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The Supply Chain Visibility Software Toolbox

ShippersPublished on July 23, 2020

We’ve come a long way in the world of supply chain visibility. In the span of a generation, phone calls and emails have been eclipsed by a variety of tools promising to unlock supply chain visibility. A shipper’s toolbox could never be more full of potential solutions, all promising to increase logistics transparency. Visibility within supply chain is defined in many ways, but the tools to achieve it largely fall into two categories: transportation management systems and dedicated supply chain visibility software. 

Transportation Management Systems

A transportation management system (TMS) allows you to digitally manage day-to-day freight operations instead of relying on phone calls, email, and spreadsheets. They’re largely used for managing and comparing rates and services of carriers, tendering loads, setting up a routing guide, and tracking load status.

While a TMS is a critical part of any shipper’s toolbox, it doesn’t provide full visibility into your freight’s movement through your supply chain. Without a common platform tying together your carriers’ data feeds, your view may be limited to point-in-time updates, which are typically EDI 214 status codes for arrival, completion, and departure at dropoff and pickup locations. Without a real-time view into shipment location, your ability to react quickly to delays or other incidents is limited, potentially impacting on-time delivery.

Tying together data feeds from each carrier can be challenging, particularly when shippers sometimes manage 50-100 carriers at a time. Fortunately, there are tools built explicitly to solve for real-time visibility. 

Supply Chain Visibility Software

Supply chain visibility software platforms like FourKites, project44, Trimble 10-4, and Macropoint provide multi-modal, real-time tracking of shipments from all your carriers. By collecting data from a variety of sources, they’re able to more quickly and accurately track your freight’s location at all times, solving for gaps left by core TMS functionality.

Because supply chain visibility platforms capture both position events and arrival and departure events, such as those typically relayed via EDI status codes, they can also provide analytics on on-time pickup (OTP) and on-time delivery (OTD).

Of course, your supply chain is impacted by more than just a truck’s journey. Forward-leaning also audit longer-term trends in incidentals, facility performance, driver preference and other factors that affect the efficiency and cost of their supply chains. While supply chain visibility software excels at real-time tracking of individual shipments, understanding anomalies and long-term supply chain trends are typically out of their scope. For insights into this type of supply chain visibility, a new solution is needed.

The Convoy Digital Freight Network

Most definitions of supply chain visibility focus primarily on individual shipments and real-time tracking, answering the fundamental question, “where’s my truck?” This is a necessary but insufficient part of the broader supply chain visibility equation. The other part comes from understanding the patterns over time of your shipments in aggregate. Here you’ll find anomalies popping up slowly over time, but potentially adding up to hundreds of thousands of wasted spend annually. According to McKinsey, up to half the cost of many supply chains lurks ignored and unmanaged in outbound logistics and behind the closed doors of distribution centers.

Convoy combines real-time tracking of all the loads we haul (either through our dedicated shipper platform or through integrations with dedicated supply chain visibility software), with its unique network insights, providing the widest range of analytics on your shipments and facility performance. Through standardized reports, an online customizable dashboard, and custom consulting engagements, we provide in-depth analysis on pickup and delivery performance, dwell time, shipment volume (primary, backup, spot), incidentals (detention, TONU, layover, redelivery, lumper), facility performance, driver ratings, carbon emissions, driver safety, and more. With over 1,000 data points on every shipment and more than a million ratings on over 25,000 facilities, Convoy has the ability to unlock the full picture of your supply chain.

Because of its ability to provide a more comprehensive view into your freight logistics, a digital freight network is no longer a luxury when evaluating supply chain visibility, it’s a necessity.

Reach out to us to learn more about how you can pair a digital freight network with your TMS and supply chain visibility platform to unlock true supply chain visibility.

Convoy shipper platform is now part of Convoy’s integrated online platform for shippers. For more information, take a look at our freight booking software.


Convoy Team

Convoy is the nation's leading digital freight network. We move thousands of truckloads around the country each day through our optimized, connected network of carriers, saving money for shippers, increasing earnings for drivers, and eliminating carbon waste for our planet. We use technology and data to solve problems of waste and inefficiency in the $800B trucking industry, which generates over 87 million metric tons of wasted CO2 emissions from empty trucks. Fortune 500 shippers like Anheuser-Busch, P&G, Niagara, and Unilever trust Convoy to lower costs, increase logistics efficiency, and achieve environmental sustainability targets.
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