Big Data is no longer a buzzword — but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t remained a critical business tool. Your business cannot compete unless it is armed with any and all valuable information, and that is especially true in the emerging age of shipping.
Transportation is a complex service that puts your business and its products at risk at multiple stages. You need to know as much as possible about your shipping process and fine-tune your logistics — and to do that, you need data. Here are three categories of data you desperately need to capture and apply to your supply chain.
Traffic and Weather Data
Traffic and weather cause all sorts of problems during shipping. The most obvious issue is delay; traffic and weather can both slow and entirely thwart shipping, which can push back delivery times and make customers upset. However, traffic and weather also pose physical threats to shipped items. Excess moisture is dangerous in almost any case, and more cars on the road increases the chances for a compromising collision while slowing a vehicle’s rate of travel. Plus, shipping in some high-traffic or severe weather situations might hit your business with ELD violations, which can be expensive and frustrating to overcome.
Traffic and weather often seem like immutable forces that shippers simply have to deal with — but that isn’t always the case. If your shipper has traffic and weather information in advance, they can reroute their vehicles to avoid the riskiest areas. Additionally, you can better schedule your deliveries to avoid times of day or seasons when the traffic and weather get worse. You should look into acquiring GPS tools with built-in weather and traffic pattern forecasts to facilitate the gathering and application of this logistics data. You might also invest in temperature and moisture monitoring tools, which will give you insight into how your cargo fares in different weather conditions.
Without vehicles, shipping would be impossible. Then again, vehicles also interfere with shipping in a variety of ways. For one, vehicles require frequent maintenance, which is essentially downtime when shipments cannot be made. Even then, vehicles will break down in the middle of a job or otherwise fail to function as expected, sometimes doing damage to the shipped goods inside. What’s more, drivers of vehicles aren’t always trustworthy and can deviate from assigned routes or make off with precious cargo without warning.
Vehicle logistics data is some of the easiest to collect and can have perhaps the most significant impact on your supply chain. Software that calculates maintenance schedules and provides vehicle diagnostics can significantly reduce vehicle downtime and the need for emergency repairs. You should use a shock watch to better understand vibrations and impacts that the vehicle imparts onto cargo. Finally, simple GPS tools can help you monitor driver behavior, especially driving patterns and vehicle location. If necessary, you can also install cameras in vehicle cabs for additional monitoring capabilities. Because vehicles are such essential components of shipping, you should be willing to gather as much data on them as possible.
Digital Marketing Data
Few businesses consider digital marketing to be a component of the supply chain — but Big Data you collect for your digital marketing campaigns can serve to improve various aspects of transportation. The better you are at predicting when prospects will convert, the more accurately you can manage your inventory and prepare items for shipment. As a result, you should pay close attention to response data from advertising and social media as well as patterns for website browsing, all of which give clues about your audience’s purchasing habits. If you are unfamiliar with collecting and leveraging digital marketing data, you should partner with a third-party firm for deeper data analysis and application to your supply chain.
Not too long ago, there were several big question marks next to any shipped items. When would they arrive? Would they be subject to any dangerous weather? Is the vehicle carrying them safe? Is the driver capable? Are customers happy with the items they receive, and will they make another purchase soon? Today, by capturing and analyzing certain logistics data, your business can erase the question marks and make a more efficient supply chain, which reduces costs and improves performance in nearly every corner of your company.