Whether it is a purchase from an online retailer or a local food order, new technologies have raised consumer expectations for businesses to provide full visibility of purchased goods right through to the point of delivery.
We are seeing business customers develop the same expectations; however, the level of visibility available to them when tracking cargo through the supply chain by far lacks the sophistication available to consumers. The journey from A to B features numerous blind spots, with businesses often unable to account for their cargo at any given moment while it moves across the sea or land. This lack of control over their cargo affects the bottom line of these businesses and negatively impacts global trade flows, coming at the expense of efficiency, supply balances, and sustainability.
The need for businesses to have greater visibility over their cargo has intensified in the wake of COVID. As supply chains contract and manufacturing operations move nearshore, supply-demand levels become more volatile, and routes need efficient course-correcting to keep pace with the pandemic. It has never been more vital for businesses to have precise and actionable visibility over their cargo.
We know first-hand how these pressures extend to the automotive sector, with ten per cent of our global consignments coming from this industry. Automotive supply chains are highly complex systems, involving the movement of thousands of individual components while catering to massive volumes and diverse consumer demand. And with profit margins so tight, automotive manufacturers have traditionally relied on a “just-in-time” approach to their manufacturing and distribution processes.
Repercussions from the pandemic, coupled with increasing standards around smart and green technologies, mean the sector must radically re-think where and how it manufactures, moves and distributes cars and their components.
But how can the sector expect to resolve these issues when they are navigating their supply chains blindly? Full visibility of cargo is essential if automotive logistics is to keep pace with the evolution of supply chains in the post-COVID trade economy.
That’s why, in partnership with our sister company P&O Ferrymasters, DP World has developed the world’s first track-and-trace system that provides full real-time visibility for container shipments travelling by road, rail, and sea.
Known as ‘Track and Trace’, the innovative new technology involves fitting solar-powered tracking devices to individual containers, allowing cargo owners to have sight of their goods at all times. The technology boasts a six-year lifespan and eliminates the need for fixed power sources in the sea or across stretches of the rail network which, until now, has been a barrier to supply chain visibility.
As well as painting a more robust picture of a business’ trade flows, the technology unlocks new decision-making efficiencies for companies that want to save on back-up shipments, respond quickly to delays, or course-correct cargo to meet shifting demand. Until now, car manufacturers employed teams of people to engage with logistics providers to keep track of their consignment, with no autonomy over their cargo flows. This lack of visibility forces companies to build unnecessary buffers into their supply chains, face costly delays at the assembly line, or misallocate precious reserve stock.
As we deploy this technology across our networks in Europe and beyond, we only begin to unlock the full potential of track-and-trace technology. We have not done this alone, and we are proud of the partnerships that help us get there. As the Global Logistics Partner to the Renault DP World Formula 1 Team, we have put our technology to the test with a team that shares our vision of innovation and success by leveraging smarter technologies.
As F1 teams learn through data, adapting and acting in real-time to optimise performance, so too must supply chains. The more we gain visibility throughout the transportation route, the more we build agility and responsiveness into the global supply chains. Just recently, we transported a Renault DP World Formula 1 car from the factory in Enstone to the UAE. Given the value and time-critical nature of this cargo, we needed to maintain visibility every step of the way.
Visibility is just one piece of the puzzle, albeit a critical one. Its benefits begin to falter when parties look through different lenses and use various metrics to keep track of their cargo. OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) must often navigate multiple software and hardware systems that do not always see eye to eye. Achieving the seamless integration of these systems can be an uphill battle which is a drain on resources, in terms of both time and cost.
That is why we recognise visibility as more than just a one-off need. Having sight of cargo is one thing – using that visibility to build more resilient supply chains, and healthier businesses is another entirely. As an end-to-end logistics provider, we remain focused on ensuring that all of the partners operating across our supply chains can speak the same ‘language’, stay seamlessly connected, and look through the same lens.
To that end, the management of supply chain and logistics operations must prioritise business transparency by committing to invest in increased cargo visibility. This is not only achievable through the adoption of technology and innovation – but also through how businesses act and adapt based on the data and insights the technology provides. Only then is smarter decision-making the result, ultimately allowing businesses in this sector to reap sustainable financial and operational benefits.