A recent report indicated that over 85% of UK-based commercial organisations (that utilise fleet) either have or plan to invest in telematics technology. Why? Telematics enables fleet operators to monitor and improve driver behaviour; gain peace of mind by knowing where their assets are; monitor and improve fuel efficiency; etc.
However, there are many other stakeholders involved in a supply chain network that would benefit greatly over visibility of goods in transit yet struggle to access the data they need.
Who, what, why?
For the past 10 or so years, supply chain visibility has been recognised as a top priority. Leaders across the supply chain ecosystem, from retailers to manufacturers to hauliers strive to achieve greater visibility of goods throughout the network. High adoption of telematics means that hauliers/3PLs have visibility of the vehicles transporting goods, but, for those stakeholders at either end (the sender or receiver of goods), the ‘in-transit’ part of the supply chain remains a dark spot.
Organisations such as retailers and manufacturers don’t have access to the same levels of data that the hauliers or 3PLs they contract to move goods have. When a consignment leaves a manufacturer’s warehouse, both the manufacturer and the receiving retailer have no visibility of the consignment.
In today’s world, if the retailer, manufacturer, etc. wants to know the whereabouts of a consignment in transit, they must contact the haulier. This can be quite the merry-go-round, involving many phones calls between the retailer, manufacturer and haulier and can cause major disruption.
A lot has been invested over the years into new and innovative technologies that provide the sender of goods with visibility. But this is often stand-alone technology, at significant cost, and brings with it many other challenges. Why can’t these guys access the data that hauliers/3PLs have, leveraging it to achieve the visibility they need?
Why don’t hauliers share their data with the other stakeholders?
Whilst the organisations work together, as part of a network, they are separate organisations. Each performs a function that helps to move products through the supply chain network.
The systems that each organisation deploys are specifically designed to aid their respective operations and meet the requirements they have. They are also owned and operated separately by each organisation. For example, the telematics system is paid for and used by the haulier to manage the fleet. Just like the Order Management System is paid for and used by the manufacturer. The data that resides within these systems is therefore owned and controlled by the respective organisation.
Any kind of data sharing between organisations needs careful thought. One can’t simply share all data with external organisations as this would cause all sorts of issues, not least because one organisation may work for multiple others and therefore, sharing all data with another would be a major breach of privacy.
Different needs, different visibility requirements
Additionally, the visibility requirements of each stakeholder are different. The telematics system used by hauliers/3PLs provides visibility of all vehicles, all the time. This is needed as they need to monitor vehicles all of the time.
Whereas the requirement of the manufacturer and retailer in this instance is much more specific. They want to know where their consignment is. This could be achieved by capturing the GPS data of the vehicle that is moving that consignment. But this would only require visibility of a specific vehicle for a specific period of time.
Enter the ‘Digital Twin’
Visibility for all stakeholders across the supply chain network can be achieved and it can be achieved by leveraging data that is already present within the supply chain. This of course requires a solution to enable the various organisations to share specific bits of data, securely and in a controlled way.
Entopy’s software platform can provide that solution. Entopy connects to the various supply chain systems used by the various stakeholders. From these systems, it captures specific pieces of data and uses this data to build a ‘Digital Twin’ of the consignment. The intelligent and autonomous Entopy platform decides which bits of information to capture, processes that data and establish the ‘Twin’.
Now, the ‘Digital Twin’ of the consignment resides within Entopy and the ‘Digital Twin’ is separate within Entopy from other ‘Digital Twins’. Ironically, each ‘Twin’ is individual.
Access to each ‘Digital Twin’ is controlled on a permissions basis, meaning that all stakeholders can interact with the data they need to without breach of privacy, in a secure way, and without compromising the control of any organisation of their data.
For example, a ‘Digital Twin’ of the consignment being sent by a manufacturer to a retailer can be created. This ‘Twin’ will have various information such as what the consignment is, where it’s going, which haulier is transporting it and on which vehicle. The GPS data for the vehicle that is moving the consignment can be captured from the haulier’s telematics system.
The manufacturer, the retailer and the haulier can all be given access to this specific ‘Digital Twin’, therefore obtaining the visibility they need. However, the data captured is highly targeted. The GPS tracking ceases when the consignment is delivered (or by other triggers if required) meaning no stakeholders other than the haulier can see the location of that vehicle once the target consignment is no longer on board. Nor can they see any of the other vehicles operated by the haulier. Equally, the retailer and the haulier cannot see any data regarding any other consignments that may reside in the manufactures order management system.
Once the visibility has served its purpose, the ‘Digital Twin’ can be spun down or stored in a specific location (or multiple).
Of course, other data can be added to the ‘Twin’ to enhance the visibility provided. Conditional data, additional inventory information, documentation, even customs paperwork.
This capability does have profound possibilities. Take an automotive manufacturer as an example. There is a need to have shipments arrive at exactly the right time so as not to disrupt production processes. So much so that significant penalties are often incorporated into the contracts of supplier organisations.
By overlaying Entopy onto the supply chain network of the automotive manufacturer, visibility of all consignments could be achieved for all parties. The manufacturer can see all consignments, the suppliers can see only relevant consignments to them.
This capability could be used to optimise processes but also used to revolutionise the relationships between the organisations. It could even be used to modernise the SLAs in place, helping to assure the suppliers but also helping to reduce costs to the manufacturer.
The capability enabled by Entopy unlocks visibility across the supply chain network. It enables organisations to share their data to improve each other’s lives. It fuels collaboration and is unquestionably the next big jump in supply chain innovation.