Delivering products to global markets against tight time schedules and tighter cost pressures. That’s the business of logistics. And it has at its heart one vital factor: reliability. Whether a dress for a personal engagement or a consignment of parts for a complex production run – without a clear idea of when something will arrive no one can plan anything with any certainty and business reputations can get hung out to dry.

Getting on top of reliability is now a global pre-requisite that demands real-time, end-to-end logistics management. This topic affects logistics companies as well as national governments looking to smooth out infrastructure issues, as some recent press reports have demonstrated.

A case in point – or three

These three stories demonstrate that the issues are truly global. Costs and end-to-end management are vital and real-time, end-to-end monitoring with a maximum level of system agnosticism, is now the only real option available.

For example, India’s Deccan Chronicle reported that the Indian Commerce Ministry is working on a proposal to set up a separate logistics unit. It would coordinate matters of cost and modes of shipment that are impacting global competitiveness of exporters.

Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide reports that Maersk Line, the world’s biggest shipper, is planning to expand into the Australian logistics market and add other services to its port calls as it battles low freight rates and financial losses. This is against a background of fragmented shipping and logistics, involving multiple parties, multiple documents and multiple invoices. The company is looking to simplify that.

VietNamNet reports that the Viet Nam Logistics Business Association sees cutting transportation costs as vital to enhancing the competitiveness of the country’s logistics industry. Currently, Vietnamese logistics costs are equivalent to 21% to the gross domestic product (GDP), compared to just 9-14% in developed economies.

The common factor in such examples is that the ability to provide end-to-end management of any aspect of a logistics business – be that costs, performance, billing, auditing or a range of other activities – demands the existence of solid, real-time monitoring capabilities. That is what’s needed in order to exactly measure what is going on in the logistics flow, when it is happening and, most important of all, why it isn’t happening as it should be.

Potential points of failure

Transaction processing is, of course, a key part of the logistics business. Despite there being some very big companies in the business, there are very few that own all the component parts that go towards a product travelling from its point of manufacture to its point of use with a customer. Many different specialist operators, from specific packaging providers through to shipping owners, all play a part. And each necessitates a separate transaction in the process. For the end-to-end management of the business process, each of those transactions is a potential point of failure.

It is also true that the reality of `end-to-end’ management stretches farther than just the transportation and delivery of the ordered goods. The whole transaction train starts before the process of transportation is ever considered, with a customer interacting with a vendor to identify and then order one or more products. It may not appear to be part of the logistic process per se, but it is certainly a part of the end-to-end business process.

Protecting reputation by end-to-end monitoring

These days, many of these individual process steps are undertaken by Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). These ensure that the transaction information from one process is quickly and effectively translated and transferred to the next process in the chain. This approach also provides the point where the progress of business processes can be monitored, and therefore managed. And it is at these same points that nJAMS works its magic, monitoring not just on the APIs between processes, but also on the many sensors that provide vital information regarding the actual transport processes.

Monitoring also means that a primary logistics business can help a business partner or service provider identify its own transaction problems by highlighting when a process failure occurs, even if the details are not immediately clear to that third party. A tool like nJAMS has the capability to infer probable areas of failure.

Another by-product of end-to-end monitoring in the logistics business is that it helps create a market ripe for exploiting big data analytics. nJAMS can ensure that a wealth of data is available, not just on the current outcomes of the process steps, but also on the flow of individual processes. This allows businesses to analyse and predict important factors such as delivery information – and more importantly immediately advise customers of any changes to such information in advance.

Monitoring also helps them predict failure modes in the whole logistics process before they actually occur – in both pure business terms and in reality out on the roads and high seas. That allows remedial action to be set in motion before the failure occurs and reputations are damaged.

If you want to improve visibility and planning in your end-to-end processes, contact us or check out our recorded webex from June 28.

About the Author: Birgit Jordan is Marketing Director at Integration Matters.