Ocean Insights: Talking About Visibility

Now, more than ever, customers want more information about their shipments. Visibility, especially with respect to ocean freight, has become crucial for many industries. The ability to know where a shipment is, at any time, is a power tool. It gives companies insights into their business operations and enables supply chains to operate with optimized efficiencies; something they could never have done before.

Most industry stakeholders understand the importance of visibility, but let’s be honest, not everyone does or care. It can lead to costly mismanagement in any organization, both at the operational and executive levels. 

Our very own Chief Commercial Officer, Robin Jaacks was recently invited for an interview with Put That Coffee Down, a FreightWaves podcast series, to talk about the issue. Here are some of the highlights of that interview. 

Most People Don’t have a Background in Supply Chains

Interestingly enough, many people who work in supply chain fields got their start in other industries. Joining the industry with varied experiences in different sectors and without the preconception of what is possible or not can be helpful in many ways.

“I think I was kind of confused when we started, because I honestly assumed that something like this [container track and trace] would be around,” Robin reflected on his beginning with Ocean Insights. And indeed, as an industry outsider, he instantly noticed that essentially what customers were looking for was actionable data. 

Even though there is lots of talk about digitalization within the industry, it is only just beginning to take hold. Many companies, including leading freight forwarders, didn’t have the operational capacity to put together a system that could track and trace shipments on one screen in real-time. “Very few companies felt comfortable doing this with the existing data standards. And, you know, this is where we came in and tried to make a change,” Robin adds.

Understanding the Data

Although data is a powerful tool, it can be overwhelming too. The key to data is knowing what data points you need and how to implement it for your operations. 

“Basically, I see there are two buckets. So some shippers approach this from an operational perspective. They say I want to have the best ETA in the world. ‘I don’t always trust what the shipping lines are saying, and I don’t trust what the logistics service provider is saying. I want to know exactly when [this particular shipment] is going to arrive,’ 

“We are from Germany, and amongst our first customers were some of the big automotive companies. They were obsessed with ETA accuracy. So this is the group with a very operational focus.” 

Robin then goes on to explain the second group, which seeks to benefit from data’s powerful potential for maintaining high strategic decision visibility in any ocean freight operation. “The second group is emerging as the main driver for visibility. They ask, ‘how can I leverage data to make smarter decisions about [shipping] network design, [carrier] contract negotiations, and inventory management?“  

Achieving insightful strategic visibility requires some effort, however. As Robin warned, “There’s no magic kind of turn switch where we can just enable strategic decisions with data alone – it has to also be driven from strategic decision makers within the organization.” 

Visibility Drives Customer Experience

Customer expectations are growing, especially as companies like Amazon continue to change what we thought was possible. 

“From very early on, we began to understand that visibility is mainly a customer-service-driven thing. So whenever we develop [a new product or services], we have the customer’s customer in mind. They want to have a portal where they can track their own [shipments]. What they are looking for is the Amazon-experience. An ideal business environment in which “people stopped calling and asking where their shipments are. 

Visibility continues to grow in importance as a powerful feature for both shippers and freight forwarders allowing them all to drive their customer service and provide an all-around better service for their customers. 

To learn more about visibility from Robin, check out the rest of the Put That Coffee Down interview. If you’d like to learn more about how Ocean Insights can help increase visibility in your own operations