Technology Is Providing Real-Time Supply Chain Visibility, but What's Next?
IMT Staff posted on April 04, 2014 |

Thomasnet, logistics, supply-chain, GPS, trade, business, shippingEmerging technologies are giving businesses real-time visibility into logistics -- not just within the enterprise but extending upstream into the supply chain and downstream into distribution.

This kind of capability is a game-changer for companies that have to move lots of parts, assemblies, goods, and materials, according to engineering professor George List of North Carolina State University at Raleigh, N.C., who specializes in transportation and logistics systems. “If you look at it from the perspective of a carrier or shipper or receiver, you don’t have to wonder where things are and when they’re going to get to where they need to go,” he told ThomasNet News in an interview.

List served up the example of J.BHunt Transport, which equips its truck cabs with global positioning systems (GPS). “Not only can you tell exactly where the truck is, but you can monitor what kind of state it’s in -- whether it’s turned on or off and so forth. Monitoring the location of the vehicle in real time, you can also watch out for particularly congested locations and use that information to reroute the truck around incidents or accidents.”

There are direct business advantages of real-time oversight, List added. “You can insert pickups in response to customer requests, or you can change the delivery sequence if a customer needs special attention,” he noted. “Companies are looking closely at all this real-time management capability, because it comes down to their bottom line.”

And the stakes are high. The $1.33 trillion U.S. logistics industry handles almost 18 billion tons of materials and goods yearly, through a massive network that includes 145 ports, 160,000 miles of interstate highways, and 100,000 miles of freight rail. Material handling and logistics (MHL) systems also play an important role with the United States’ 300,000 manufacturing sites and 350,000 warehouses.

The 2014 Material Handling and Logistics U.SRoadmap, prepared by the Chicago-based American Society of Transportation and Logistics (AST&L) with a consortium of partners, emphasizes that in an increasingly complex and highly connected world, in which “all the pieces must fit and work together to accommodate continuous and sometimes mind-boggling change,” material handling and logistics (MHL) is crucial.

The proliferation of lean and just-in-time operations is putting pressure on manufacturers to shorten lead times and narrow the windows for deliveries. Demands in e-commerce, mass customization, and rapid delivery are also ramping up complexity. The difficult and complex task of providing “the connections that move goods through the supply chain and into consumers’ hands” requires an array of sophisticated and robust IT assets.

In an interview with ThomasNet News, Vittorio Aronica, senior vice president for information services and solutions at Houston, Texas-based third-party logistics (3PL) provider CEVA Logistics, said that the company manages its assets and services with an internally developed platform called CEVA Matrix. This has required the integration of solutions for end-to-end management of transportation, freight, and warehousing.

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This article was originally published on ThomasNet News Industry Market Trends  and is reprinted in its entirety with permission from Thomas Industrial Network.  For more stories like this please visit Industry Market Trends. 

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