Inside Logistics and Shipping for the CIO

By Lionel Carrasco

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In response to new technological, financial, and political conditions, the global economy has changed dramatically during the last few years.

Companies of all sizes are struggling to cope with more stringent business and operational conditions, and one place they are focusing attention is on the technology that links them to their markets, suppliers and customers.

I am speaking, of course, of the supply chain and specifically logistics and shipping. Back "in the day," supply chain management was all about operations. That changed when CIOs, fresh from building out global communications networks, suddenly found themselves needing to provide their organization with real-time visibility into those networks.

Almost overnight, information was poring in about business operations far and near. Managers and line staff craved data about sales, deliveries, backlogs and more. Shippers, logistics service providers and receivers wanted to track goods making their way in an increasingly complex network.

So, what's a CIO need to know about today's supply chain?

Any company with a large outbound transportation requirement faces an extended supply chain that has grown in complexity from the days of the traditional linear chains. These new and complex networks demand sophisticated control of the execution and real-time information while keeping logistics management costs down.

The challenges are many in this new supply chain model. Consider the fact that transportation is an “in-the-field” activity and events influencing its execution are difficult to predict and control. Also consider that the industry is limited in its ability to make real-time decisions and anticipate issues due to the lack of tools that provide operational data.

One approach is to take a look at a new set of business applications that run faster, more accurately and succeed within the new market parameters. Oracle, SAP and third-party vendors are pushing forward with software with new kinds of capabilities that are worth consideration, especially for the mobile and wireless workforce.

Checking the Boxes

CIOs need to grasp the latest in supply chain execution and management because the stakes are so high. Pinpointing problems and opportunities in field operations has never been so important.

Whether you are a hands-on CIO or delegate the function to a team, you can use the following feature set as a guide in understanding software applications that deliver real-time visibility and tracking of vehicles and cargo:

Scheduling - Find a solution that allows you to integrate with external routing systems (TMS) or assist in the creation of routes, either manual or semi-automated based upon pre-defined business rules.

Telemetry Monitors - Look for a solution that provides integrated sensor devices and tags for capturing data (door open/door closed, temperature, speed, direction, asset location) to support predefined business rules.

Vehicles and Cargo Tracking - Be sure your solution supports real-time monitoring of the physical location of the vehicle and cargo. It should also provide vehicle visibility on the date and time of the arrival and departure. Route Execution - Look for a solution that supports real-time monitoring of the progress against the route plan. All players in the extended supply chain should be able to view rolling ETA, breadcrumb route history, and more.

Proof of Delivery (POD) Collection - Find a solution that supports the capture of POD via multiple methods at the point of delivery. POD information is often available via the Web to support billing dispute resolution.

Unscheduled Stop Monitoring - Since you will want to identify when a vehicle is “off” the expected delivery route, delivering “out of sequence,” or stopping at an unexpected location, choose a solution that allows you to define business rules.

Load/Unload Verification - You will want to have validation of inbound/outbound cargo to ensure it is correctly staged to the appropriate route, vehicle and receiver.

Specialized Monitoring/Events Handling - Many solutions allow you to create unique business rules to monitor for out of sight, overflow, shortage and hazardous material handling

In this day and age, in an ever-changing volatile economy, companies need to be proactive in order to survive. Companies can now face market challenges head-on and grow their business by strengthening their extended supply-chain.

Far from the operations backwater it once was, logistics, shipping and supply chain management are capturing the attention of even the busiest CIO, and for good reason. After all, you are only as strong as your weakest supply chain link.

Lionel Carrasco is CTO of Neoris, a global IT consultancy, systems integrator, custom application developer and leader in emergent technologies. Carrasco has more than 20 years experience in IT consulting in the banking, insurance, transportation, retail, manufacturing and oil industries.