Are you a logistics service provider who is responsible for organizing and managing logistics & supply chain operations for your clients? If yes, here is a brief read on how supply chain visibility can help you and other logistics service providers to achieve enhanced customer experience along with providing cost savings to your customers and growth opportunities for your business. With globalization, the supply chain of many companies has become more outsourced and interconnected than ever before. Global supply chains continue to expand, resulting in the collaboration of more partners generating an endless number of touchpoints and extensive volumes of data to manage. The key to managing this increasing complexity brought about by the globalized supply chains of today is having a better visibility to the supply chain processes i.e. supply chain visibility.
Although supply chain visibility has been a critical necessity for cargo owners for many years, many logistics service providers do not have an overview of the technology, they lack the understanding of its benefits thus they are not able to explore the opportunities this innovation could bring to their business. Knowing the benefits of incorporating a supply chain visibility service into your offering can help you to differentiate yourself from your competition and to provide cutting-edge strategies to your customers resulting in enhanced customer experience.
So how can Logistics Service Providers benefit from offering supply chain visibility capabilities to customers?
- An opportunity to offer a value-added service to your customers
Adapting the business operations to the changing needs of customers is crucial for the successful growth of any business. Businesses need to keep up with the fast pace of the changing customers’ needs, interests, and requirements by constantly innovating and introducing new services, innovative service delivery methods, and competitive pricing.
Today, when customers are facing the complexities of global supply chains, they demand supply chain visibility from their logistics service providers, they want to know where their shipments are and what is happening to them. This point is supported by the findings of a study focused on the logistics service provider market, where the need of having visibility tools offered by logistics service providers was cited as among the top priorities for shippers. This report focusing on the logistics outsourcing to third-party logistics service providers highlights how important it is for logistics service providers to provide a range of IT-based services to help create value for their shipper-customers. The graphics below summarizes your customers’ responses to the question “which information technologies, systems or tools must a 3PL have to serve a customer successfully in your industry classification?”
The needs of your customers are clearly stated but have you done everything to satisfy them?
Adding innovative solutions to your service offering that help your customers to improve their supply chain processes lets you offer a value-added service to your clients while helping you to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. It will enable you to position your brand as innovative and forward thinking. Working with a partner who provides you the capabilities of supply chain visibility enables you to leverage the benefits of the new value-added service without the need to invest money, time and other resources for developing the new service in-house. You can completely rely on your partner and their expertise and be positioned as an innovator at the forefront of your customers. Keep in mind, often the value-added services that you are offering become a determining factor in the logistics service provider selection process of your customers. Meeting the changing demands of the market for various functionalities and services, helps you not only to achieve competitive advantage but also to acquire new customer and offer new innovative ways to your existing customers to improve logistics effectiveness.
- Possibility to diversify the revenue streams of your business
Diversifying your company’s revenue streams by not only relying on your core business activities but also introducing value-added services to your offering enables you to grow sustainably. You can gain an additional revenue stream by offering a supply chain visibility solution for your clients. If you decide to do so by cooperating with a supply chain visibility service provider, you can diversify your revenue streams without significant investment in resources such as time, capital or technology. Not only does this approach save your money, but it is also time efficient as the implementation can be completed in a matter of weeks instead of months or years compared to delivering such a service and technology in-house. Many logistics service providers spend considerable time and money on extraneous processes, expanding unnecessary resources. Time to market can be critical in a highly competitive environment. In order for you to thrive in the future, you can focus on refining your core competencies while your supply chain visibility service partner can take care of the rest. Thus, adding a supply chain visibility solution to your service offering gives you an additional potential for earning more revenue while improving and growing your offering and also saving costs, time and resources and also making your end customer happier.
- Making sure you provide an exceptional customer experience through real-time data
To be ahead of the competition, it’s imperative to provide exceptional customer experience to your clients. As the relationship of shippers and their third-party logistics providers continues to move away from primarily transactional relationships towards a meaningful, strategic partnership, a satisfied customer is a must for healthy business activities. Letting your customer know the whereabouts of shipments provides an enhanced customer experience keeping your customer expectations in line with reality. Having a supply chain visibility solution in place enables you as a logistics service provider to always keep your clients in the loop about the status of their shipments. Working with an IoT enabled supply chain visibility service provider will enable you to compete with the service level of ‘Premium’ Asset-Based logistics service providers such as FedEx or UPS. These logistics service providers are able to provide a fairly extensive shipment visibility to their clients as they own and control the entire shipping process; thus, they have data available at various milestones. It’s good to keep in mind, however, that this tight control comes at a premium price from the premium logistics service providers. By offering comparable services with similar features as high-priced logistics service providers to your customers, you can compete with these providers. You will not need to say to anyone anymore you don’t know where their shipment is or when will it arrive.
Additionally, shipments while in transit can have several exceptions for e.g. shock, theft, delays, route diversion, temperature or humidity fluctuations etc. Unlike the milestone-based visibility services offered by the above mentioned ‘Premium’ Asset-Based logistics service providers, you can uncover these in real-time using IoT enabled supply chain visibility services. Real-time notifications are a key to defense against supply chain disruptions. Real-time notification alerts can help you to manage your client’s shipments by exception. When knowing of disruptions, you will be able to notify your customers giving them the possibility to be proactive, take action to mitigate these disruptions. In the 3PL Study mentioned above, 93% of all interviewed shippers agreed that data-driven decision-making is essential to the future success of supply chain activities and processes. Shippers have a greater expectation of transparency and want the convenience of accessing information in many different ways. This is supported by the results of the study as well; shippers placed significant emphasis on the use of real-time analytics to the success of ongoing client relationships.
- Provide easy access to data and data analytics to aid decision making
Shippers recognize the value of leveraging data to make better decisions. Data accessibility and the possibility of making sense of this data with data analytics is an intrinsic aspect for all sophisticated business operations. Both shippers and logistics service providers are using data and analytics to aid their decision-making process. Data has proven to be exceptionally useful in initiatives for optimizing networks and processes. To demonstrate, the 3PL industry report states, logistics service providers and shippers are leveraging data aggregation and analytics when determining the best shipment methods for specific shipments. Data-driven solutions that offer real-time analytics help both logistics service providers and shippers to better understand shipping alternatives as well as help to assess trade lanes and origin-destination pairs in terms of cost and service levels.
To help achieve customer supply chain objectives, the collected data needs to be easily accessible. Cloud-based supply chain visibility platforms, as well as APIs, provide this functionality. Thanks to the integration capabilities via API to the on-premise systems and application of logistics service providers or those of the shippers directly, automatic retrieval of data from the supply chain visibility/ cargo monitoring platform is possible which makes the data transfer seamless. Additionally, it allows to collect and integrate shipment details from multiple sources and in turn reveal the findings on the dashboard. Location and condition of the shipments can be collected and displayed both on your systems and on the customer portals; alternatively notifying your customers only if there is a problem with their shipments. This gives you and your clients more insight and the specific details about the problematic shipments helping you operate faster, more accurately and effectively than before.
In conclusion, with limited resources and the need to stay innovative, many logistics service providers are looking for outside solutions to help build and improve their unique product offering. By partnering with experts, logistics service providers can experience high-quality services without a hefty investment, and better utilize resources to focus on future growth. Thus, logistics service providers have a great opportunity to save money, better collaborate with clients and, ultimately gain a competitive edge with the right visibility solution. In a business as dynamic and complex as supply chain management, technology is crucial to maintaining efficient, productive and flexible operations. The right supply chain visibility platform can help achieve all of these advantages and help businesses intercept potential issues, improve customer service, lower risk and grow revenues.