The data to achieve in-transit visibility is in the supply chain today

In-transit visibility is of critical importance to business leaders. Achieving such visibility is challenging, particularly in cases where a number of businesses are involved in a single chain.

At Entopy, we’ve been looking at this challenge for many years. Whilst we are aware of the new and innovative methods of collecting data, our view is that much of the data required to achieve visibility is present within supply chains today, albeit disparate and siloed.

Data on-premise

Looking at the in-transit part of the supply chain in its most simple form, there are three stakeholders. A seller/supplier of goods, a buyer/receiver of goods and a party responsible for moving the goods between them.

More often it is either the seller or buyer that wants to gain visibility of goods-in-transit because, well they own or are primarily responsible for the goods. These stakeholders will likely use systems to manage their inventory, warehouse, and planning & procurement processes. Leading companies in the SCM software space include IBM, Oracle and SAP.

Data in-transit

It is the in-transit part that is critical here. Often, the movement of goods will be outsourced to logistics companies. These organisations use Transport Management Systems (again, well known and adoption well recognised) to manage scheduling and the allocation of their fleet.

Logistics companies also utilise telematics systems, and although well understood, the adoption of these systems is far higher than one may first think. Telematics systems are used to manage vehicles. From driver behaviour management to managing fuel consumption and maintenance cycles. Critically, from a visibility point of view, telematics systems include GPS tracking.

The RAC released a 2016 report on telematics, looking at who’s using it and the business benefits. This report cited 65% of businesses were using telematics in May 2016, up from 38% the previous year. Interestingly, the report broke adoption down by vehicle type. 85% of HGV’s used telematics with 66% of vans and 65% of cars.

Unfortunately, the RAC has not released a more recent report since (at least not one that I can find) but if you add a very modest 5% yr on yr growth to the 2016 figure (much lower than the growth between 2015 and 2016) adoption is now in the upper 70% region.

So many of the vehicles used to transport goods from A to B are tracked. Combining this data with the data from systems mentioned previously, we have a pool of data that if combined, can deliver in-transit visibility of goods.

Growing adoption of IoT

Many have heard the term IoT or ‘Internet of Things’. A swathe of sensors gathering new and highly granular data from within operations. Many organisations have turned to IoT technologies to gain in-transit visibility, albeit unsuccessfully in most cases. But the growing adoption of IoT in niche areas, across various stakeholders, does carry the potential to further increase levels of visibility in-transit.

Experts estimate there are over 30 billion IoT devices in use today. And the numbers are growing fast. The estimations were only 7 billion in 2018! Furthermore, the cost of IoT sensors is plummeting. The average cost of a sensor has gone from over a dollar in 2006 to 38 cents in 2020.

So, on top of the data available between on-premise systems, transport management and telematics, IoT can add additional inputs to provide further visibility.

However, the data sits in silos

Although there is a huge amount of data present, each stakeholder owns a part of the process involved in the movement of goods. For example, the seller and the logistics provider are often completely separate entities.

This creates obvious challenges with system access and data privacy. One of the biggest challenges in achieving in-transit visibility is that whilst the data is there, it is siloed across these stakeholders with a reticence to give complete access. The logistics provider is unlikely to give 24/7 access to the tracking data of its entire fleet.

To overcome these challenges, data capture needs to be targeted and specific to individual consignments.

The Entopy platform

As mentioned earlier in the blog, Entopy has been focused on finding solutions to the challenges around in-transit visibility for many  years. Its platform enables the collection and combination of data within the supply chain. Its ’Virtual Inventory Environment’ technology enables data capture across multi-stakeholder networks in a highly targeted way, specific to individual consignments.

You can read more about Virtual Inventory Environments here.