What Is Real-Time Visibility?

Real-time visibility uses frequent GPS-based location updates to more accurately track and trace carrier movements and related shipments.

Besides location, real-time visibility platforms can provide estimated-time-of-arrival (ETA).

Real-time visibility is different than EDI-based status updates because it provides granular updates such as ship location on the water or courier arrival at a freight station and compares to more accurate ETA’s based upon actual progress, not occasional estimations.

Real-time visibility has become extremely important because it helps monitor and mitigate potential issues that can disrupt the supply chain such as driver and container shortages, port congestion, detention, and demurrage fees.

Freight forwarders can now stay up-to-date with the status of shipments, proactively manage developing situations and automatically communicate with customers and other stakeholders across the supply chain. Because real-time visibility is event-based, teams can focus on exceptions to more reduce the impact of disruptions and help reduce transportation.

Why Visibility Is Key for Forwarders

According to our transportation management benchmark study, real-time visibility was the most sought-after capability requested by logistics-intensive businesses.

With constant disruptions and delays in global logistics, forwarders are struggling to keep up changes to their shipments and need a way to better understand what shipments are at risk and mitigate their impact to customers.

Global shipping performance remains uncertain and has extended much longer in than anticipated. Forwarders can’t afford to wait for the market to go back to some steady state which is why real-time visibility is so important. Volume has been fluid (high and low) and shifting (west to east) making it harder to use traditional methods to understand freight flows.

Through an ocean visibility platform, forwarders can get a better control of their ocean freight operations, develop contingency plans for potential delays, and better understand the impact of port congestion, bottlenecks, detention, demurrage, and more.

The automated sharing of real-time shipment statuses with customers and other logistics partners so they can better coordinate their operations to maximize resource utilization and minimize costs.

Another important aspect of real-time visibility platforms is the analytics and detailed carrier performance reporting based upon the location data will improve planning, forecasting, and operations for forwarders and their customers.

Current Challenges of the Forwarding Industry

Supply chain disruptions are more prevalent and common than ever before.

The forwarding industry continues to face obstacles such as:

  • Port congestion – Due to high import volumes and local transportation infrastructure limitations, there is a high degree of unpredictability at the major ports. This has had multiple knock-on effects such as cargo vessels waiting days to enter, dray haulers waiting to pick up or deliver containers.
  • Asset imbalance – Trade flows have not equalized and shippers are sitting on freight due to high inventory levels. As a result, container availability is still a challenge and freight is not always flowing as anticipated.
  • Resource shortage – dray haulers left waiting near ports, COVID and a prolonged shortage of drivers is impacting forwarders to get their goods from or to ports and ultimately their customers.
  • Constantly shifting dates – forwards are overwhelmed with the volume of changes, are struggling to keep up with them to efficiently operate and keep customers their customers abreast of the situation.

Eliminate Ineffective Tracking Processes

Traditionally, freight forwarders relied upon manual tracking processes such as looking at carrier portals and even calling carriers and EDI-based shipment statuses to track shipment visibility. This work marginally when the movement of freight was more predictable, but doesn’t scale to keep with the pace of change that forwarders are facing today.

Today’s real-time visibility platforms eliminate ineffective processes and ultimately improves the efficiency at which forwarders can operate.

  • Manual tracking processes are eliminated
  • ETAs are automatically updated and more accurate than in the past

Resources are freed to focus on exceptions or perform more value-added work

Customers and logistics partners can be informed without human intervention

Data is available to evaluate carrier and forwarder operational performance for better planning and continuous improvement

How Forwarders Benefit from a Real-time Visibility Platform

Better Customer Service

Communicating is key for customer retention. Forwarders can automatically relay the information they receive directly to their customers. This allows both parties to discuss changing delivery windows and optimize rescheduling when shipments are delayed.

Proactive Management

Rather than chasing data, forwarders automatically receive statuses and their implication to shipment schedules via updated ETAs. This exception base approach allow forwarders to focus on the shipments with the greatest challenges and deploy the right resources to mitigate any impacts.

Inland Moves

Visibility extends beyond ocean shipping. Freight forwards can seamlessly connect the transportation journey with visibility across ocean, truck, and train modes.

The Descartes MacroPoint Opportunity

Descartes MacroPoint provides freight forwarders with the ability to track their shipments across transportation modes in real-time and gain deep insight into the performance of their carriers, partner and internal operations.

Descartes visibility platform has provided more accurate, reliable, and user-friendly data and insights for customers.

Gain access to extended capabilities such as:

As the leading visibility platform on the market, Descartes MacroPoint has access to over 200k+ carriers with our unrivaled carrier network. For freight forwarders this means more detailed location data and insights into shipment visibility.

Gain control of your supply chain with visibility today.