The COVID-19 pandemic has put a chokehold on many Latin American economies. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (ECLAC) latest report, the continent’s supply chain industry is currently recovering from a triple threat. On the one hand, you have reduced raw materials exports to manufacturing hubs located in Europe, Asia and the US, combined with lost revenues from the slumbering global tourism industry. On the other, you have a decrease in spending power within Latin American economies, leading to fewer imported goods from North America, Europe and beyond.

As in other parts of the world, new technologies can help offset these challenges. FourKites works with a variety of companies throughout Latin America, ranging from those native to the region to global corporations with operations around the continent. In fact, we currently have customers representing all major industries and verticals in Latin America. We’re tracking shipments in over 15 countries, and we have seen shipment volume grow over 95% in the last year. Our network of carriers in LATAM has increased 56% over the same time period. And as occurs elsewhere in our global operations, the earliest adopters are setting the agenda in terms of our product roadmap and priorities. Visibility is certainly taking hold in the region;

As we gear up for our upcoming LATAM transportation visibility virtual summit – the largest of its kind – there’s never been a better time to talk about both the problems and the promises associated with bringing advanced technology to Latin American supply chains. Here are some of the areas that I find most fascinating about the impact our technologies are having right now throughout the continent.

Transforming Border Crossings

The lack of real-time insight into the status of shipments crossing national boundaries has led many logistics professionals to traditionally refer to border crossings as a “black hole”. From my time spent working at a major 3PL, I remember very clearly the difficulties our border-crossing operations faced on a regular basis. Companies that only operate within North America are spoiled when it comes to border crossings, since there’s really only two of them to contend with. In Latin America, however, there are dozens of national boundaries, and shipments may have to clear customs multiple times before arriving at their final destination.

Needless to say, these sites can quickly become incredibly crowded. Clearing customs can take anywhere from a matter of hours to entire days, during which time the shipper has zero visibility into its goods’ status and disposition. Add in the fact that shipments can accrue further fines for remaining at the border for too long, and that long waits at the border can quickly cause massive ripple effects further down the line, and it becomes pretty obvious what a headache these shipments can be.

Visibility technology offers a new way to mitigate risk; where before we just had to play for the best and prepare for the worst. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, FourKites put together a free tool to help companies instantly visualize the status of shipments and transit times at border crossings throughout the world. This lets them see which borders are currently backed up, and strategize about which can be cleared more quickly. Other features of our platform allow stakeholders to be instantly notified when an individual load has entered and left a border crossing. Several months ago, one of our customers even managed to seamlessly reroute a shipment in transit from one crossing to another, after they discovered an error in the driver’s paperwork.

Ensuring Safety and Security

It’s a well-known challenge among logistics professionals that the highly variable geopolitical landscape of Latin America, coupled with the high value of many shipments transiting the region, means that shippers must take greater pains to protect the security of their shipments and personnel than in other regions of the world. To do so, it’s critical that companies first ensure they know where their shipments are at all times.

Once you have that basic level of visibility, you can do a lot of really cool things to help protect the security of your shipments. For example, you can set alerts to notify your teams immediately when a shipment departs from its designated route. You can also trace a custom geofence around known hot zones where theft or burglaries typically occur, allowing you to pay special attention as soon as a shipment enters one of these “hot zones”, and relax your watch once you’ve confirmed it’s made it through safely.

Some safety concerns are of a totally different nature, especially during our current public health crisis. One of our most impactful new features is eDocs, or electronic delivery of critical documents that would traditionally have to be exchanged in person. This allows drivers and facility personnel alike to better limit their risk of infection by contactless signoff off on bills of lading, proof of delivery and more within the FourKites app.

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At our upcoming LATAM Supply Chain Virtual Summit, you’ll be able to hear straight from some of our customers. Dow, Ingredion, Nestle and Constellation Brands have all prioritized visibility in a big way, and they’ve successfully rolled out our platform across their teams. In doing so, they’re holding the entire region to a higher standard of technology adoption.

LATAM is primed and ready for real-time visibility, and we’re looking forward to an engaging event with supply chain leaders across the region next week. Please join us!

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