The transportation visibility market may feel like the Wild West right now. It’s clear that visibility platforms are changing. Data is easier to collect, but the industry is still discovering the most efficient ways to use it. Many platforms are making big promises about their capabilities, but prospective customers are looking for the best ways to vet them. These are the early days of a growing real-time supply chain visibility market, and identifying key providers can be difficult without direction. Luckily, direction is coming from a reliable source.
Gartner, a technology analyst firm that closely monitors supply chain and logistics industry developments, just released its first Market Guide for Real-Time Visibility Providers. This foray into evaluating a quickly evolving category covers key vendors in the real-time supply chain visibility market, trends among providers, consumer demands, and more. The guide is roughly a 30-minute read, which we highly recommend. For a sample of the value in this resource, start with our six key takeaways from the guide.
1. The Visibility Market is Growing Rapidly
Gartner’s own Wants and Needs Survey, sent to hundreds of supply chain leaders, ranked visibility as the highest priority in the supply chain. Visibility has been a strategic priority for decades, but the combination of the Amazon effect and developments in technology has moved visibility from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have. To compete with the customer experience provided by Amazon, shippers have found they need real-time shipment data. We are also seeing a much higher volume of deliveries directly to consumers, making last-mile visibility a major priority due to its impact on customer experience.
In line with this trend, the demand for project44’s Advanced Visibility Platform has grown substantially over the past few years. We saw a 164% bookings growth for visibility from November 2017 to November 2018.
2. Customers Expect More out of Their Visibility Solutions
Visibility is no longer about dots on a map. Users expect their visibility solutions to provide them with:
- real-time insights
- status updates
- exception management
- ETA calculations
- analytics and reports
- integrations into their existing systems
These demands are growing along with the technology. The more real-time data is consumed, the more businesses are finding new ways to use it. Savvy customers are incorporating traffic patterns, weather, social events (protests, police activity, etc.), and road or port conditions to optimize routes in real-time.
We’ve addressed this need by building our platform to provide users with data that goes beyond just tracking shipments to include things like analytics and reporting, integrations to TMS, WMS, OMS, and ERP, and a customer portal for ease of use.
3. Multimodal Support is Growing
To see the entire real-time supply chain visibility picture, a shipment must be tracked from start to finish. And “start” doesn’t necessarily mean when the truck leaves the DC. Most enterprises use multiple modes of shipping, and they want a single platform for all of their visibility needs. They want all their data from all modes in the same place, and all their systems integrated with that multimodal data.
This was a major demand from our customers, especially as we began building out our multimodal product portfolio. As a result, we now provide visibility for all modes (Ocean, Rail/Intermodal, Truckload, LTL and volume LTL, Parcel, and Final-Mile), consolidating them into one solution for ease of use.
4. Demand for Multiple Geography Support is Growing
Similar to demand for multimodal support, the shipment lifecycle frequently spans multiple geographies. Visibility vendors are focused on expanding their reach to new regions, which has proved difficult because each region has its own unique characteristics. Major differences in carriers, prominent technology, regulations, stringent European privacy laws, and other implications demand vendors make sizable investments. Ensuring your platform meets full GDPR compliance is crucial to doing business in Europe.
We noticed this in the early stages of researching international expansion. Ultimately, we chose to work with a company that had already established roots overseas. In early December 2018, project44 acquired GateHouse Logistics, the preferred vendor for many of the largest shippers and carriers in Europe. Their customer-first approach and commitment to high-fidelity data make them an outstanding addition to the team. We are now connected to over 550 ELD and telematics systems, making project44 the world’s largest and only GDPR-compliant network. The acquisition also granted us strong partnerships with leading European TMS vendors and carriers.
5. Shippers and 3PLs are Reaping the Benefits
The main benefactors of visibility are shippers and 3PLs. They’re able to reduce costs across the board by, for example, avoiding fines for missed dock appointments. Warehouse and yard resource management has improved thanks to more accurate ETAs allowing for more precise staffing. The need for safety stock has gone down as deliveries have become more reliable.
Steelcase, a furniture shipper with annual revenues over $3 billion, faced bottlenecks and costly errors due to manual processes and outdated shipment information. Our Advanced Visibility Platform helped Steelcase eliminate these issues, share data more efficiently, reduce resources required to schedule pickups, and improve disruption handling. They also improved the efficiency of their internal teams by 20% with a real-time supply chain visibility solution.
6. Carriers are Cutting Costs and Gaining Efficiency
Capacity is tighter, the ELD mandate is affecting service hours, and rates are increasing. Savings are needed now more than ever. Beyond meeting customer experience expectations, visibility is providing carriers with operational efficiencies and cost savings. Dynamic dock scheduling is more accurate, allowing drivers to spend less dwell time and more time on the road. They no longer pay for EDI integrations with modern visibility providers, saving them time and money on service costs. Better routing and reduced dwell times are frequently reported as unexpected efficiency gains.
We’re seeing additional visibility lead to better labor planning, further reducing driver dwell times at pickup and delivery locations. Our carrier network also reports a lower volume of phone calls needed to keep track of shipments.
Gartner makes it clear the real-time supply chain visibility market will continue to grow in the coming years, but the time to act is now. Deferring a visibility solution will devalue your investment from a competitive advantage to a catch-up measure. Selecting a visibility platform that is multimodal and spans multiple geographies will best serve your customers, enable your carriers to be more efficient, and create internal efficiencies for your company. Even the Wild West settled down eventually.