E-commerce, globalization, and the digital age have made technology an integrated part of the shipping industry. The interconnected world makes continuous international movement of goods now common practice; this in turn makes transloading a necessity and a standard of the 21st century global marketplace.
Intermodal transportation has made moving freight over long distances more efficient and more cost effective. When it’s done well, products get to the consumer with fewer errors and less cost to all parties involved.
But for intermodal transportation to work well, the latest technology must be employed to ensure that goods are safe and accounted for on each step of the journey. A few major technological advancements are shaping the future of Intermodal transportation. Not only are these innovations making it a safer and more logical way to move goods, but they are laying the groundwork for the next generation of technologies.
Transportation Management Systems
At any given time there are 34 million active containers worldwide. Everything makes its way around the world in them. Vast intermodal freight transportation networks require smart shipping to effectively manage and track movement.
Transportation Management Systems (TMS) are essential in making the entire process run smoothly, tracking containers as they move from factories to ships to rail lines to trucks to warehouses.
End-to-end supply chain visibility tools built into TMS platforms allow companies to be more exact, to automate some aspects of the process, and to streamline others. In other words, this technology allows us to virtually travel with shipments in relative real time which is increasingly important as goods are moving across various modes of transportation.
Being able to know where products are every step of the way means that users are able to make better decisions for their business’ and bottom lines. Having a strong and usable interface for managing the data accrued over an intermodal process is essential. You are no longer required to do the difficult work of gathering and organizing information from multiple sources: advanced TMS does it all for you.
Accounting departments used to sweat the logistics of intermodal transportation; gathering invoices, bills, rates and other information from a variety of sources was difficult work. But now with the use of TMS information is easily pulled from various places into a single and easy to use interface.
Smartphones are everywhere, and the power we now hold in these tiny devices revolutionizes how we live. We are more connected than we’ve ever been and are able to do more from wherever we are.
Apps are an important and growing technology used in shipping, and enable a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) strategy to be applied in gathering data along the way. Apps are a platform that allow workers, drivers, and shippers to use practically any device and to easily input, access, and track important information.
Phones and tablets become the go-to devices used to capture documents, provide electronic point of delivery confirmations, for GPS tracking, and more. Apps improve efficiency and provide timely accurate data at low cost.
Not having to make any large investments in highly specialized hardware means a lower barrier to entry for this technological advance. Portable devices are dependable, inexpensive, and if a particular device goes down for any reason it is easily and quickly replaced.
Container Tracking and Barcode Technology
Barcoding and RFID technology is used in tandem with smartphone apps, utilizing cameras and scanners to read codes making it easier for workers to rapidly collect and upload information on the fly. Track’n Trace technology is a powerful tool enabling users to pull the necessary information from complex supply chains when and where they need it.
Data is sent into the cloud and then accessed remotely as needed through the user interface. The use of barcoding combined with TMS simplifies the process of gathering information from various sources and provides users with fresh data and notifications.
Barcodes and RFID technology are an important layer in the stack of technology making intermodal transportation a strong, reliable, and preferred method for long hauls. Container tracking and barcodes are facilitating the intermodal process and are making it more reliable than ever.
Environmental Data Collection
In 2013 food recalls hit an all time high. Recalls have a significant financial impact on suppliers and manufacture, and a key factor in ensuring that foods are safe and maintain freshness is temperature control.
The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) now requires manufacturers, repackagers, wholesale distributors, dispensers, and third-party logistics providers to better monitor how drugs travel to avoid environmental issues that can damage the pharmaceuticals enroute.
Stricter regulation of environmentally sensitive goods began in November 2014 and more will continue to be phased in through 2023. The regulations focus on reporting and lot-level product tracing, and require visibility into transaction information and history as shipments move through the various links in the supply chain.
Advanced environmental sensors embedded in containers and warehouses are being used to control and monitor materials as they make their way through various climates in order to prevent loss. TMS can track information such as temperature, humidity, and shock levels throughout the shipping process.
Devices connected to wireless networks deliver upto the minute information on key factors. Remote modulation is then used to make changes from afar that can save cargo from damage due to the elements.
Technology and 3rd Party Logistics Management Success
Using a 3PL that employs the latest market technology is the key differentiator in logistic management success. Transportation management systems, combined with apps that enable quick and easy container tracking, smart data and remote modulation all come together to give us a safe, affordable, and reliable way to meet the the needs of the current marketplace and to strengthen supply chains.
If you need a partner to help you strategically manage and successfully move your products out of the port and onto their final destination, be sure to download our ebook – Speeding Time-to-Shelf and Cutting Costs– a must read for today’s logistics managers.