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April 30 2018

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38 The Journal of Commerce | April 30 2018 Improving Supply Chain Visibility Special Report VISIBILITY, OR THE lack of it, is by far the most visible supply chain problem today. Gaining real-time visibility over freight as it moves toward its final mile is clearly emerging as the critical goal for shippers, brokers, and carriers alike, as witnessed this year at logistics conferences everywhere. But the goals driving the pursuit of visibility are changing. Supply chains are becoming more complex, capacity is scarce, transport rates are high, and increasingly stringent time constraints on freight delivery are clashing with delays caused by congestion and longer transit times. Tracking shipments in real-time used to be the end goal. Now that's the kick-off in a bigger game being played for higher stakes. "We're not just interested in seeing a truck on a map anymore," said David Venberg, senior director of transportation at flour shipper Ardent Mills. "We're actually using that (location and tracking) data to determine what are the next steps that need to happen, so we can drive inefficiencies out of the supply chain," he said. "There's a lot of waste in logistics area. We need to use visibility to do a better job of managing capacity." Shippers want tools that not only tell them where capacity is now, but where they may find it tomorrow. They want to be able to look at a specific shipment's location and ex- trapolate not just when it will arrive at its destination but when a replenish- ment shipment must be ready. And visibility needs to be broad, encompassing ocean, air, dray, termi- nal dwell time, intermodal rail, and, of course, the estimated time of arrival for a truck at a distribution center. The problem is many shippers have gaps in visibility, and finding soft- ware or technology that will fill them is not easy. "There have been a lot of technological advances, but supply chains are more complex," said Laura Venchuk, corporate logistics manager at Kuriyama of America. Her company, a Schaumburg, Illi- nois-based manufacturer of industrial hoses, has been looking for a universal system to track goods from mode to mode, "and I question whether it can really be developed," she said. "In the meantime, you have to make do. You're stuck piecemealing." Without visibility, "you can't get a complete picture of the situation," Venchuk said. "That restricts your ability to react to market situations." The current high-rate market "is not a short-term situation," she said. "We're in a whole different world. We need visibility to be able to react." Real-time visibility may be a goal in itself, but it is also necessary if shippers and logistics providers want to manage not just assets and people but time in the supply chain in order to create capacity. They can do that by correcting imbalances that per- meate supply chains today. Saving time at almost any level of logistics helps generate real capac- ity, whether by improving shipment schedules, giving carriers more time to plan dispatch, or speeding drivers to their next load. None of that is Increasing the data on shipment and capacity locations touted as means to reduce supply chain inefficiencies Raising the stakes for visibility By William B. Cassidy

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