What Is Freight Visibility? Comprehensive Guide [2024]

Freight visibility is a popular discussion topic in many supply chain circles. And rightfully so. In the wake of the pandemic, eCommerce boom, and subsequent supply chain crisis, the world needs solutions. We all inherently understand the theoretical premise of modern freight visibility: knowing our shipment’s whereabouts at all times! As the supply chain world drives for resilience and efficiency, that’s a clear-cut value proposition.

The transition from theoretical to actual implementation is a bit more complex. Many organizations are considering expanding their freight visibility. This conversation typically centers around a few key questions.

Let’s discover freight visibility in more detail in today’s guide. Here’s what we will cover in it:

  • Understanding the basics of freight visibility and the 2 sides to it
  • How it benefits your business
  • Best practices for freight visibility
  • Importance of Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms (RTTVPs)
  • Vector’s role in freight visibility

What Is Freight Visibility: Understanding Its 2 Dimensions

Freight visibility represents the ability to track the movement of goods throughout the entire journey, from the initial planning stage to the moment they reach their final destination. Freight visibility is the essential backbone of modern logistics and supply chain management. But not long ago, things were quite different.

Real-time tracking meant giving the driver a check call on their cell phone. You’d ask the driver for their location, a rough estimated time of arrival, and maybe give them your fax number for the bill of lading. Internally, maybe we shared a little data on a spreadsheet. Looking back, we were sharing real-time data in a way. If you squint hard enough, I guess that was technically freight visibility.

But now it’s clear how much real-time tracking has evolved. Tracking precision and accuracy are night and day from the era of check-calls. This new precision is thanks to technological advancements in tools like GPS, IoT (Internet of Things) devices, telematics, and digitization software. Subsequently, an entire industry of software companies now focuses on freight visibility.

However, this concept is not one-dimensional; rather, it has 2 critical sides that converge to streamline the shipping process.

The Planning Side

Freight visibility begins with the planning of shipments. Supply chain and logistics teams should answer 2 fundamental questions: Where does the shipment need to go and how should it get there? This planning side is all about making informed decisions, from selecting the optimal transportation routes to choosing the most efficient carriers. Consider factors like transportation costs, delivery timelines, and the nature of the cargo.

The planning stage relies heavily on data, historical trends, and real-time information to make well-informed choices. This is where technologies like route optimization algorithms and demand forecasting tools come into play. With these tools, you can strategize and create a detailed plan for timely and cost-effective movement of goods.

The Shipment Tracking Side

After the planning, the second phase of freight visibility comes into play: shipment tracking. This is where the rubber meets the road, or rather, where the goods meet the conveyor belts, trucks, ships, or planes. The primary goal here is to ensure that the shipment stays visible and trackable as it progresses through the various stages of the supply chain.

Shipment tracking is all about real-time monitoring of the cargo’s location, condition, and status. This requires a combination of technologies such as GPS tracking, RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) tags, and IoT (Internet of Things) sensors. These technologies let you follow the shipment’s journey from the moment it leaves the warehouse or manufacturing facility to its arrival at the final destination.

Throughout this journey, freight visibility provides valuable insights. It lets companies anticipate and address potential delays, respond to unexpected events, and maintain a high level of control over the shipment’s progress. In other words, the shippers, carriers, 3PLs (third-party logistics providers), warehouses, yard managers, and customers all have the same actionable data.

What Does Freight Visibility Mean For Your Business?

When 80% of incoming calls are customers asking where their shipments are, freight visibility is everything for any business. Time to see how it benefits yours.


Enhanced Shipment Tracking & Tracing

Imagine having the ability to pinpoint the exact location of your shipments in real-time, like tracking a package you ordered online. That’s what enhanced shipment tracking and tracing, a key component of freight visibility, offers your business.

With this capability, you can monitor your goods as they move through the supply chain. You know when your products leave your facility, when they reach a distribution center, and when they arrive at their final destination.

Why does this matter? It eliminates the guessing game and the frustration of not knowing where your shipments are. In the world of logistics, information is power. With shipment visibility, you can respond to any unforeseen issues quickly, whether it’s a delay because of weather, a traffic jam, or a problem with a carrier.


Improved On-Time Delivery Performance

On-time delivery is not just a matter of meeting commitments; it’s about keeping customers satisfied and loyal. Poor freight visibility can cause missed delivery windows and disappointed customers. But with freight visibility solutions in place, you gain the upper hand.

You can plan with precision, knowing exactly when your shipments are expected to arrive. This lets you optimize your scheduling and ensure that you allocate resources efficiently and meet delivery deadlines consistently. No more last-minute scrambling to handle delays or unexpected bottlenecks.


Better Inventory Management & Planning

Inventory management can be complex. Too much inventory ties up capital and storage space while too little can cause stockouts and lost sales. Enter freight visibility, which brings a new level of clarity to these situations.

When you know your shipments’ arrival times, you can align your inventory levels precisely with demand. You reduce the risk of overstocking or understocking and optimize your use of warehouse space and capital. This, in turn, saves costs and improves profitability.

Also, you can plan promotions and marketing campaigns with confidence, knowing that you have the goods in hand when you need them. Freight visibility transforms inventory management from a headache into a strategic advantage.


Enhanced Supply Chain Visibility

Your supply chain is a complex network of interconnected nodes, from suppliers to manufacturers to distributors. A freight visibility platform gives you a crystal-clear view of your supply chain which means everything for your business.

You get access to large volumes of supply chain data that lets you understand how each element of your logistics network is performing. This real-time insight helps you identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas for optimization.

With this, you can make informed decisions to improve your supply chain’s overall efficiency. Whether it’s optimizing routes, adjusting inventory levels, or renegotiating contracts with suppliers, you have the data to drive meaningful improvements.


Streamlined Operations & Reduced Downtime

In the world of logistics, downtime can be a silent profit killer. Every minute your operations stall because of unforeseen issues is a minute of lost productivity and potential revenue. Freight visibility is your solution to minimize these costly disruptions.

When you have clear insight into your shipment’s movement, you can plan and allocate resources more effectively. You’re not caught off guard by delays or disruptions because you can anticipate and react to them in real time. This proactive approach minimizes downtime, keeps your operations running smoothly, and ultimately saves you money.

Imagine a manufacturing line that never grinds to a halt because of missing raw materials or a distribution center that efficiently manages incoming shipments, reducing the need for overtime. That’s the power of streamlined operations through logistics visibility.


Improved Customer Service & Satisfaction

Exceptional customer service is what sets businesses apart. Freight visibility platforms play a pivotal role in improving your customer service and, consequently, customer satisfaction.

Imagine when a customer wants to inquire about their order’s status With freight visibility at their fingertips, they can get accurate, real-time information. They know precisely where their shipment is and when it’s expected to arrive. This transparency not only satisfies the customer’s curiosity but also instills confidence in your reliability.

Also, when you consistently meet delivery commitments, your customers become more than satisfied – they become loyal advocates for your brand. They’ll trust you to deliver on your promises time and again, resulting in repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.


Better Utilization Of Resources & Assets

Freight visibility transforms how logistics companies allocate and manage their resources and assets. It’s about making every element of your supply chain count, whether it’s warehouse space, labor, or equipment. When you know exactly when shipments are arriving and departing, you can allocate your resources more effectively.

Also, better resource utilization means that your assets, like trucks and warehouses, are used to their maximum capacity. Empty trucks and underused storage facilities become exceptions rather than the norm, which increases efficiency and profitability for your logistics company.


Proactive Issue Resolution & Exception Management

In dynamic supply chains, issues are bound to arise. It could be a weather-related delay, a logistical hiccup, or a damaged shipment. Freight visibility empowers you to be proactive in addressing these challenges.

Instead of reacting to issues as they surface, you can foresee and manage exceptions in real time. This means rerouting shipments to avoid disruptions, alerting customers about delays before they become a concern, and resolving problems swiftly. The result? A smoother, more reliable supply chain with fewer hiccups along the way.


Reduced Transportation Costs & Overhead Expenses

Reducing transportation costs and overhead expenses is a critical goal for logistics companies and freight visibility is a powerful tool in achieving this objective.

With comprehensive insights into shipment movements, you can optimize transportation routes and carrier choices. This reduces fuel consumption, lowers transportation distances, and offers better rates with carriers.

Improved visibility also helps mitigate overhead expenses associated with disruptions and inefficiencies. Downtime, rush orders, and emergency rescheduling are all costly and can be minimized with proactive issue resolution made possible.


Compliance & Regulatory Adherence

Compliance and regulatory adherence are non-negotiable aspects of logistics, especially for international shipments. Freight visibility makes it easier.

When you can track shipments and access the necessary documentation in real time, you are in control. Compliance becomes less of a headache because you are consistently meeting the necessary standards and regulations. This minimizes the risk of costly delays, fines, or legal issues associated with non-compliance.

Also, compliance becomes more manageable when you have access to supply chain insights that let you track and report on the necessary compliance data. It’s all about staying on the right side of the law without breaking a sweat.

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6 Proven Strategies To Achieve Freight Visibility

Let’s discuss how you achieve freight visibility across your supply chain.


Implementing Real-Time Tracking Systems

  • Select the Right Tracking Technology: Start by choosing tracking systems that fit your needs. GPS and RFID are common options. Consider factors like coverage, accuracy, and cost.
  • Install Hardware: Once chosen, install tracking hardware on your trucks, containers, or packages. Ensure proper calibration and maintenance for reliable data.
  • Implement Alerts: Set up automated alerts for deviations from the plan. This could be delays, route changes, or temperature fluctuations for sensitive cargo.
  • Use Mobile Apps: Equip drivers with mobile apps that connect to the tracking system. This way, they can access real-time data on their routes, delays, or potential issues.
  • Connect to a Central Hub: Link tracking devices to a central system that collects real-time data. This hub can be on-site or cloud-based, depending on your infrastructure and budget.

Integrating Telematics for Fleet Visibility & Optimization

  • Choose Telematics Solutions: Invest in telematics systems that suit your fleet. These can include vehicle monitoring, fuel management, and driver behavior tracking.
  • Install Telematics Hardware: Like tracking systems, install telematics hardware in your vehicles. Ensure it’s compatible with your chosen telematics software.
  • Data Integration: Integrate telematics data into your broader freight visibility tools. This lets you monitor vehicle health, fuel efficiency, and driver performance in real time.
  • Predictive Maintenance: Leverage telematics to predict maintenance needs to reduce downtime and costly breakdowns.
  • Driver Training: Use telematics data to train drivers for better safety and fuel efficiency. Real-time feedback can improve behaviors like idling or harsh braking.

Breaking Down Data Silos & Integration Solutions

  • Identify Data Sources: Identify all the data sources in your logistics operations. This includes tracking systems, telematics, warehouse management, and more.
  • Data Standardization: Ensure data from different sources is standardized, so it’s compatible for integration. This involves using common data formats or APIs.
  • Integration Platforms: Invest in integration platforms or middleware solutions that can connect various data sources and make the data available in a unified dashboard.
  • Scalability: Ensure that your integration solutions are scalable to accommodate future data sources and technologies.
  • Real-Time Analytics: Implement real-time analytics tools to extract actionable insights from integrated data. This can help in making informed decisions quickly.
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: Encourage collaboration between different departments within your organization (e.g., logistics, finance, sales) to ensure that everyone benefits from the integrated data.

Adopting Cloud-Based Communication Platforms

  • Choose a Cloud Solution: Select a reliable cloud-based communication platform with scalability, security, and integration capabilities in mind.
  • Data Migration: Migrate your existing communication and collaboration tools to the cloud platform. Ensure a seamless transition for your team.
  • Real-Time Communication: Use the platform for real-time communication with your team, partners, and customers. This can include messaging, video conferencing, and document sharing.
  • Mobile Accessibility: Make sure that the cloud platform is accessible via mobile devices to support field personnel and drivers.
  • Integration with Freight Systems: Integrate the cloud platform with your freight management systems to streamline communication and data flow.
  • Centralized Data Storage: Store essential data and documents on the cloud for easy access and sharing. Ensure proper data organization and security measures.

Leveraging Advanced Data Analytics & Predictive Insights

  • Data Collection: Collect and centralize data from various sources, including tracking systems, telematics, and IoT devices.
  • Advanced Analytics Tools: Invest in advanced analytics tools or software that can handle large datasets and complex algorithms.
  • Predictive Modeling: Develop predictive models to forecast demand, optimize routes, and identify potential disruptions.
  • Real-Time Monitoring: Implement real-time monitoring dashboards that display KPIs and provide alerts for anomalies.
  • Continuous Improvement: Use analytics to continually refine your logistics processes and make data-driven decisions.

Collaborating with Freight Partners & Service Providers

  • Data Sharing Agreements: Establish data-sharing agreements with partners in your logistics network, like carriers, 3PLs, and suppliers, ensuring they have access to relevant real-time data and vice versa.
  • Performance Tracking: Monitor your partners’ and service providers’ performance using shared data and KPIs.
  • Shared Visibility Goals: Make sure that your partners share your commitment to freight visibility and align on common goals.
  • Continuous Communication: Maintain an open line of communication to quickly address issues or changes in real time.
  • Collaborative Platforms: Use collaboration platforms or portals to facilitate real-time communication and data exchange with partners.

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The Role Of Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms (RTTVPs) In Freight Visibility

Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms (RTTVPs) are advanced software solutions used in the logistics and supply chain industry. They use a combination of technologies like GPS, RFID, and IoT (Internet of Things) sensors to track the location and condition of shipments in real time. These platforms collect data from various sources, like trucking companies, warehouses, and even individual delivery vehicles.

Once they have all this data, RTTVPs process it in real-time to provide a comprehensive view of the entire transportation network. This means you can see where your goods are at any given moment whether they’re in transit on a truck, sitting in a warehouse, or awaiting customs clearance at a port.

In general, RTTVPs align with the overall supply chain trend toward digital transformation. Freight visibility sells itself through a host of hard and soft benefits. These include:

Embrace Vector For Automation & Digitalization In Freight Processes

Vector’s yard management system (YMS) illuminates every corner of your yard operations to significantly enhance your freight visibility. It brings unparalleled visibility, efficiency, and control to your yard management. Let’s see how it revolutionizes your business:


Real-Time Shipment Tracking

Vector’s YMS provides real-time visibility into the location and status of every shipment in your yard. With digitalized processes and automated tracking, you can monitor the movement of goods as they arrive, depart, and move within your facility. This ensures you get the maximum visibility to reduce the chances of misplaced or lost shipments.


Streamlined Operations

Automation through our YMS optimizes your yard management processes. It manages the movement of trailers, containers, and assets with precision. No more manual, error-prone procedures. This streamlined operation means shorter wait times, quicker turnaround, and reduced congestion in your yard, ultimately contributing to smoother and more efficient logistics.


Dock Scheduling & Appointment Scheduling

Vector’s YMS optimizes dock assignments so that each shipment is assigned to the most appropriate dock based on factors like product type, size, and delivery priority. Also, our solution lets carriers and drivers schedule their appointments online, aligning with their availability and the facility’s capacity.

This not only reduces congestion but also minimizes waiting times for trucks and enhances visibility into upcoming shipments to help businesses better allocate resources.


Document Digitization

At Vector, our YMS digitizes critical documents like bills of lading (BOLs). It can even scan paper-based documents and convert them to high-quality electronic documents that are stored on the cloud.

This eliminates the need for physical paperwork and reduces the risk of document loss. With digitized documents, you can also automate document validation and compliance checks, ensuring that all necessary documentation is in place before a shipment is processed.


Data-Driven Decision-Making

Vector’s YMS collects and processes different types of data about your yard operations. This data becomes critical for informed decision-making. You can analyze historical trends, identify areas for improvement, and fine-tune your yard processes. It’s all about making smarter, more strategic decisions that result in efficiency and cost savings.


Many organizations are dysfunctional because of a lack of freight visibility. People hoard information like it’s all patented trade secrets. They operate under tribal knowledge and hardly ever share their secret tricks with outsiders. Information barely gets written down on paper, let alone logged into the software system.

We’ve been staring at a two-dimensional supply chain with our eyes crossed for long enough. But technological tools are converging and iterating. Things are getting better. The dream of end-to-end tracking has made it through the Overton window into reality.

Let’s digitize, de-silo the data—and watch the supply chain evolve into another dimension. If you want to achieve freight visibility, start by partnering with a digitization company like Vector.

Whether you’re looking to increase your freight visibility, streamline operations, or just make your supply chain more agile, remember this: partnering with us at Vector can take you places you’ve never been. Book a free consultation to know more.

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This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.

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