The time for true supply chain visibility data sharing is now

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A lot has changed following the pandemic-induced disruption of 2020. In the supply chain, one factor in particular has become more critical than ever. As international supply chains have continued to become more intricate and complex in the digital-first era, gaining access to real-time visibility (RTV) data is now a vital requirement for any company that wants to drive long-term growth.

According to our survey of more than 100 logistics professionals from around the world, poor visibility into operations (57%) and a lack of actionable data/intelligence (47%) were the two biggest supply chain challenges of 2020. It’s therefore no surprise that optimizing warehouse operations/streamlining processes ranked as the top priority for 2021.

This is where RTV data comes into play, providing a whole host of benefits to shippers, carriers and logistics service providers. Knowing exactly where shipments are and their expected ETAs in real-time empowers businesses to drive efficiencies, optimize processes and meet sustainability targets. This insight delivers valuable business intelligence, which is why making sense of data is now at the core of supply chain success.

Looking forward, logistics professionals clearly recognize the need for RTV data – 61% are either already implementing or planning to implement real-time visibility into their operations. However, ensuring access to the right data has traditionally been a challenge that has held businesses back.

Roadblocks ahead

Gaining access to accurate shipment ETAs is now a market standard in transport logistics. It’s something that most shippers and carriers are able to provide automatically through visibility service providers, benefitting them and the wider supply chains in which they operate.

Despite this, accessibility is still a major issue across the industry. A lack of standardization has only served to slow down or in some cases completely block the flow of information between competing visibility service providers that should be able to exchange information while being in direct competition.

The theory is similar to that adopted by mobile network operators. They have to work together to allow calls and messaging across competing networks in order to ensure a positive user experience and grow their customer bases. Otherwise, the system simply wouldn’t work.

This level of openness is something that has been lacking in the supply chain industry for too long. Getting data to flow horizontally between competing parties has traditionally been a challenge, but we believe RTV data should be able to be freely exchanged between visibility service providers. Carriers should have control of their visibility data so that they can connect to shippers, accelerate digital transformation and remain competitive in the industry – yet it has historically been out of reach for many of them.

And it’s not just the carriers that will benefit. Free and open data sharing would maximize the value of that data for all supply chain participants, introducing a new era of accessibility and transparency across the logistics sector.

Unleash the power of data sharing

So, how can we drive this new era forward? The key is to introduce new standards in free and open data sharing that empower carriers and logistics service providers to take back control of their RTV data.

We have to remove the obstacles that have long held businesses back. For example, the introduction of data sharing APIs would enable businesses to easily share their visibility data with shippers or goods recipients no matter which transport management system is being used.

API keys can be used to deliver privacy and security by separating access for each customer, thereby ensuring that only authorized stakeholders can access the data. This can be supplemented by geofencing algorithms to ensure that customers only have access to data related to their ongoing shipments. This would put the power back in carriers’ hands, enabling them to easily and securely grant their shippers access to real-time transport location information and ETA updates.

Ultimately, supply chain operations have been put to the test like never before over the last 12 months. Businesses had no choice but to transform their operations in order to manage the disruption and uncertainty, while the wider industry was forced to rapidly adapt

As such, the time is right for an open network structure that truly empowers carriers to share shipment data with whoever they want, whenever they want – without any interference from their visibility provider. No barriers, roadblocks or obstacles. Just a new level of accessibility that allows real-time data insights to be integrated as part of a more seamless and efficient supply chain. The time to unleash the true power of RTV data sharing is now.