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Using Software Automation to Bolster Supply Chain Resilience

December 8, 2023

If shippers learned anything from the pandemic, it’s the need for resilient supply chains in the face of potential disruptions. COVID-19 wasn’t a singular disruption but cascading events that stacked up on themselves, and shippers realized how little control they have.

As supply chain complexity grows, businesses and consumers become more complex, and the world hinges on greater volatility, a resilient supply chain needs to be at the forefront of every shipper's mind. Then, they need to find a way to regain control from that which could quickly become out of control.

Savvy shippers are turning to software automation to build resilience and control.

Facing Significant Challenges, Shippers Demand Resilience

Resilience in supply chain operations is the capability of a supply chain to prepare for the unexpected and quickly respond when it happens. Shippers maintain continuity of operations through control over the supply chain's structure and function, ensuring efficient deliveries at the lowest costs. Risk and disruptions are mitigated, having a tremendously lower impact than ever.

Shippers have seen many challenges these last few years, and they only seem to carry forward. Labor disputes, geopolitical conflict, labor shortages, elevated costs, and more keep plaguing shippers and show no sign of ending.

The Evolving Customer


Add that customer expectations have only continued to increase as they demand faster and more reliable shipping.

Shippers must overcome ongoing challenges while meeting increasing demands, especially regarding last-mile delivery, on which the entire customer experience depends while accounting for 53% of total shipping costs.

Shippers Go Digital To Meet Demands

In order to meet demands and manage ongoing disruptions, shippers are under increasing pressure to move to compete within the digital supply chain or sacrifice a competitive advantage. It now takes advanced technology to deliver unprecedented service.

In what McKinsey terms Supply Chain 4.0, deliveries move from days to hours, and forecasting for many products moves from monthly to weekly or even daily. Only a digital supply chain enables shippers to deal with these demands. In fact, according to Forbes regarding transportation and the digital journey, “Eighty-eight percent of respondents are digitizing data and processes.”

Tech Enabled Supply Chains Offer the Benefits of Resiliency

Upon moving to the digital supply chain, shippers develop resiliency and realize the benefits that come with it. They take control and meet increasing customer expectations while cutting costs, improving operational efficiency, and controlling variability.

They realize:

  • Flexibility: Knowing carrier, port, and lane performance, shippers gain the ability to move shipments for optimal performance, whereas prior, they couldn’t predict the results of a switch.
  • Agility: Shippers gain the ability to react faster as incoming information and updates move from taking hours to minutes.
  • Visibility: Regardless of one or multiple containers in transit, the shipper knows the locations and statuses.
  • Redundancy elimination: Information comes from a single source that integrates with existing systems eliminating the need to turn to multiple sources, wasting time and money for shippers.

Software Automation Provides Reliable Performance

Software automation supports and strengthens different aspects of the supply chain by removing tedious but necessary manual operations and improving them. Those processes include communications with other stakeholders, port updates, ETA updates, and order processing, among some of their functionality.

When processes are automated, shippers realize new efficiencies that translate into time available for managing other operations. Errors common with manual inputs fall, communication is streamlined, and decision-making accelerates. Shippers do more with less effort and do it more effectively.

Enhancing Visibility and Predictive Analytics

Automation tools go beyond a blue dot on the screen, providing real-time visibility into the supply chain, including standardized exception and milestone alerts. Shippers gain the ability to react immediately in the event of the unexpected, know the event’s cause, and adjust to keep the shipment on track.

Empowered with an easy-to-see inventory of shipments in progress, shippers needn’t lose a container in an information void. They see port events and know the container’s status in relation to contractual agreements helping to keep containers moving to avoid expensive demurrage and detention fees.

Additionally, the visibility extends the ability to track across transportation modes, enabling efficient intermodal freight transport and the benefits that come with it.

While the entire supply chain is exposed due to real-time visibility, the systems apply the collected data into robust predictive analytics that extend the shipper’s supply chain view into the future by way of knowing what has happened in the past. Understanding supply chain aspects like what has caused past exceptions, carrier performance, and where the shipper has room for improvement. The shipper gains the power of proactive decision-making from past data and the analytics power to process it.

Streamlining Communication and Collaboration

Communication with supply chain partners takes tremendous time and has a high potential for crossed wires and miscommunication. Streamlining communication with technology saves time, prevents errors, and turns an exchange of words into true collaboration.

Software automation working with real-time visibility sends notifications of exceptions, ETAs, and milestones to all stakeholders, ensuring everyone has identical information simultaneously. No calls are made, and no words are misspoken, allowing shippers to focus on operations while knowing all parties are aligned.

With centralized data sharing, instant notifications, and streamlined workflows, every stakeholder adjusts regardless of being shipment dependant or part of the shipping process. There is no missed relay of information, allowing customers to plan on inventory, trucking firms to know a port pick-up is needed, or shippers to be alerted of an exception. Nothing is missed.

Automating Awareness

With high supply chain variability comes unexpected changes from carriers to deal with shipment fluctuations. A shipper that is unaware or made aware too late can lose days of valuable time, deteriorating customer service. Automated event notifications keep shippers in the loop when carriers make disruptive calls like the increasingly prevalent problem of blank sailings – an ocean carrier practice of skipping a voyage or port – which leave rolled cargo waiting at port because other vessels ran out of capacity.

With automated notifications, the shipper is empowered to act immediately instead of finding out hours later that their cargo is still at the originating port.

Resilience Begins with the Right Provider

With many providers rushing into the market to provide the automation shippers are rapidly adopting to build supply chain resilience, it is vital to partner with a provider that brings the expertise, effective technological solutions, and ability to scale with the shipper.

Shippers need streamlined API integration with their existing tech stack, making rollout easy and quick. Cloud-based data ensures data security, flexible access, and faster processing for optimized performance.

Most importantly, a provider is a partner that understands the challenges shippers face and what it takes to optimize supply chain resilience. The platform must be accurate, all-in-one, standardize disparate data, be easy to use, and provide the analytics necessary to approach supply chains proactively..

Automation Makes True Resilience Possible

Supply chain disruptions of the prior years have had a tremendous impact on shippers, and those disruptions show no signs of abating. Volatility seems to be the constant state of logistics in a world where the next pandemic-level disruption is always right around the corner. Building supply chain resilience has never been more crucial.

Shippers are taking back power from the supply chain through software automation to overcome ongoing challenges and meet increasing customer demands, gaining flexibility, agility, and visibility, and eliminating redundancy.

Automation gives them real-time visibility and predictive analytics that enable immediate reaction and the ability to enact proactive solutions. Streamlined communications foster collaboration, moving freight more efficiently and preventing exceptions, and automated awareness keeps shippers in the loop about disruptive events like blank sailings.

When shippers find a partner that brings the experience and automation solution that adapts to their needs and scales, they are positioned for ongoing supply chain resilience, enhanced customer satisfaction, improved operational efficiency, and cost savings.

OpenTrack takes shippers beyond the blue dot with comprehensive visibility. An all-in-one solution, OpenTrack simplifies container tracking, covering more than 97% of global shipments and standardizing the data from ocean carriers, steamship lines, ports, terminals, and rail carriers in real-time.

With OpenTrack, shippers receive real-time exception alerts, on-time delivery metrics, intermodal visibility, a customer portal, and API integration.

Book a demo with OpenTrack today to see what true supply chain resiliency looks like.

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