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February 17, 2021 3:15 PM, EST

Technology Brings Visibility to Supply Chains, Experts Say

Walmart truck on highway Walmart Canada has found that technologies such as blockchain and machine learning can help with end-user predictability. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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The increased visibility that technology brings to supply chains is helping to improve efficiency in very specific ways, according to experts at a recent virtual event.

Tyson Foods, for one, has worked to bring its carrier partners onto a single platform to better share information in real time. By doing so, said Christopher Plant, the company’s senior manager of customer service, the percentages of loads tracked are at a level that the company can leverage. Plant said this helps drive real-time visibility and consistency.

“When you do that, and you’re talking with the same information with all those involved — including the customer — you really start to find out the things that are working and the things that maybe we might need to change,” Plant said Feb. 16 during the Supply Chain Leadership Summit, an event hosted by load tracking firm FourKites. The company offers a transportation platform that focuses on real-time visibility. Panelists are its customers.

Tyson Foods truck

Tyson Foods has worked to bring its carrier partners onto a single platform. (Capital Area Food Bank of Texas)

“Whether that be from a dock space standpoint, at the customer, an order cycle of how they’re sending the order to us or vice versa — how we’re sending it back to them. When you’re all speaking from the same book you really start to understand.”

Plant added, “Eliminating the data silos is getting on the same page with everyone involved from start to finish. From the time it leaves our plants all the way to the time it reaches the customers. Understanding the life cycle of the order and everything in between.”

Tyson Foods ranks No. 11 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America. The company’s fleet includes 3,233 tractors and 8,759 trailers.

Walmart Canada has found that technologies such as blockchain and machine learning can help with end-user predictability, such as tracking how long a shipment may be delayed during a snowstorm. “We’re at a point where we’re really excited by everything that our stores can do with their phones,” said Francis Lalonde, the company’s vice president of transportation. “Between our [distribution centers] and stores, it doesn’t get any better than that in terms of visibility. And this enables us to start to have real-time, in-depth, super dynamic visibility almost end to end.”

Lalonde noted that empowering staff to make decisions during disruptions like storms is one way the company can utilize data.

Walmart ranks No. 3 on the TT Top 100 private carriers list with 7,400 tractors and 58,826 trailers.

RoadSigns

Mergers and acquisitions have reshaped the trucking technology sector over the past decade, but what does this trend mean for the trucking and logistics companies that rely on these technologies? Seth Clevenger speaks with James Langley of Trimble Transportation. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

“We track our inbound freight very closely, primarily because our stores are able to order the product as soon as the inbound carrier bumps our docks and getting that visibility allows us to have that product available ordering right away,” said Adrian Santos, corporate director for transportation and third party logistics at Grocery Outlet. “First and foremost, we envision a plan to improve the downstream final-mile customer delivery experience toward the store level. We plan on doing that through load tracking and all kinds of visibility tools.”

Santos listed information-sharing to help stores better manage their labor forces and providing his transportation team with better visibility and coordination for final-mile deliveries as goals going forward.

“We have a global view of it,” said Jason Frerich, director of domestic transportation at The Michaels Cos., which operates arts and crafts stores. He said improved visibility and sharing of information can lead to better scheduling and time management.

“We have visibility right now from a transportation standpoint, so we can understand are we scheduling too many loads to that [distribution center or] is our inbound picking up and we need to work with the DC to open up more appointments. Just that information sharing has led also to more dialogue between us and our DCs.”

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