables you to ensure that the various documents required to get your cargo from point A to point B are populated with accurate and up-to-date data. Utilizing documentation and data based on real-time reports, monitoring, tracking, and communication across your supply chain can help you avoid disruptions due to inaccurate documentation and streamline your shipping processes.
Step #7: Improve the Quality of Your Customer Service
There is a final key benefit of real-time container tracking you will certainly want to take advantage of once you have addressed all of the above steps. Real-time container tracking enables you to offer much better support to your customers. In addition to tracking your own shipments, a container tracking API can also enable you to provide your customers with real-time updates about their orders. By enabling you to proactively contact customers regarding shipment delays, the ability to track and trace containers can vastly improve the quality of your company's customer service when utilized correctly.
Various Methods Currently Utilized for Track and Trace
There are several ways that organizations can go about container tracking track trace, and each one comes with its own unique set of advantages and drawbacks. To help you decide which track and trace method is ideal for your organization, we've put together a table detailing the pros and cons of each track and trace method.
Why Quality Data is Important
The ability to track trace container shipments is ultimately only as valuable as its data quality. Even assuming that the container tracking data you collect is accurate and up-to-date, though—which is certainly no guarantee if you are still relying on a manual data collection process—your data need to be clean, organized, and standardized.
If the container tracking data you collect is messy and unorganized, analyzing it for actionable insights will be a challenge. Of course, tracking data that cannot be efficiently analyzed for insights is not going to offer your organization much value.
In addition to being organized and easy to analyze, your tracking data must be standardized between partners. Creating an optimized supply chain requires a lot of ongoing collaboration and communication between various partners. If the data your company is using is not formatted in the same way as the data that your partners are using, though, efficient communication and collaboration become much more difficult.
For all of these reasons, the quality of the container tracking data that you collect is ultimately every bit as important as the ability to collect this data in the first place.
What Are the Benefits Gained When Track and Trace is Improved?
The ability to track your shipments in real-time with data that is accurate, organized, and standardized provides a variety of noteworthy benefits, including benefits such as:
- Improved ETA Predictions – ETA predictions provided by carriers are notoriously unreliable. However, real-time container tracking can tell where your cargo is, why it was delayed, and when it will arrive with a much higher degree of accuracy.
- Improved Drayage Planning – With demurrage and detention fees on the rise, effective drayage planning is now more important than ever—and one vital key to effective drayage planning is the ability to track and trace containers in real-time.
- Faster Response Times to Shipment Exceptions – With an efficient track and trace system that includes exception alerts, you can react and respond to shipment exceptions as they happen rather than being forced to wait until the damage is already done.
- Better Customer Service – In addition to improving the visibility of your own supply chain, improving your track and trace capabilities will also allow you to provide your customers with more accurate and timely updates regarding the location and status of the orders they place through your company.
Improving your track and trace process can offer massive benefits, but it's also something that requires the right technology and approach. If you would like to create a custom container tracking API without having to spend years of time and large sums of money working with a software development firm, we at VIZION can help! With VIZION API, you can quickly and easily create a custom container tracking API in a low code/ no-code environment. This technology enables you to automatically receive accurate, organized, and standardized real-time container tracking data to any software system or spreadsheet. To see for yourself how VIZION API puts the power of real-time container tracking at your fingertips, be sure to schedule a VIZION API demo today!