Just-in-time manufacturing requires your shipments arriving in time. In this QAD Precision Report, Ian Berman explains why companies using forwarders may suffer from a “data black hole” that leaves production planners scrambling.
I am willing to go out on a limb here and claim that as a best case scenario ocean freight and the supply chain are burning.
First, were the issues with COVID lockdowns. Then we had the Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal. Now, and for a while we have been experiencing the bullwhip in the semiconductor business. Last — and certainly not least — is the conflict in Ukraine.
All of these issues continue to lead to more and more instability within global transportation and the supply chain. This leaves transportation managers as well as production planners scrambling to build what they can, when they can.
The idea of a forecast is laughable at best.
A significant number of manufacturers and distributors are running into major issues with their JIT inventory. No one is willing to guarantee a delivery date or anything that may remind us of an ETA. Each of these issues adds up to a whole lot of scrambling. But don’t worry… your forwarder has it handled!
A good freight forwarder has taken their expertise to the market to simplify and streamline the procurement of carriers — be that ships, trucks or airplanes. They work diligently to move your goods efficiently and at a reasonable price. But right now the forwarders are scrambling just like the rest of us.
They are busy 24/7 booking containers and drayage carriers, all while ensuring that the correct paperwork is filed for those shipments to get through customs with as little hold up as possible.
All of this underscores the need for better visibility into your shipments that the forwarder is handling.
You may say, “But they send us a spreadsheet once a day with updates.” Or maybe you are working with a larger forwarder that has the technology available to give you an online portal to view your shipments. That’s all very well and good. We can now go on there and find out what is happening and track down ETAs, and see if there are any delays.
This sounds really easy if you have a single forwarder and only one shipment moving at a time. What happens when your global company is using a number of forwarders, each managing multiple shipments a day in multiple regions of the world? Now this is starting to get a little more complicated.
Very few of us have the time to go to each forwarder website, login and check each shipment to see if an ETA changed. Plus, after that you would need to manually update your WMS/ERP with those proposed new ETAs so the production planner can start to work ahead.
This is all very time consuming. In an increasingly digitized world, why should we be manually entering any information? And why should you have to go to multiple portals to access something as basic — and as critical — as an ETA?
Welcome to 2022, and the aggregation of data. Some may start to call this big data or blockchain. But it really is as simple as the ability to link multiple platforms together. As a result, the interchange of data is smooth and eloquent — without the need of human interaction.
Having a software solution that can take those feeds directly from the forwarder and convert into human readable information is step one. The second step is a little more tricky — we need to perform a bit of matching and then push that information back upstream into the ERP/WMS. Now we’ve got something — a one-stop shop for all deliveries with all your carriers.
Forwarders are great at a lot of things. However, technology and data sharing has traditionally not been hasn’t been one of them. In years past, this was understandable, given the complex nature of their shipments.
Even when they do give us an ETA, sometimes we can’t confirm if that is the ETA to the port, to the dock, to a cross dock facility, or to the warehouse.
This is exactly why there needs to be a partner in the middle that can harmonize all of those statuses and only give you what you need. Not only that but a solution that filters out statuses that are not important and shows you the exceptions — the ones that need review. With all of that we can start to make better choices on suppliers, as well as give our warehouse and production planners as much time as possible to coordinate everything.
Ian Berman is a Solutions Consultant with QAD Precision. Ian has over 10 years of experience in international transportation and compliance. He holds a Masters Degree in Supply Chain Management and has APICS CLTD Certification.
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