- THE MAGAZINE
This blog is part of a four part series, which will appear on a bi-weekly basis.
There’s no simple way around it. The ocean shipping industry is in need of a digital overhaul if it’s going to achieve the high levels of efficiency, speed and customer service required in today’s on-demand, 24/7 world.
But, even as the shipping industry takes the necessary steps to digitize their delivery processes from point-of-origin to final destination, the ambition will be wasted without a key element: high-quality data.
Accessing data is difficult — especially among smaller shippers who can lack the necessary technical resources — and it can be even harder to rely on. Yet high-quality data is the foundation that shippers need to automate and accelerate supply chain flow, and gain a new level of business insight, such as visibility into shipping performance metrics across multiple lines of business and the many carriers serving a single shipper.
In some cases, advancements in supply chain visibility have simplified data acquisition. Through transparent access to container status event information, shippers now have the tools for viewing data tracking shipments in developed countries across the globe. Yet, with only 9 percent of today’s logistics professionals having complete visibility into their supply chains1, we still have a long way to go. The lack of quality data continues to hold back the industry, when it should be stepping on the gas at this transformative time in e-business.
To start to see systemic information quality improvements — and help the industry take full advantage of automation and optimization opportunities — it may just take the entire shipping industry to speak with a unified voice on the importance of data accuracy. Through this singular voice, I believe we can achieve a state of what I call “Data e-Quality.”
Data e-Quality exists on two levels: The first is in ensuring quality data is equally available to all shippers, regardless of size and location. While large shippers have the clout to mandate visibility or collect fines when data is not accurate, smaller shippers struggle to gain access to timely, accurate data. This causes many logistics professionals to be without effective supply chain visibility, resulting in information gaps, higher costs and customer dissatisfaction. To equalize the playing field, all shippers, regardless of size or location, need ready access to the accurate and timely information. This may best be achieved through participation in an integrated, collaborative platform that provides real-time information from all major carriers and other transportation sources.
The second layer of Data e-Quality is the adoption of full automation through global use of e-shipping capabilities. Manual processes are still the norm in shipping, driving incorrect or partial data entries caused by human error, finger flubs and the inability to simply find the right information. Every company has a different process for coding and naming parts of their shipments (i.e. purchase orders, shipping instructions, booking confirmations), creating a complex and mistake-riddled process that can lead to information discrepancies later in the processes.
The shipping industry has the means to take full advantage of technologies that provide an interconnected, collaborative and efficient e-business network driven by automation — and tapped into the latest, most accurate data available. But the time to get plugged into this collaborative approach is now, lest shippers fall behind.
Let’s bring Data e-Quality to the forefront, and provide all shippers with access to information that is complete, accurate and on time. In my forthcoming blogs [Ed. note: these WILL appear on WT100!], I will detail strategies for achieving this state — and for improving supply chain shipment practices — while taking a close look at the challenges we should be tackling head-on from the viewpoint of the evolving ocean carrier industry.
Footnote1: From report: KPMG Global Manufacturing Outlook -- Competitive Advantage: enhancing supply chain networks for efficiency and innovation. 2013, 335 respondents