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Fabrizio BrascaEVP, Industry & Market Strategy, FourKites

Why transportation visibility is table stakes, and how the Fortune 500 is using advanced capabilities to make their supply chain a competitive differentiator

In 2014, FourKites launched as the first company to use SaaS and GPS-enabled devices to improve shippers’ on-time delivery by providing real-time data. A hardware-agnostic and multi-modal approach enabled us to facilitate collaboration and significantly improve the $2 trillion logistics industry, eliminating the need for time-consuming track-and-trace efforts.

Over the years, our platform has matured, as we began connecting every node and signal – whether the shipment was in transit or at rest – into a single user experience. When COVID-19 threw global supply chains into a tailspin, our customers needed even more advanced capabilities. And so we continued to innovate, taking our customers’ lead on what applications would add the most benefit to their end-to-end operations. In 2021 we patented our Smart Forecasted Arrival technology, introduced highly accurate estimated times of arrival for ocean and air, improved yard management capabilities with SKU-level data, and enabled better collaboration among carriers and partners.

Undoubtedly, the needs of our customers and shippers globally have accelerated the maturity of the real-time transportation visibility market. So much so, in fact, that the name itself is a bit of a misnomer — we have quickly moved beyond “transportation visibility”.

Today, global enterprises need total end-to-end supply chain visibility, complete with advanced capabilities that are powered by a robust data network. This is evident in Gartner’s recently released report, “Critical Capabilities for Real-Time Transportation Visibility Platforms,” which assesses the leading supply chain visibility providers.

The findings are based on a thorough evaluation of products based on five major Use Cases, looking closely at nine key differentiating capabilities: Modal coverage, global presence, core capabilities, extended capabilities, usability and user experience, data quality, implementation and integration tools, technology partners, and carrier networks.

In the report, Gartner ranks Use Cases from the simplest, or Level 1, to the most complex – Level 5. And we’re proud to share that FourKites ranked highest for the most complex Use Cases, Levels 3 through 5.

Here we’ll provide a quick overview of each level. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a deeper look at how the various levels of complexity and Use Cases apply across different industries.

Basic Needs

At minimum, shippers need to be able to answer the question, “Where’s my truck?” And they should do so with self-service access to real-time data. As Gartner defines it, this limited use case of real-time visibility is the foundation of Level 1 and Level 2 complexity. Here’s a summary of Levels 1 and 2:

Level 1

Applies to situations where companies need visibility in one region for only one mode of transportation, typically over-the-road shipments — full truckload (FTL) and less than truckload (LTL). Transportation visibility requirements are typically based on rudimentary environments where transportation is managed locally and in a functional silo. Only basic capabilities, such as order capture, carrier integration, basic tracking and messaging or alerts, are required.

Level 2

Applies to situations where a company needs visibility to multiple modes managed from a single region. However, transportation visibility requirements are typically straightforward. Level 2 solutions use more of the core real-time visibility capabilities, but do not go beyond some advanced analytics. While this level introduces more modes, it’s typically limited to ocean inbound or outbound to or from the region along with FTL and LTL.

Complex Needs

While Levels 1 and Level 2 are important, most larger enterprises require more. Higher levels of complexity mean full visibility across entire supply chains, enabling companies to enhance warehouse operations, reduce yard congestion, and improve carrier and driver productivity.

Without a robust, enterprise-grade solution, top-line savings can disappear without warning and create unmanageable exposure to operational inefficiencies and labor and detention costs — all while straining even the strongest supplier relationships.

These capabilities can only be built on a massive global network of quality, real-time data across all geographies, modes, nodes and signals. And for maximum benefit, they must be available via a single, user-friendly platform – not multiple, niche solutions. For example, FourKites leverages patented artificial intelligence to process 150 factors – weather, traffic and real-time data from GPS, ELD telematics networks, mobile devices, AIS and more – to provide recommendations based on trillions of data points. And all of this data is available on one, customizable dashboard, providing easy and highly secure access to all stakeholders.

Here is a summary of how Gartner defines Levels 3 through 5:

Level 3

Applies when a company needs visibility in multiple regions across multiple modes. In these scenarios, multiple modes will be used beyond FTL, LTL and ocean. Level 3 extends into rail, intermodal and parcel. The visibility requirements typically extend beyond transportation into areas like yard visibility, dynamic appointment scheduling, and some form of network visibility. In Level 3, users typically have moderate operational complexity and visibility maturity.

Level 4

Applies when visibility is needed globally in all modes, including air. Level 4 solutions use all core real-time visibility capabilities and some advanced capabilities as well — the emphasis shifts from track-and-trace to focusing on improving or enhancing supply chain operations with value-added capabilities, such as collaboration and yard management. The data and insights gleaned are used beyond visibility, but also for operational execution.

Level 5

Applies when companies have visibility to all modes and nodes globally and utilize all advanced capabilities within the platform. Level 5 operations are usually the most complex and sophisticated. Level 5 real-time visibility platforms are designed to handle the needs of a global supply chain, with the ability to support process lifecycle and workflow  automation. With advanced AI and machine learning capabilities, these platforms can use the data gathered to automate decisions and processes.

Building for the Future

Forward-thinking global enterprises view their supply chain not as a cost but a competitive advantage. They are on the leading edge of what’s possible, helping drive our industry toward the future. At FourKites, we’re proud to co-innovate alongside them – in fact, last year we released 185 new products and features, 68 of which were ideas posted in the FourKites Community.

A Supply Chain Optimization Manager at General Mills said it best: “Visibility is important to our supply chain because it provides that base layer for connected visibility and a connected ecosystem. The future of supply chain is really going to provide the ability to remove waste from our systems, and improve driver capacity in the total market. We want to be a shipper of choice, we want to be able to improve our locations, reduce our dwell, and really be a place that drivers want to come [to] when they ship.”

With Gartner’s Critical Capabilities report as our guide, future posts in this series will take a closer look at complex Use Cases for manufacturers, retailers and logistics service providers. Check back soon to learn how companies in these industries are using real-time visibility, complete with actionable intelligence, to tackle the most complex supply chain challenges.

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