Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) published a report analyzing how unexpected delays can ripple across the supply chain, and describes its effects.
CSA conducted a survey of North American logistics decisionmakers in shipper organisations who confirmed that visibility is key to deciding which carrier they will use. Over 80% of the respondents used multiple suppliers for ocean transport and 69% reported varying satisfaction levels with different shipping suppliers.
Over 70% of survey participants said they would likely switch to a carrier that offered:
- High schedule reliability
- Guaranteed arrival times
- Proactive communication around exceptions and better responsiveness
A lack of communication is a lack of visibility
According to DCSA, there are currently limited pathways for digitised data to travel freely across the end-to-end supply chain. Messages are blocked as systems and modes of transportation change and geographical borders are crossed. As a result, there are huge “blind spots” along the container journey that no proprietary solution is likely to resolve.
Data visibility enables a better shipping experience
Due to a lack of data visibility, it is a challenge for the container shipping industry to offer the kind of customer experience provided by fully digitalised industries. For example, track and trace data is not aligned or digitised across carriers and their logistics partners, which means that multi-modal transport chains often appear as “black boxes” to customers, and containers are lost from view until they arrive at certain points in their journeys.
This problem is compounded when event information is exchanged inconsistently through emails, online portals, faxes, text messages and so forth. These messages must be aggregated and analysed by users to get, for example, an accurate ETA. This makes dayto-day management labour intensive and time consuming, which slows down exception handling and prevents smooth operational transitions.
Barriers to interoperability
Currently, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the dominant technology for transmitting digital data between supply chain partners. However, EDI is unsuited for streamlining data exchange across the supply chain for the following reasons:
- First, it can take weeks for two businesses to set up and test an EDI connection. Stakeholders in an EDI-based trading ecosystem need to be “onboarded”, meaning, their systems must be customized to communicate with other participants in the ecosystem.
- Second, EDI is not intended for “real-time” data exchange. It is structured to periodically transmit data in one direction. If schedules or other elements change, or there is an error in a data element, a supply chain partner won’t know about it until the next scheduled transmission.
- Third, each EDI transmission can involve a great deal of data, not all of which may be needed by the receiving partner, and the unnecessary data must be eliminated, which is resource intensive.