Suez Canal, Egypt, March 24 - One of the world’s largest containerships ran aground in the Suez Canal blocking commercial container traffic and throwing global supply chains into chaos. (Suez Canal block continues: Why that's important everywhere). The 220,000 MT, 20,000 TEU container ship, Ever Given lodges itself in the east bank of the Suez Canal. This is but the latest shock to the global supply chain and its impact will reverberate through industries in every part of the world for weeks, if not months.
The impact of the grounding of the Ever Given will be felt across the container shipping industry and affect the flow of material across the globe to manufacturing and retail and everything in between. While the grounding of the Ever Given has a direct impact on its cargo owners and a broader global impact across industries, for individual companies the impact can be devastating.
This all comes after several years of supply chain upheaval from US/China/EU trade tensions, political uncertainty, and a global pandemic.
Where is our Product?
From a company perspective, the issue being confronted in board rooms and transportation departments is the impact the blockage of the Suez Canal has on the company’s ability to satisfy its customers. The answer comes down to inventory availability to meet demand from an ever-demanding, loosely loyal customer base. And this consumer-driven demand imperative in turn begs the questions: Where are our products? Do we have insight into how this disruption is going to affect our ability to supply our manufacturing facilities and our customers? How many items will be impacted by this disruption?
Item-level Visibility is Critical to Global Supply Chain success
While there is no simple answers to these questions, what is clear is that without visibility - at the item level - into the supply chain, no organization can begin to understand how its business will be impacted. Transportation visibility is critical, however without having immediate visibility to the position of items in those containers, the effort and time to analyze the impact of the disruption across the supply chain is massive.
And yet, that is the situation for most companies today. The company doesn’t have the level of visibility required to see into its supply chain (current and future), at the item level, and immediately know where its products are and what the impact will be on its inventory at its manufacturing, distribution, or retail facilities.
Item Level Visibility - What’s available to BCOs
So here is the good news, There are solutions that provide visibility...today. Some are better fits than others. Below is a discussion of 4 options.
Chances are your forwarder is providing you with visibility into the position of your containers through their on-demand portal. You can type in the container or Bill of Lading number and their system will provide you with the status of the container. The forwarder portal will provide you with an update as to the projected ETA of the shipment, but not much else in the way insight.
The problems with forwarder visibility:
- If you are using more than one forwarder it is highly likely that you will need to independently access each forwarder’s site,
- The visibility is often limited to the container and not the items in the shipments,
- A comprehensive overview of a product across the supply chain is exceptionally difficult to achieve,
- Putting disparate information it into an action-oriented consolidated report is labor-intensive and very time consuming,
- Communicating the information across stakeholders is highly problematic.
If this is your reality, you have a significant problem.
There are many SaaS TMS solutions available that provide visibility as part of their solutions. Most of these solutions are focused heavily on domestic transportation (short turnaround delivery times) where visibility is more focused on last-mile performance.
The problems with TMS solution visibility:
- Few offer Ocean or Air visibility,
- Fewer offer visibility at the item level,
- Hardly any offer Terminal or Port monitoring capability
Transportation Visibility Platforms
Newer solutions to address the Ocean visibility problem are the “Visibility Platforms”. These solutions, like Project 44, FourKites, Vizion all provide seamless integration into the various carriers (without EDI) requirements and easily integrate to a company’s ERP’s PO systems and purport to provide item-level visibility. They also provide visibility into the ports to help transportation departments understand the position of the shipments within the terminals.
These solutions are generally focused on the very large BCOs and are not designed for mid-size or smaller shippers.
3rdwave Item Level Visibility - Achievable, On-Demand, Affordable
3rdwave iTMS is a global transportation solution designed to provide total end-to-end item-level visibility to mid-size and small BCOs. It seamlessly (and effortlessly) synchronizes with the companies current enterprise purchase order or financial solution and delivers incredible item-level shipment detail from the time items are booked for shipment until they are delivered to the final destination.
3rdwave iTMS provides a single solution where international ocean and air shipment statuses are accessible, on-demand, to any authorized user. The question, “Where is our Product?” disappears. Additionally, 3rdwave provides a port-monitor that delivers incredible insight and planning opportunities to the transportation team so that they can proactively plan and manage their shipments from the terminal through delivery and the return of the container.
Because 3rdwave iTMS is designed for mid-size and small BCOs it is priced to ensure affordability.
Global Supply Chain disruption happens! - How you manage it determines how quickly you respond.
No one knows when the next global supply chain disruption is going to happen. But what we can say with certainty is that supply chain disruption is happening with greater frequency than in previous decades.
Greater intensity of weather patterns, political interference in trade patterns, or parts shortages, disruption in supplies is going to continue to stress a company’s supply chain. To manage the supply chain and mitigate the risk to a company, it needs end-to-end item-level visibility. Without item-level visibility companies are literally and figuratively blind.
Advice: If you are involved in sourcing products that are critical to your business from global suppliers, you need item-level visibility. You need a solution that can provide you timely information that allows you and your team to be responsive and proactive.
You will not stop disruption to your business. But, you can reduce the risks by optimizing your capabilities to respond to global supply chain disruption and ensure minimal negative impact. Item-level visibility is the answer.