Effective information-sharing across the distribution of goods -- visibility into transportation supply chains and distribution networks -- is a vital part of the information revolution and the knowledge economy.
Global and local players in the total distribution channel are constantly looking for reductions in cost, efficiency improvements, and slashed time to distribution -- all of which can substantially reduce the total cost of an overall production and distribution activity, and heighten customer service and satisfaction.
UPS started with tracking on the Web in the early 1990s and today supports online tracking in 63 countries. UPS has extended basic services to cover broad supply chain visibility for shippers, receivers, importers, and exporters -- both residential and commercial -- through its traditional U.S. small package services, as well as via global UPS Freight, Air, and Ocean Freight Services.
I recently moderated a sponsored podcast that examines the market trends driving the need for greater supply chain technology and efficiency, as well as the visibility services UPS has in place. Joining me was Jim Rice, director of the Integrated Supply Chain Management Program at MIT; Stephanie Callaway, director of customer technology marketing at UPS; Frank Deen is the shipping manager at Rackmount Solutions, and John Schaffer, president of TrueWave.
Here are some excerpts:
... Companies and leaders [are] concerned ... about continuity -- business continuity. We saw that destructions like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 caused a lot of companies to start recognizing that their supply chains are genuinely at risk.
A lot of vulnerabilities were always there, but weren’t very apparent or evident. So, there's a fair amount of recognition about this vulnerability. Right now, there is some work going on in that some companies are planning to make their supply chains more resilient and trying to actively manage risks.
The companies are concerned with optimal supply chain design, and this takes in the aspect of outsourcing. How much outsourcing do we use? How much of that do we even think of putting offshore, trying to reduce cycle time, cost, and uncertainty in the system? That will ultimately enable them to be much more responsive to spikes and drops in demand.
Companies continue to squeeze their supply chain to lean it out, and make it more efficient and more effective. There are a lot of drivers in the industry right now that affect the price of sundry industries differently.
A lot of it comes down to having relationships with customers and suppliers. They would be open and free to share the information that ultimately will help both organizations to make better decisions, reduce uncertainty in the system, and take out some of the cost and uncertainty. That makes the system potentially much more efficient.
Some of these capabilities are becoming more readily available for large companies, and hopefully in the near term, to small- and medium-sized enterprises. The challenges aren't simple, but I think there are some tools and processes emerging that are going to make this much more possible in the future, and therefore get us a little closer to that Nirvana of the synchronized supply chain.
Initially, when we started doing this, because we were shipping from so many locations, even though it was being shipped on our account, we would have to contact each one of those shipping points, each warehouse, each manufacturer to get tracking numbers to send to our customers. Of course, now we are able to have that information sent directly to the customer when the product ships. They get an email with that information.
Plus, on UPS Quantum View, we are able to pull up a report every day that shows everything that has been shipped out on our account, whether from our local warehouse or any of those other locations. We're able to have that tracking number and see the exact progress of that package -- when it was picked up, where it’s at currently, when it’s expected to be delivered, and the address that it’s expected to be delivered to. When a customer calls and asks a question about it, we are able to go to that and immediately give them an answer that provides a comfort level that we are keeping track of their merchandise that they are waiting to get.
We could get to the markets, but we couldn’t do in a way that allowed our customers to have visibility into the process. There’s a lot of uncertainty when you are shipping internationally. When you have visibility into the process from point A to point B, it really changes the dynamic quite a bit. One of the tools that Stephanie was discussing, Quantum View Manage, allows us to see if there are problems along the way. Then we can communicate with our customers in such a way that we can set the proper expectations.
Read a full transcript of the podcast. Sponsor: UPS
Listeners or readers of this podcast are invited to learn more about sponsored B2B podcasts.