Transportation Visibility: The Types of, What it Is, and How it Works

July 8, 2021

July 2, 2024


x min read

The demand for real-time cargo tracking has never been greater. In fact, 70% of customers expect to have the ability to track shipments and receive real-time updates, according to project44. Transportation visibility providers are expanding their efforts exponentially to meet this demand. Tracking sensors collect trillions of data points related to cargo shipments every day. That level of insight, shared with stakeholders at all levels across a wide variety of industries, drives informed decision-making that helps mitigate risk and enhance the end customer satisfaction.

To carve out a true competitive advantage, it is important to understand what transportation visibility is, how it works, its various types, and the benefits it offers supply chain professionals.

What is Transportation Visibility?

From the moment a shipment leaves a warehouse until it reaches its destination, transportation visibility technology collects real-time data. For years, the primary focus of tracking was solely on location and cargo status. But with customers and consumers now demanding more details in addition to precise arrival times, visibility technology has evolved to capture data regarding temperature and humidity, exposure to light, in-transit starts and stops, and even environmental impacts such as weather and traffic.

“Providing visibility is a core part of supply chain technology, and it plays a complementary function that supports different supply chain functions such as transportation management, warehouse management, yard management and fleet management.”

  • Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms, Bart De Muynck, Carly West, 14 April 2021

The rates of adoption of visibility technology are growing rapidly throughout all major industries. Gartner Report predicts that by 2023, 50% of global leading enterprises will have invested in real-time transportation visibility solutions.

Types of Visibility in Transportation

Ninety percent of all worldwide freight transportation is carried out by trucks or ships. Those two modes of transportation are the most prone to unforeseen delays and other disruptions, but they will continue to dominate the freight transportation industry. According to The Maritime Executive, by the year 2050 sea and road freight will account for over 300 trillion tonne-kilometers of worldwide freight transported annually. Transporting freight by air is far more expensive and railways cannot reach all desired locations.

Multimodal transportation, an arrangement where the shipper has one contract with a forwarder (and a single bill of lading), is becoming increasingly more popular:

  • Requires less paperwork.
  • Streamlines communications.
  • Results in better routing and shorter transit times.

To overcome the challenges of gaining transportation visibility across all modes of transportation, retailers, shippers, carriers, freight forwarders and logistics service providers are collaborating more than ever. Examples include the Open Visibility Network and Supplier Visibility, an open network for suppliers that provides an easy way for shippers to see prepaid freight managed by their suppliers.

How Transportation Visibility Works

The emergence of transportation visibility technology leverages automation to drive the immediate flow of data to stakeholders, giving them access to real-time insights on a whole new level.

The path to visibility starts with integrating tracking systems and tools with customer transportation systems and warehouse management systems, to gain insight into exactly what is in each shipment and its starting location. The next step is to install tracking devices on each shipment that will record in real-time, in-transit data regarding:

  • Location
  • Physical condition
  • Temperature and humidity
  • Light exposure, and more

It is possible to track more than 150 factors, including local weather and traffic. This data is analyzed every 15 minutes, providing trillions of data points that provide greater insights. The key is to get this valuable information in front of retailers, shippers, and logistics service providers as soon as possible. This is easily accomplished through APIs and ELD/telematics devices.

Benefits of Global Visibility

Real-time data insights gained from transportation visibility empower supply chain professionals to make informed, actionable decisions. Some examples include:

  • Eliminate preventable costly delays, damage, and shipment failures.
  • Pinpoint in advance when a shipment is in danger of falling behind schedule.
  • Identify and resolve exceptions.
  • Improve communication and customer relationships.
  • Efficiently investigate the root cause of delays.
  • Identify trends in performance and make improvements.

Real-Time Insights = Competitive Advantage

The ability to track and communicate shipment data in real time — regardless of transportation mode — is the basis for transparency and trust among all stakeholders in the supply chain. Transportation visibility helps retailers, shippers, carriers, freight forwarders and logistics service providers alike handle short-term challenges and create optimized long-term strategies. Tive is a leading provider of industry-leading trackers and a driver of deep collaborations that are transforming transportation visibility across all industries. Contact Tive today to learn more.

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