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Building Resilience Through Visibility in Supply Chain 4.0

February 7, 2024

A shift is taking place in the ocean container transportation industry. Faced with an ever-growing list of supply chain crises and the omnipresent threat of freight emergencies, ocean freight shippers around the globe recognize the need for future-focused innovations in their supply chains. As a result, shippers are turning to tech with unprecedented enthusiasm. The global supply chain management market–including digital supply chain innovations–was valued at $27.2B in 2022 and is expected to keep growing as the demand for innovation escalates.

This demand for technology represents a sea change in the ocean transportation industry. The new wave of capabilities, dubbed “supply chain 4.0,” is one where ocean freight shippers rely upon innovative software solutions for real-time visibility, streamlined collaboration, and automated systems for unprecedented resilience. For ocean freight shippers looking to upgrade their outdated supply chains, we’re digging into supply chain 4.0 and how tomorrow’s supply chain can offer resilience today. 

What is Supply Chain 4.0?

Ultimately, supply chain 4.0 results from escalating pressures upon the transportation industry intersecting with recent innovations in supply chain management technology.

In recent years, ocean freight shippers have learned first-hand the difficulties of inadequate supply chain management strategies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a never-ending onslaught of supply chain crises left ocean freight shippers uncertain of freight location, ETA, and status. Shippers could not plan, optimize, or communicate reliable information to end customers without this information. According to consultancy Ernst & Young, 72% of companies surveyed reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their supply chain. Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, however, 92% of companies surveyed said that they continued to invest in technology throughout the pandemic.

These investments in technology not only helped the transportation industry navigate a time of unprecedented challenges, but enabled remarkable advancements in supply chain management technology. With the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic now behind the industry, supply chain professionals are leveraging hard-won lessons alongside innovations to create a new supply chain: supply chain 4.0. By understanding three critical principles of supply chain 4.0, industry professionals can better understand how to use technology to enable resilience in a dynamic transportation environment. 

Integrated Visibility

Before supply chain 4.0, shippers were often left in the dark regarding the status of their shipments. Shippers left with little recourse but manual check-calls were often forced to wait endlessly for updates or delivery notifications. While this strategy worked for years, the high-stakes supply chain crises of the pandemic era revealed that these antiquated strategies left much to be desired.

In a digital supply chain 4.0, ocean freight shippers rely on real-time ocean freight visibility. With real-time ocean freight visibility, shippers can instantly see the real-time location of their high-stakes ocean freight, whether it be on a vessel, rail, or a drayage vehicle. Real-time ocean freight visibility enables ocean freight shippers to make high-stakes supply chain decisions at a moment's notice, and allows them to keep pace with an increasingly dynamic supply chain. 

IoT Enablement

Technology is the defining characteristic of supply chain 4.0. However, the technology of a fully digital supply chain 4.0 is a far cry from what came before. Outdated tech like fax machines, manual check calls, and physical BoLs left ocean freight shippers at the mercy of opaque carrier timelines, uncertain of their own operational standing and, as such, incapable of proactive decision-making.

In supply chain 4.0, tech has moved well beyond the fax machine. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the web of interconnected telematic devices — including GPS, temperature sensors, RFID scanners, and a plethora of others — that work together to bring shippers unprecedented insight into the status of their shipments. By providing ocean freight shippers with insight into every detail of their shipments, the IoT puts shippers in the captain's seat on their high-stakes ocean freight. 

Actionable Analytics

But a digital supply chain 4.0 is much more than just hardware. The insights collected from the IoT form an invaluable web of information, all of which can be leveraged by shippers — paired with the right analytics provider — to create a long-term understanding of past, present, and future performance. 

With the data points garnered by the IoT, shippers can identify KPIs, or key performance indicators, to benchmark past and current performance against future ambitions. With actionable analytics, shippers can gain the birds-eye view of performance needed to ensure constant improvement in their operations. 

In Supply Chain 4.0, a Trusted Partner is Essential

While the critical values of supply chain 4.0 are relatively easy to understand, implementing them within the daily operations of an existing supply chain is anything but. The technologies that enable the unprecedented efficiency of supply chain 4.0 are often complicated and require expertise to make the most of. In supply chain 4.0, visibility is only as valuable as the provider through which it’s accessed. 

By learning the specific supply chain management tools in supply chain 4.0, shippers can ensure that their potential supply chain technology provider is the right fit for their business in a high-stakes ocean transportation industry. 

Ocean Freight Tracking Software

Supply chain 4.0 starts with visibility. Shippers cannot take the proactive steps necessary to avoid disaster in a fast-paced supply chain without ocean freight visibility. However, that visibility's quality depends entirely on data sourced from an ocean freight visibility provider. By partnering with a supply chain technology provider that offers ocean freight tracking software, shippers can leverage a birds-eye view of their operations to create resilient, flexible supply chains. 

Automated Awareness

While ocean freight tracking software offers ocean freight shippers unparalleled visibility over their operations, it’s impossible for shippers to keep their eyes on the blue dot 24/7. Automated, fully customizable notifications for events like rolled cargo, blank sailings, demurrage, vessel delays, and last free day mean that ocean freight shippers can stay in the know about the latest events affecting their operations regardless of whether or not they’re keeping an eye on the blue dot. 

API Integration

The tools of supply chain 4.0 are incredibly powerful and are increasingly becoming expected features of an ocean freight shipper’s tech stack. That said, these tools are often unwieldy and difficult to use without expert guidance. By partnering with a supply chain technology provider that uses an API, or application programming interface, to ensure maximum interoperability with existing systems, ocean freight shippers can ensure that they can keep what works while leveraging the latest advancements in supply chain management technology. 

The Future of Supply Chain 4.0

With the pandemic now in the past, ocean freight shippers continue investing in the proactive supply chain management strategies that helped them through difficult times. But now that the industry has moved on from the daily crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, will the innovation spurred by difficult times continue? So far, the answer appears to be a resounding “yes.” 

“The supply chain of the future will be intricately connected, spanning manufacturing, warehouses, logistics, and the valuable data that supports them,” Rakesh Prasad, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Solutions at Innover, wrote in an article for SupplyChainBrain, “Embedded artificial intelligence and analytics will enable real-time reporting and interactive data visualization, allowing managers to adjust to ever-evolving market conditions. They’ll be able to create more accurate demand forecasts, and curb excessive procurement spend, by comparing previous order data with real-time market analysis.”

According to Prasad, the supply chain of tomorrow will be increasingly dependent on the technologies that characterize a digital supply chain 4.0. Artificial intelligence, IoT, analytics, and other technological frontiers will only continue to grow in importance as the supply chain continues to evolve. With this in mind, ocean freight shippers must prioritize finding a reliable source for the technology they need to stand out in an increasingly connected, ever-changing transportation industry. 

To Build the Supply Chain of Tomorrow, Partner with OpenTrack Today

With the pandemic behind the industry, it’s clear that supply chain 4.0 is here to stay. As a new set of challenges–including plummeting freight rates, unpredictable global conflict, and a volatile global economy–take their hold over the supply chain, ocean freight shippers are searching for technology providers that provide resilience today while bolstering operations for the future. With OpenTrack, ocean freight shippers can access a robust toolkit of supply chain management tools, while leveraging advanced technology to create ever-more resilient, reliable processes. 

  • Container Visibility Software, including drayage and intermodal transportation, provides ocean freight shippers with visibility over 90% of ocean shipments worldwide.
  • Proprietary Rolled Cargo Alerts mean ocean freight shippers won’t get caught off-guard by blank sailings. 
  • Streamlined API ensures that ocean freight shippers can easily integrate the latest ocean freight visibility assets into their existing operations.

Book a demo with OpenTrack, and see what Ocean Freight Visibility Made Simple can do for your business today.

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