Blog

Seeing Clearly: The Value of Visibility

  • January 09, 2020
  • Michael Burdiek
  • Reading Time: 2 minutes
01.08Blog

Originally published on Inbound Logistics

Few parts of the enterprise have transformed more radically over the years than supply chain as companies struggle to navigate global sourcing, just-in-time delivery models, and unprecedented customer expectations for product availability and delivery speed.

Ironically, while companies are leveraging extended supply chain networks and heavy outsourcing to meet these challenges, these solutions create a significant new problem: lost visibility. Lost visibility into your supply chain means lost value. The good news is that the right telematics and related technologies can help maintain powerful visibility and control over even the most complex global supply chain networks

Among the many impacts of the Amazon effect is heightened demand for consumer visibility into availability and shipping logistics, from the first mile to the last. Not surprisingly, businesses see value in getting the right supply chain visibility to meet those customer expectations and ensure efficiencies in their own operations.

The hurdles come in trying to actually implement in some tough supply chain use cases such as highly volatile, highly valuable pharmaceutical cargo that’s also environmentally sensitive.

Smart sensors and granular data mean we can provide real-time operational intelligence to not only reduce the risk of cargo theft and spoilage, but also document compliance with regulations and drive operational efficiencies that benefit everyone, from manufacturers and shippers to the end consumers.

Connecting Systems

For many, additional possibilities come to life when you realize that, rather than scrap all your existing, limited capabilities in favor of some brand new system, you can create new visibility by integrating and strategically augmenting many capabilities you already have.

For instance, nearly every tractor-trailer on the highway today is equipped with a telematics device to track location and driver behavior, a separate system to monitor container location, a third system for cargo temperature, and a security system to protect the cargo from theft or tampering. That’s a lot of duplication of systems and services for what remains silos of uncoordinated insight.

What if we instead choose to fold in point solutions and targeted capabilities together with larger “system of systems” integrations that create more sophisticated outcomes—like the difference between assisted braking and full autonomous drive?

That analogy is not random. Tesla took years of laying sensors, telematics, actuators, and other infrastructure into its vehicles—the cars were preemptively designed to operate and engage these sophisticated systems that wouldn’t be enabled for more than a year into the future.

That point in the future came when Tesla finally downloaded its first AutoPilot program to users who—literally overnight—were able to suddenly enable new capabilities from latent technology.

Now that we realize we’re not starting from scratch, how do we make this transition while keeping our business running? First, focus on the most flexible and scalable infrastructure or technology platform, and then capture the right data input and service capabilities for the business or use case as needed.

Think back to our tractor trailer example: We’re faced with having to pick the best system—perhaps see whose contract is up for renewal, or whose existing infrastructure is most interoperable—and weigh everything as a business decision with the best ROI. Then introduce the right applications, micro-services, and management systems that allow you to streamline all the data and touch points throughout your supply chain.

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