The Dawn of Visibility and Transparency into International Logistics

The Dawn of Visibility and Transparency into International Logistics

The freight logistics industry is a lynch-pin of the U.S. economic bandwagon, being worth over $700 billion every year, and acting as one of the primary factors that decide economic growth in the country. But under the facade lies an industry that has largely remained conservative, immune to technology and lacking in transparency - a trait that has come to define the industry for many decades now.

For instance, take the freight industry which accounts for 70% of all freight movement in the country. 80% of all fleet companies own less than five trucks, making the industry highly fragmented and extremely difficult to induce transparency and visibility. Before the ELD mandate, most of the small fleets and owner-operators maintained paper logs, which made auditing a logistical nightmare.

Understanding demand was also a problem, with truckers generally calling up brokers and freight forwarders to get loads, making the process incredibly slow and inefficient. Digital freight marketplaces are now mushrooming around, promising to bring in more visibility on supply and demand - a much-needed tool in the logistics ecosystem.

Injecting transparency and visibility in the supply chain is vital to improving efficiency and improving the bottom line for businesses. To an extent, the advent of e-commerce into the mainstream rhetoric has been a wake-up call to the industry - propping up supply chains into the limelight while creating a space where consumerism and the logistics industry face-off.

The concern behind visibility in logistics casts a larger shadow than anticipated. A survey by Localz on last-mile logistics and its importance in the supply chain threw up an interesting statistic - that people chose visibility in their supply chain over same-day delivery. 56% of customers insisted on full visibility against 43% of the surveyed people opting for same-day delivery. The trend is revealing - in an age where information is available real-time through different mediums on the internet, it is inevitable that consumers feel this strongly about visibility in supply chains.

Product and equipment tracking in the logistics world are essential to plug the holes in supply chains, especially in the freight hauling space. Long hauling involves specific uncertainties along the way, and it helps the cause of the shipper and the receiver to have a real-time lead on the freight’s location, saving the company a lot of trouble.

Freight tracking platforms build services around this, providing visibility to every stakeholder in the hauling ecosystem - drivers, freight forwarders, shippers, 3PLs, and carriers - making it process fluid and easy to monitor.

Visibility and transparency go much beyond the smaller players in the freight industry and is now seen as a concern by the logistics giants, particularly in the shipping space. Companies have realized the need for data openness and standardization and are advocating different processes through which this could be achieved - with blockchain being the current favorite.

Maersk and IBM have embarked on a pilot project towards creating a joint venture to provide a more efficient and secure method for global trade using blockchain. This involves creating a platform that is built over open standards, which can be taken up by every player in the shipping ecosystem. Maritime trade has long been a chaotic space, and Maersk believes that this could bring in the desired transparency to move freight across borders with lessened friction.

On the other end of the globe, Samsung SDS has a similar venture out, where it is consolidating its position in the South China Sea as a force to be reckoned with - working with key maritime players in the region to induce transparency in the shipping industry.

Looking at an example of specific supply chains, visibility in the food industry is growing in importance. The American consumerism has driven up demand for internationally sourced food products, which has now led to a lot of counterfeit and mislabeled products making its way into the supply chain. Having a tab on food produce from the farm to the fork would save the industry a lot of trouble - not just with maintaining the quality of produce, but also with regard to contamination.

The idea is to provide 360-degree visibility across the supply chain, right from booking and sourcing to the point of freight collection. It is here that a platform like SWIVEL 360 would be resourceful, as it provides real-time connectivity to the freight to every party involved in the process. The portal allows shippers to scour for airline and sailing schedules, negotiate with factories abroad, and book freight by choosing carriers. And to top it off, it has integrated WeChat and SMS messaging in its portal, making communication easier.

As SWIVEL 360 continues to provide visibility and transparency into the marketplace more technology companies will continue to move in this direction.

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