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What Is Network Visibility and How Do You Maintain It?

Network visibility helps ensure shippers and customers can view real-time data about where their goods are at any point. As the supply chain matures, 70% of customers expect to be able to track their shipments. 

And yet, an astounding 73% of supply chain professionals lack the tools necessary to make this data transparent for customers. If you’re looking for a competitive edge as a carrier or an owner-operator, read on for information on what transportation visibility is and how to maintain it.

How Does Network Visibility Work?

Network visibility works by leveraging technology and location services to show the exact location of a truck and its goods at all times. Carriers can see details about exactly what is in every truck, even if it includes loads for multiple customers as is the case for less-than-truckload (LTL). 

Once active, location services will show the starting point for the goods and then offer transit data about the exact location as well as other crucial details.

  • Condition of the goods
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Light exposure
  • Local Weather
  • Traffic

There are several other data points you can often collect based on the technology you choose to use. Many devices also connect to other pieces of software via API. Often carriers integrate their ELD and telematics devices.

What Are the Benefits of Network Visibility? 

Network visibility offers benefits to carriers as well as supply chain managers so they can make informed decisions. Visibility insights help everyone and can make teams more collaborative to support the supply chain.

  • Reduces the likelihood of delays and damages
  • Aids in pinpointing potential delays to act to avoid the delays
  • Increases collaboration and data sharing relationships
  • Improves customer relationships and opens new lines of communication
  • Helps to proactively handle short-term challenges
  • Gathers data on delay causes to improve routes, service, etc.
  • Builds optimized long-term supply chain strategies 
  • Identifies trends to allow room for improvement

How To Achieve and Maintain Better Network Visibility

There are many network visibility solutions available that will integrate with the technology carriers have in place for other aspects of the supply chain. So, as you evaluate your tools and consider the implementation of these tools, consider these aspects of your transportation visibility.

Active and Predictive Network Tracking

Real-time freight tracking is the core of network visibility. Customers, dock and store managers, and other stakeholders need to know when a shipment will arrive. With instant data availability, these parties can receive notifications about changes so they can work more proactively and cost-effectively.

Data can’t just be a dot on a map. Instead, it should include predictions and expectations for when the shipment will arrive. This helps ensure the party responsible for receiving the shipment is ready and has an open dock ready to get the driver back on the road quickly to reduce disruption with other deliveries.

The more in-depth the data, the lower labor costs will be because stores and warehouses don’t have to pay people to stand around and wait for the shipment’s arrival. Or a manufacturing facility won’t have to pay people to wait for raw materials to arrive while losing valuable labor hours.

With added data, carriers and shippers can also resolve disputes with greater ease. You’ll have data about when a truck reached a facility and not just when it was able to dock. If the delay was on the receiving end where a dock was not ready for the truck, the shipper might be responsible and have to make amends for the delay.

Communicating With Carrier and Supplier Networks

Manual tracking methods are time-consuming. For example, if a shipper requests location information, the carrier must call their driver and then report back to the shipper either with another phone call or an email.

Connecting shippers to all carriers can consume too many resources to make it worthwhile. Then they have to maintain these connections, which is also resource and time intensive.

And for carriers, it can mean using dozens of different apps based on the shipper’s preferences. This is far too overwhelming and confusing for drivers.

Instead of all the manual work, supply chains can tap into transportation visibility to free up time and resources for more strategic thinking and optimization.

Complete the Shipment Picture

Older technology provided limited visibility into shipments based on transportation mode or geography. It made it challenging for supply chains to truly follow the goods from their starting point to their final destination. 

Because supply chains are global, transportation information cannot be siloed. Companies need insights from ocean or air to land transport to understand the entire freight journey.

Greater insights help companies choose the best transportation mode based on demands, market prices, and more to manage costs while still getting goods on time. By reviewing historical network visibility data, companies now know with greater detail how long each shipping type takes and what to expect.

Leverage Data For Business Intelligence

Not only does transportation visibility offer an opportunity for proactive adjustments to avoid delays and unnecessary expenses, but supply chains can also use this data for business intelligence.

Carriers can do an in-depth analysis of the cost-benefits of a specific lane. Or a shipper can review information on rates, lane performance, and trends to seek out more efficient ways of transporting their goods.

With greater business intelligence, companies can also manage inventory with ease to calculate lead times while reducing storage costs. 

Accessing Real-Time Data

All parties involved in the supply chain will need network data that comes in a format they can understand and then use. To do so, the data must be normalized and presented in a digestible format with no lag time.

For real-time data, supply chain parties need the following technology to ensure they have the data they need in the format they need it in.

  • Transportation Management Systems (TMS): a transportation management system is what shippers and third-party logistics (3PL) companies use to manage their data. Connecting visibility data to TMS solutions can provide stakeholders with real-time data all in one place.
  • Transportation Visibility Applications: Customer service reps and customers might get their data from a transportation visibility application. This makes the data viewable and easy to use for other stakeholders.

Connecting To Carriers

Carrier network connections are often complicated, but network visibility hinges on connecting to carriers. You will need scalable connections for high-fidelity data. Thankfully, there are a number of options that you can choose from when looking for carrier connections.

  • APIs: Short for application programming interface, an API empowers two applications to communicate with one another. APIs allow for real-time data to be passed between parties, resulting in timely and accurate data reporting. This option is especially favorable for large fleets.
  • ELDs or Telematics Devices: Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are also known as telematics devices. They help drivers track their hours of service so that they remain in compliance with all FMCSA requirements. Due to federal mandates, all trucks must be equipped with these devices in the U.S. as well as most trucks in Europe. Connecting to these devices will make it possible to access real-time data.
  • Mobile Applications: Drivers often use mobile applications that they update with information about their loads. However, these are often the least desirable data points because they require data to be inputted manually. You should prioritize API and ELD data over mobile application data. 

Organizational Opportunities 

Network visibility is an opportunity for others beyond the IT department and analytics teams alone. 

Planning For Growth

Network visibility makes it easier to plan for the growth and expansion of your business. You’ll have accurate data about the most profitable lanes and transportation types. That way, you can focus on growing those aspects of your business to ensure the greatest profitability.

Allocating Budgets 

Thanks to greater insights into costs and on-time delivery information, you can choose the type of transportation you want to use. You’ll also be able to figure out exactly how to budget for the type of transportation that you choose. Real-time visibility will also help you schedule employees accurately to manage expenses.

Setting Policies

When signing contracts, you can be very specific about what an on-time delivery means to you. Similarly, you can add clauses to your contracts that outline situations outside of your control that you are not responsible for covering. Whether that be delays due to weather, traffic or other unforeseen situations, you can set policies that will ensure you avoid unnecessary expenses later on down the road.

Discovering Inefficiencies

With greater visibility into all aspects of the supply chain, companies can evaluate data and look for inefficiencies. This improves profitability and helps you make better strategic decisions to benefit your business.

Increasing Your Competitive Edge

No matter your role in the supply chain, network visibility will improve your competitive edge and allow you to provide customers with what they want. In most cases, that means real-time insights into the condition of a shipment and the shipment’s location at all times without the need for cumbersome phone calls or emails. 


What Is Visibility in Supply Chain?

Visibility in the supply chain provides real-time insights regarding where goods are at all points throughout the transportation process.

Why Is Freight Visibility Important?

Freight visibility is important because it helps companies plan their employees’ schedules in ways that manage labor expenses, ensure appropriate dock scheduling and address any efficiencies that are present in the supply chain.

How Do I Increase My Shipment Visibility?

Improve your collaboration with suppliers, partners and carriers to gain access to more data. Connect systems via API to make the data readable and usable.

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