Supply chain managers who leverage emerging technology and industry expertise can streamline their operation — and improve visibility into essential functions while doing it.

As e-commerce continues to drive growth throughout the shipping and logistics industry, supply chain managers need to ensure that they have as much visibility and control over their operation as possible. Without data-driven insights into overall performance and efficient, discrete functions at every level of a supply chain, effective management becomes less of a science and more of a guessing game.

It’s concerning, then, that over two-thirds of businesses report lacking total visibility over their supply chain, according to the Business Continuity Institute’s 2017 Supply Chain Resilience Report. With promising new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) making supply chains more sophisticated, there’s never been a better time to invest in boosting visibility.

For shipping and logistics professionals who are curious about what steps they can take, all options should be on the table.

1. Streamline Your Data

The insights you glean about your supply chain will only be as useful — and as actionable — as the technology you use to collect data. If your operation currently relies on outdated technology or has yet to embrace tech beyond basic computing, it’d be wise to invest in centralized platforms that can give you a more holistic understanding of your supply chain.

By incorporating IoT into your business, for example, you can get real-time updates on shipments, monitor routes, and identify pain points that call for logistical problem-solving. If you work with multiple carriers, a centralized platform would also enable your team to access data from numerous sources simultaneously, making it less time-intensive to track overall performance or respond to queries about specific shipments.

2. Establish Standard Practice — and Manage By It

Businesses hoping to scale in the age of e-commerce are going to have many points of sale, each with their own unique set of requirements. By setting standard practices — what documents are called for, how delivery needs to be handled, and special requests for certain locations — you stand a better chance of fulfilling orders successfully or knowing exactly what’s missing. By managing based on these guidelines, it becomes easier to identify supply chain disruptions in real time before they cause wider delays.

3. Track Production Orders

Because e-commerce calls for efficient fulfillment centers spread out across numerous regions, businesses tend to keep inventory relatively low at any given location. While this saves on warehouse space and allows shippers to ride changing levels of demand, it means that it’s essential to monitor production at earlier points of your supply chain. Since delays can cause limited fulfillment center inventory to become depleted — and possibly sell out — supply chain managers need logistics tools that provide updated reports on order status and vendor performance.

4. Invest in Cloud Technology

By bringing essential IT functions onto the cloud, businesses can more easily access the data they need at multiple points of their operation. With software that controls who can see core information and for what uses they can see it, you can ensure that the people who need the greatest visibility have it when they need it. Additionally, cloud technology helps you protect proprietary information better, both by relying on security measures often managed by experienced third parties and by making data recoverable in the event of hardware issues or unexpected emergencies.

5. Master New Customs Tools

With the new Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), it’s possible for businesses to navigate the customs process more effectively by automating the documentation that government agencies require. While ACE will ensure greater compliance with border security regulations, it will also allow businesses to gain greater visibility into their overall customs operation. By analyzing data to predict where you’re likely to run into delays, what shipments have historically slowed down processing, and what items may be getting consistently forgotten, you can make improvements throughout your supply chain.

6. Find an Experienced Logistics Partner

For small- and medium-sized businesses navigating a complicated global economy, it can be resource-intensive and time-consuming to manage every aspect of the supply chain on your own. Instead, consider working with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) or integrated logistics services provider (ISP). By leveraging their experience rather than spending on costly, in-house resources, you can rely on existing logistical and technological infrastructure to handle the shipping process from start to finish.

At Primary Freight, more than two decades of experience in the shipping industry have prepared us to handle logistical requests of every scale and level of complexity. Our team has the resources you need and the industry partnerships necessary to handle shipments professionally and cost-effectively. With the approachability of a smaller firm and the infrastructure of a major logistics partner, we’re strategically positioned to deliver lasting value and impressive ROI for your business.

Want to learn more about how you can grow your business with Primary Freight? Give us a call today at (800) 635-0013!