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4 Ways Supply Chain Visibility Can Mitigate the Shipping Crisis

  • September 24, 2021
  • Sopa Soun
  • Reading Time: 3 minutes
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Rendering of tractor-trailer, container ship and plane to suggest global shipping No matter how goods are shipped, telematics devices and visibility services can automate cargo tracking and help companies make best use of containers, trailers and workers. (Credit: phaisarn2517/iStock)

The pandemic-related shipping crisis is shaping up to affect another holiday shopping season. While companies can’t do much about closed container ports, air terminal delays or container shortages, investing in inexpensive supply chain tracking technology can help them protect the integrity of shipments and make the most of available containers, trailers and workers.

Telematics devices for warehouse automation

Today, even many large companies are still manually tracking the flow of goods entering, exiting and moving within warehouses and fulfillment centers. But a shortage of trained warehouse workers, coupled with the need for social distancing, makes automating this work increasingly important.

Automation is easily achieved by affixing Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) tags to cartons, packages and pallets and adding tag readers in the form of telematics gateways to strategic locations such as entry and exit doors. The latest gateway devices designed for dense environments have the capacity to read hundreds of tags.

BLE tags and gateways provide a better means of tracking inventory compared with manual tracking or RFID, reducing human error, shrinking labor costs and billing expenses and ensuring an efficient flow of product to and from facilities.

In addition to saving warehouse workers time, this technology can play a role in mitigating the truck driver shortage. Having effective warehouse/distribution logistics in place to track the movement of assets can speed up wait time and load time for drivers.

Once the goods are on the truck, those same BLE tags, paired with a wired or wireless gateway installed in the vehicle or trailer, can track the goods as they travel to a local warehouse or fulfillment center for storage prior to last-mile delivery.

With CalAmp supply chain devices, data captured and processed by gateways is sent to the CalAmp Telematics Cloud as well as the SC iOn® Command Portal. This online dashboard, accessible from anywhere, supports API integrations that make it easy to bring data into transportation management systems and enterprise resource planning software. Customers can also choose to work with CalAmp’s SaaS-based Command Center, where experienced industry service agents provide live, event-based monitoring of shipments 24/7/365 .  

Tracking cargo on extended journeys

Bottlenecks at ports mean cargo traveling by sea may spend an extended amount of time in a container. The right cargo monitoring devices allow owners and shippers to keep eyes on sensitive goods being transported despite delays. Shipment rejections and costly lawsuits from shipping accidents can be avoided by getting real-time alerts from a supply chain visibility solution when a product is stationary, has tilted or left the port.

CalAmp telematics devices can be counted on to intelligently know when to conserve battery life while continuing to monitor the cargo, including environmental conditions such as temperature, light, shock and tilt.

With delays happening at air terminals, too, air cargo tracking is also more important than ever when sensitive shipments are involved. Devices such as CalAmp’s battery operated, single-use SC1302 can monitor and continuously log a package’s temperature conditions while in the air. These devices can also provide status updates and real-time alert notifications before takeoff and after landing when a cellular connection is available.

Log reports facilitate compliance and validation, and a verified chain of custody and command reduces risk for shippers and carriers.

Gaining visibility into container cargo and utilization

Given the critical container shortage and the sharp rise in the cost of container storage, companies need to ensure that containers are being leveraged to their full capacity.

Supply chain tracking technology can automate the tracking of goods moving into and out of containers, all the way from dockyard to destination. Certain BLE-enabled gateways can be affixed to container doors to read the tags on these goods and transmit the information to the cloud. Historical data on the flow of cargo helps drive reporting on the utilization of those containers.

Light-sensing telematics devices inside the package or the container can double as a warning system in the event of unauthorized opening or closing of the container door and can also provide audit logs for the detection of tampering and theft.

Tracking truck and trailers

When goods finally make it onto a truck or trailer, basic GPS tracking can track the location of the vehicle along its route. But smart trailer technology goes further.

Ultrasonic camera imaging can detect the distribution of cargo inside the trailer, letting fleet managers know when a trailer is or isn’t full and how much cargo space is left. When trailers are filled to capacity, companies can use fewer trucks and fewer drivers. Ultrasonic camera imaging also improves safety and potentially reduces accidents by letting managers and drivers know where cargo is placed within the trailer. A door open/close sensor helps prevent theft and alerts the driver to accidental door openings. Tire temperature and pressure sensors can send alerts and help prevent blowouts.

Cost-effective telematics devices that enable connected supply chains won’t solve the shipping crisis. But a real-time, transparent view of shipments, together with shipment data logs that document control of the cargo, helps companies reduce waste, optimize the shipping processes and reduce the risk of loss.

CalAmp Supply Chain Visibility Solutions and services enable information sharing and analysis, intelligence, chain of custody and control, covert tracking, monitoring and recovery across multiple modes of transportation. Click here to learn more.