Transport visibility is no longer a 'nice to have', but a necessity

Interview with Steven GERARD, Business Development Manager at Transporeon.

Conducted on Tuesday 29 September 2020 by Frédéric LEGRAS, Director of the Logistics FAQ Portal as part of the thematic dossier "Visibility, key to supply chain performance".

Visibility is a particularly topical issue at Transporeon...

Indeed! At the beginning of September, we took some very strong initiatives on the market.

We now provide standard real-time visibility of any transport order concerned by any of the services present in our collaborative platform: carrier assignment, appointment scheduling, performance monitoring, etc.

We rely on Sixfold, our historical partner whose visibility offer is now fully integrated into the Transporeon platform.

This decision is the result of the discussions we had with our customers in the first half of 2020. We concluded that the management of a transport order only made sense if it was associated with this real-time visibility service.

On 1 September, all our customers were able to access this service at the click of a button.

How does it work?

Over the past 4 years, Sixfold has invested heavily in building automatic interfaces to the various telematics systems. This means that a customer can simply invite his haulier to use this system in the registration module. The carrier simply has to declare his telematics equipment, which allows the solution to access it directly.

The invitation is based on a LinkedIn contact request.

Thus, for each transport order, from the truck's number plate, it becomes possible to benefit from this visibility in real time. Transport orders can be viewed very simply, with the number plate being hung up at the time of assignment.

The effort for the shipper customer and his carrier is therefore minimal. Especially since it pays for itself quickly as a service provider using Transporeon knows that it can be used to exchange with several customers. 

Is there a downgraded mode allowing the integration of small carriers who are not equipped with telematics?

In Europe, the share of fleets not equipped with telematics is limited to 3%. However, we offer a mobile application to manage these cases.

Today, the use of smartphones is in fact mainly linked to the need to collect additional information for a certain number of flows that is rather related to documentation: electronic signature, taking photos in the event of disputes, etc.

You are therefore able to display the trucks on a map ...

Of course, this visibility makes it possible to visually identify the location of the truck carrying the orders being tracked.  Three hours before the estimated time of loading, the order begins to be traced, even if it is not yet displayed on the map for reasons of RGPD. Once the truck arrives on site, it appears on the screen.

However, displaying the means on a map is not the main interest of the solution. Rather, it lies in the fact that the status of the shipment (loading, transit, unloading, etc.) and also the estimated time of arrival (ETA) are made available to the principals, which makes it possible to organize the logistics operations as well as possible and to monitor the availability of products in factories, warehouses and shops as closely as possible.

Our automatic ETA calculation has also become extremely fine-tuned. Our team of Data Scientists is continually improving our algorithms to best suit each customer. This is a key point insofar as each company has its own traffic characteristics linked to the type of goods to be transported, its operating conditions and constraints, the organization of loading and unloading, the particular routes to be taken, etc.

With Machine Learning, after just a few shipments, ETA is quickly adapted to the customer's traffic.

We are also able to monitor the quality of the information transmitted from the telematics systems in great detail. In fact, depending on the generation of equipment used, the frequency of readings will vary from 1 to 10 minutes. The impact on ETA accuracy levels, geofencing and status changes is therefore significant. An upgrade or sometimes even a simple update of the associated software can be very beneficial.

How does visibility contribute to optimizing the supply chain?

Having information in real time makes it possible to completely eliminate historical opacity. I can mention several benefits.

  • Management by exception to save the burden on the teams

Firstly, it becomes possible to focus on hazards and therefore manage by exception without having to spend time looking for information on shipments that are going as agreed. We also note that in many organizations, significant resources are dedicated to responding to status calls, i.e. calls from customers who want to know the status of their delivery. In most cases, however, the truck is right where it should be and everything is going well. The problem is that the calls still take place and the search for information is time-consuming.

The implementation of real-time visibility makes it possible to considerably limit these calls. One company using our platform, for example, has reduced them by almost 70%.

  • Anticipating problems to reduce their impact

In the event of a real problem, having the information available very early, sometimes even before the truck is loaded, makes it possible to anticipate a delay in delivery. The reception schedule can then be modified so as not to mobilize resources unnecessarily (personnel, handling equipment, etc.).

Waiting times are also reduced. Indeed, when a truck arrives late without the site being notified, it either has to wait for a space to become available or is given priority treatment to the detriment of those who had nevertheless respected the schedule. 

Similarly, it becomes less necessary to request emergency transport, which is generally done with low occupancy rates. The environmental impact is therefore significant.

  • Safer transport

With real-time information feedback systems, it becomes possible to set up alerts such as: no signal for several minutes, stationary vehicle, etc.

We have filters on the screens that allow us to immediately see the trucks for which something abnormal seems to be happening.

  • Optimizing logistics sites

Visibility of the means of transport also takes place once they arrive at the sites. This gives us the ability to establish in detail how the vehicles are moving and what their activities are on site.

It becomes possible to identify where the waiting times are, on which platforms or areas in particular, and whether they are attributable to the site's organization. Such a system can, for example, make it possible to identify that the driver stops at a car park just before entering the site. Here again, Machine Learning opens up interesting perspectives.

The spectrum of benefits is therefore extremely broad, as the number of actors and users of the data is very large. In addition, almost all of our customers have discovered additional benefits compared to their original objectives.

Visibility is therefore neither a luxury nor a "nice to have», but has indeed become a "must have".

Which of the company's services are favorably impacted by this visibility?

With the new standards introduced by e-commerce, teams no longer accept that they do not have a sufficient level of information, whatever their function in the organization.

The main services impacted are therefore:

  • Transport to manage the activity in real time.
  • Supplies to measure the quality operated by suppliers and to objectify penalty levels.
  • Production to anticipate and compensate for delays at the edges of the chain. Supply chain visibility contributes to optimizing its TRS (NDLR: synthetic rate of return: indicator designed to monitor the rate of machine use).
  • The warehouse to organize its operations, particularly on the quays.
  • Shops to plan shelf life.
  • The customer service department to reduce requests to only those with proven problems.
  • Etc.

For their part, the transporters will also benefit from reduced waiting times and anticipation in the event of unresolved contingencies. The operators' working conditions will be better and the use of the fleet can be optimized. Drivers’ rest times will be better adjusted.

Moreover, even if our clients are the shippers (Coca Cola, Nestlé, Tesco, etc.), we have a community of more than 100,000 carriers and are working on the creation of new services dedicated to them. These are currently being finalized and should be available in 2021.

Does your visibility offer also cover cases where the manufacturer buys the goods returned, i.e. without having to take charge of the transport?

For upstream transport, it is essentially in the case where the company operates the transport that such visibility is available.

On the other hand, in sectors such as FMCG and retail, when Nestlé or Coca Cola deploy real-time visibility and must deliver Carrefour, as long as the three groups are users of Transporeon, it will become possible from the beginning of November to directly integrate the ETA of the two manufacturers into the retailer's appointment scheduling module. Carrefour will therefore have access to the estimated time of arrival of Nestlé and Coca Cola in its schedule.

In the same vein, we can offer the operator the possibility of modifying its schedule when the estimated time of arrival does not correspond to that of the appointment. This is something unique on the market and a very high added value service.

All this is made possible by the very high level of reliability of our ETA calculations.

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