December 11, 2020 | Logistics
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only exposed the extreme fragility of global supply chains but has also made it imperative for enterprises to adopt systems capable of real-time container tracking. The use of automation for monitoring container locations has become as important as shipping those containers.
The pandemic has severely impacted international trade and forced logistics providers to scale down their operations drastically. This caused the container shipping industry to operate at a minimal pace. According to Alphaliner, trade activities have been disrupted due to a 30% to 60% withdrawal of outbound shipping capacity in marine routes between Asia and Europe.
Strict government measures that reduced workforce and closed warehouses in the first half of 2020 also caused severe congestion at ports. Lockdowns have not just disrupted demand and supply, but also distressed operational capabilities at ports.
The shipping industry is closely knit to global manufacturing activity and often finds itself at the frontline during any economic crisis. A major issue that freight operators have to deal with is the misplacement of containers or cargo not being picked up from the ports.
This situation highlighted the requirement for real-time cargo tracking solutions and also expedited the implementation of container tracking solutions. Decision making at all levels of the supply chain were clouded due to invisible disruptions and broken information flows, resulting in thousands of shipments being stuck on the sea.
In traditional communication, containers were usually tracked by logistics managers through verifications at each checkpoint. While some ports are now gravitating towards the development of smart ports, there are many who are still reliant on paper-based transactions and personal interactions.
To combat the challenges faced by industries in the post-COVID era, companies are implementing container tracking solutions that can track end to end shipments. These tracking systems will stay in constant touch with the freight vessel, providing updates on any delays or re-routing.
With freight operations growing in volume, digital transformation initiatives that allow self-service transactions and track charter services and cargo shipments using a unified dashboard are becoming increasingly popular. For example, Beacon, a UK-based logistics startup, has created an online dashboard that enables customers to track and book shipments in real time while also comparing prices for different carriers. Container tracking platforms also enable the automatic updating of compliance paperwork for bills while avoiding expired license issues.
Advanced machine learning analysis could identify the most cost-effective routes and ports while radio frequency identification could ensure the efficient tracking of shipments, with more digital automation technologies providing end to end visibility and streamlining operations across the supply chain in the post-COVID world. Real-time tracking would not just provide increased transparency but will also call for a linked platform ecosystem.
Companies including CMA CGM, Mediterranean Shipping and Maersk have made huge investments in startups offering container tracking solutions. For example, CMA CGM invested in Traxens, a French startup whose data platform and container sensors provide information to shippers about movement, outside temperature, humidity levels and container location.
Tracking freight with real-time information is becoming increasing prevalent, as the implementation of IoT technology not only helps companies collect actionable data from any part of the world but also helps improve operations, prevent accidents and increase reliability. Location tracking IoT technology can not only increase the rate of utilization of containers by 25% but can also reduce the annual spend on containers by $13 billion.
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