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Transportation and Logistics

Want to optimize your supply chain? First you need to see it

Bringing true efficiency into supply chain processes can be opaque. Logistics planners can be given the visibility needed to save millions of dollars - by using location data.

When trying to explain the complexity of supply chain logistics, someone once told me it's like a round of golf. You start with little more than a map of the terrain and the horizon in front of you. Then, using as few strokes as possible, you try and sink the ball in each hole - 18 times in a row.

I like that metaphor, but I argue that it doesn't go far enough. In the real world, a round of outbound supply chain logistics is akin to choreographing 18 golfers to play 18 different holes simultaneously while ensuring each player begins and ends their game at the exact same time (which was established two years ago).

For logistics planners, this dizzying game of golf is no exaggeration. To keep the global marketplace running, they must set out hyper-efficient schedules for pickup, transit, and delivery of a myriad number of parts within their supply chains.

Unfortunately, once shipments depart their facilities and are in motion, those meticulous planners are left in the dark - and their shipment's arrival time can cause all manner of issues.

Early shipments create traffic at intake facilities and incur storage costs while the receiver catches up. If they show up late, the knock-on effect is even worse. And sometimes the cargo doesn't arrive at all, resulting in massive losses and effort needed to close the gap.

Without full visibility on supply chain issues as they arise, logistics planners can be unsighted and unable to bring innovation and solutions in our fast-paced commercial environment.

True visibility is the x-factor in optimizing supply chain management

To provide an obvious example, sending a shipment of goods from one side of Chicago to the other might be quicker at 1pm, when the traffic is relatively light, versus the 5:30pm rush hour. Being able to accurately predict transit times for both cases makes planning more efficient and has the potential to labor and money.

Referring back to our golf game, it's far more complex than that. Traffic is only one factor to look at from the historical perspective. With a complete view of statistics compiled from years of data, a planner can agilely predict delays that may occur based on traffic cycles, weather averages, and variables like the third Thursday of November.

But cargo vehicles can arrive late for a multitude of reasons and planners shouldn't have to wait until a delivery is overdue to find out. Real-time tracking saves on costs by enabling trucks to re-route themselves around bottlenecks. Or, in the case where a delay is unavoidable, planners can notify their customers about the shift in ETA far earlier, allowing waypoints to modify their schedules.

Lastly, logistics planners need predictive visibility. With alerts that account for factors like severe weather, shortages of capacity, and road maintenance, a planner can correct and account for setbacks long before their shipments enter the realm of becoming an issue.

These elements of visibility are core to a suite of robust location data services we've created to aid logistics planners across multiple industries - once integrated, they can help companies optimize their supply chain, dramatically cut costs and hit consistent hole-in-ones in the global marketplace.

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