- THE MAGAZINE
In previous blogs, I’ve put forth my ideas on the universal need for access to high-quality shipment data by shippers large and small — and recently discussed how inaccessible information causes gaps in supply chain execution, making a lasting impact on customer satisfaction. For a refresher, here are those blogs:
These postings focused on helping shippers improve their data through strategies that prioritize the completeness and timeliness of information used in the shipping process. But how can a company begin to tackle the daunting challenge of managing data streaming in from multiple sources and systems?
Data quality begins with an e-shipping commitment that employs the systems and processes which hold the keys to identifying data problems — so they can be systematically detected and corrected. Without the governance and visibility afforded by an automated approach, the business-impacting issues caused by manual errors, common error types and patterns are at risk of remaining invisible and unaddressed.
For example, transposing a code entered manually at the beginning of a shipment can result in container status event messages remaining unmatched later in the cycle. Catching and correcting mistakes early at the point of entry is a critical element to improving visibility throughout the shipment lifecycle.
Additionally, when data entry is performed by the individual with the most knowledge about a business transaction, significantly fewer errors occur than data manually re-entered from email or fax. In effect, data entered once, validated at point-of-entry, and input by the transaction owner results in the highest quality shipment information upon which the rest of the tracking data will be based.
In order to address these shipping issues upfront, eCommerce solutions should be a core element of your strategy, paving the way towards a fully automated approach that reduces errors and speeds deliveries. Once automation finds its way into your shipping processes from the start, the same principles can be applied to inbound data — even when it derives from multiple sources or in different formats.
Defining an automated process with translation and mapping tables monitored for error detection can deliver an environment where data continually improves. Seek out opportunities to remove manual processes wherever possible from your overall shipment visibility solution.
Finally, look for ways to leverage technology solutions to minimize the movement, translation and storage of data required by multiple parties. Using a single eCommerce platform can enable all shipment participants to share in the same view of information. This spares them the process of having to retransmit, convert, load and store data — only to have to reconcile differences that will undoubtedly exist between the various systems.
An electronic approach lets retailers, manufacturers, customers and forwarders easily access information in a more collaborative way, bringing together multiple parties for common shipping transactions. This is simply the best way to streamline hundreds of container events — or even just a few critical milestones — and deliver them in a standardized, timely fashion.
While there is no “one size fits all” solution, the industry benefits from automation and a more collaborative eCommerce platform for shared access to information — in the form of higher data quality. In in my next blog, I’ll tackle in detail the benefits of standardization on the road to better shipment visibility.