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4 key steps to providing supply chain transparency to your customers

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As global supply chains are becoming increasingly complex, ensuring end-to-end transparency is rapidly becoming a priority for shipping companies.

Evolving customer expectations are one of the primary drivers behind initiatives for achieving greater transparency in maritime supply chains. Stakeholders such as charterers and cargo owners – and their downstream customers – demand full visibility into cargo conditions and status, from the point of origin to the final destination, and everywhere in between.

Your customers’ criteria for choosing which carrier will bring their products to market are basically the same: They select the one that provides the most predictable, reliable and transparent operations.

How do you get started providing supply chain transparency? Follow these 4 steps to build trust and bring maximum value to your customers and their end consumers.


1. Identify your role in the supply chain

One way of thinking about the supply chain is the management of flows. There are five major flows in any supply chain: product flow, financial flow, information flow, value flow and risk flow.

Transparency mainly deals with the flow of information. It can include everything from sharing product data, descriptions and pricing, inventory levels, customer and order information, packing lists, delivery scheduling, supplier and distributor information, delivery status, commercial documents, current cash flow, financial information, and more.

Supply chain transparency requires companies to know what is happening upstream in the supply chain and to communicate this knowledge both internally and externally.

A good first step in order to provide better transparency is to identify the key events and key data you should communicate and coordinate with customers, transportation vendors, subcontractors, port authorities, customs and other parties.


2. Implement a digital strategy

Going digital, i.e. leveraging improved ship-to-shore connectivity and smart use of maritime ICTs, is the key factor that will enable you to provide your customers with more real-time data and traceability throughout the transportation chain.

In order to generate the vessel data you need to provide your customers with full cargo visibility, you first need to digitalise your vessel operations. The most efficient and secure way to do this is to incorporate a comprehensive maritime-optimised enterprise ICT system across your fleet.

Smart use of agile ICT solutions and tools custom-built for the digital ship allows you to collect onboard IoT sensor data, optimise it, and ensure its safe transfer to your customers and other relevant supply chain stakeholders, both at sea and on land.


3. Install onboard sensors and monitoring systems

Maritime digitalisation, enabled by ship-specific software services and solutions, makes it possible to gather raw data from onboard sensors and monitoring systems and digitally distribute it throughout your logistics network.

By integrating IoT sensors and condition monitoring systems into cargo systems, such as refrigerated containers, your customers can monitor their goods in real time and stay informed of cargo condition and status all the way to port.

This includes not only monitoring of location but also temperature and other parameters that reassure your customers that their cargo is meeting the specified requirements.

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4. Ensure reliable Internet access

Onboard IoT systems and sensor equipment provide the cargo data. However, in order for your customers to glean insights and value from it, the data needs to make it ashore, in a secure environment.

In the IoT-enabled push to integrate vessels into shore networks, for the benefit of the customer, the ship-to-shore data transfer is a step that is often underestimated.

Exchanging cargo monitoring data and information between ship and shore on a day-to-day basis is not possible without integrating ship systems into shore-based operations. Reliable and secure internet connection is the crucial link for getting the data safely ashore to customers and other relevant stakeholders, in relevant formats.

Better visibility and more timely data sharing enabled by smart and secure maritime Internet allow you to collaborate more effectively with customer support centres, fleet/transportation partners, port operations, and authorities.


Enabling better transparency through standardisation

Today, your customers demand a finely-tuned digital tracing of goods along the entire maritime transportation chain, so that they can closely monitor time of arrival and be informed of delays.

To be able to provide customers with the level of data visibility and transparency that they expect, you need to embrace new enabling digital technologies.

Collecting onboard data in itself isn’t enough, though. It needs to be analysed and made available on the shore side in the most timely, accurate and value-enhancing way.

The data landscape in the industry is complex. Carriers, customers and third parties use many different technologies, data definitions and data exchange methods when communicating with each other. This makes it difficult for stakeholders to share data and achieve transparency.

To meet these enduring interoperability challenges, the industry itself is now driving initiatives to standardise reporting and make container transportation services transparent, reliable, easy to use, secure and eco friendly.

DSCA – a nonprofit, independent organisation established in 2019 by several of the largest container shipping companies – has developed a shared, foundational data language and logical data model for the container shipping industry, called the “DCSA Information Model”.

ICT as a value driver

4 key steps to providing supply chain transparency to your customers
Written by Rune Larsen, Product Marketing Manager

Rune Larsen is Product Marketing Manager in Dualog. Educated in business strategy and marketing from the Arctic University of Norway, he has more than 25 years of experience in the creative industry, where he worked as a writer, consultant, graphic designer, and creative director in various advertising agencies and design studios. He's been orchestrating brand identity projects, design work and brand building campaigns for a wide range of organisations. He brings a passion for great design to the team, never compromising on the importance of the 'experience' part of UX. When not at the office, he enjoys hiking with his wife or is busy being a football coach for his youngest daughter. His fitness regime involves either running or cross-country skiing. Rune is an avid reader of business-related books, and he loves the occasional bottle of Barolo.

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