Network Visibility – The key to traversing COVID-19 aftershocks

Network visibility throughout the supply chain

Evolving economies are a by-product of the COVID-19 pandemic that tends to get missed in the ironically crowded space of the health and safety concerns raised by the virus. Lockdowns and social distancing sprouted as the two elemental drivers to secure self and others from the infection. While these two drivers helped people safeguard themselves from the virus, various business models that were dependent on the movement of their goods or services and interaction between people suffered massively.

With people confined to indoors and reluctant to have multiple touchpoints for essentials, logistics emerged as an integral function in both the B2C and B2B market spaces; thereby needing to be holistically optimised. In the wake of a global pandemic where both short and long-term effects are still emerging, organisations need a rear-view look, as well as an in-depth awareness of current activity; drawing greater attention to the value of end-to-end supply chain visibility.

COVID-19 brought greater attention to the value of end-to-end supply chain visibility. The World Economic Forum stated that in the wake of supply chain disruptions due to coronavirus, several experts have reiterated the need to obtain more visibility across the chain. Adding that, when critical supply chain disruptions hit, this visibility becomes crucial to understanding the impact of the disruption on the rest of the chain so that others in the ecosystem can plan and take action, such as developing routes to alternative suppliers.

Visibility, The Ultimate Goal?

Supply chain visibility— often construed as an individual aspect is rather an umbrella term that can range in its meaning from including physical details about the shipment to virtual ones such as which load and vehicle combinations are the most profitable. However, the key deterrent to achieving these needs is the use of disconnected tools and platforms for individual processes between different stakeholders, believes Nitin Jayakrishnan, Founder and CEO, PandoCorp, a networked freight management platform which helps shippers to automate, optimize and scale their freight networks.

“Freight is networked, but the systems that manage it are not,” he adds.

There are multiple players in the logistics SaaS space offering services that digitise individual parts of the supply chain. Pando touts to differ itself by providing a single integrated networked freight management platform that offers comprehensive and end-to-end supply chain visibility with AI-based solutions that answer problems on cost, route, and load optimisation along with SLA adherence. It aims to help shippers with static long-term contracts on locked-in rates and truck types, dynamic dispatch planning based on cost, SLA, route, and loadability optimization, reduces administrative overheads and follow-ups, makes freight cheaper due to dynamic invoice discounting against shorter payment cycles and digital contract management among other offerings.

Moving Beyond Visibility

The Harvard Business Review stated, companies that invested in mapping their supply networks before the pandemic emerged better prepared during the pandemic. They have better visibility into the structure of their supply chains. Instead of scrambling at the last minute, they have a lot of information at their fingertips within minutes of potential disruption. They know exactly which suppliers, sites, parts, and products are at risk, which allows them to put themselves first in line to secure constrained inventory and capacity at alternate sites.

Experts opine that effective planning relies on visibility to a single source of information. Going multiple places to piece a story together, takes time, and can be costly. Organisations that map their end-to-end supply chain create one foundational information source that can support business operations through disruption.

While logistic digitisation companies are helping in either location tracking or optimisation, Jayakrishnan believes, “We are able to do those individual pieces better because we are comprehensive, offering digital, optimal, and networked supply chain, streamlined procurement of contracts, pre-negotiated rate cards and fixed vendors, optimal planning which is centrally controlled, monitored execution for indent-to-dispatch, tracking, documents, SLAs and streamlined freight payment for POD to invoice streamlining, documents and tax compliance.”

Navigating Through Challenges

Implementing technology solutions often brings with it a set of apprehensions. For a comprehensive network visibility solution, they can be bracketed as, being expensive or not having the ability to deliver the right value. 

On the contrary, Gartner’s market guide for Real-time Transportation Visibility platforms estimates that ​by 2023, 50% of global leading enterprises will have invested in real-time transportation visibility solutions. Network visibility solutions have been noted to help improve security measures throughout the supply chain. Other areas where network visibility helps is to speed up troubleshooting efforts, improve network reliability, remove network blind spots, optimize network performance, and strengthen regulatory compliance initiatives.

PandoCorp follows a three-pronged approach to answer consumer apprehensions about delivering value involve:

  • Networked freight management: all stakeholders in the ecosystem connected by a single platform to eliminate any information asymmetry;
  • Closed-loop planning and execution: connect the disparate silos within the enterprise, and support decisions across the procure>plan>execute>pay>predict cycle
  • Dynamic data-backed decision making: a shift from static SOP based decision making to dynamically optimized decisions based on real-time data.”

McKinsey in an extensive study found that the uncertainty about the continuing spread of the coronavirus makes people fear for their health and their lives. Uncertainty about their livelihoods makes them cautious about spending and under high uncertainty, business leaders find it impossible to make reliable plans for investment. Uncertainty is toxic for economic recovery and that the objective now must be to crush uncertainty as soon as possible. As we have seen in previous crises when uncertainty subsides, confidence returns, and economic recovery unlock—and the COVID-19 crisis has created the highest level of uncertainty in 35 years.

A comprehensive network visibility solution can be a way to get detailed analytics beyond basic capabilities such as predictive ETAs. It uses historical and real-time data to make better predictions on future events as well as get insights around available capacity in the network. And most important of all, a freight network visibility solution helps create prescriptive/preventive actions around the future occurrence and provides the capability to automate workflows.

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