Just as social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all the rage, cloud-based networks are growing in popularity for sharing information in the supply chain. Motor carriers, shippers and third-party logistics firms are using this new technology to more efficiently conduct business.
The old standard, electronic data interchange (EDI), is still alive and well. But as everyone who uses EDI knows, it is far from being a standard. Each shipper, it seems, has its own set of requirements for load tenders, shipment status, invoices, etc.
EDI is not considered a cloud-based technology, but it is a network of sorts. Because each shipper has unique EDI requirements for the many carriers it exchanges information with, it could be called a “one-to-many” network. By contrast, social media is a cloud-based, many-to-many network.
The difference is that when you join Facebook or LinkedIn, you sign up once. Whenever you add new connections, the process does not change for how you share and receive information.
Over 30,000 companies — carriers, shippers and retailers — are now connected through a cloud-based supply chain management platform called One Network. The platform includes the Real Time Value Network (RTVN), a many-to-many design that connects multiple trading partners in the same, uniform fashion, says Aaron Pittman, marketing director of One Network.
Carriers would have to receive an invitation to connect to RTVN from one or more shipper or 3PL customers that use the platform to manage their supply chains. Once carriers join, they can transact business with all customers on the network. The advantage for carriers that have multiple customers using RTVN is to accept loads, schedule appointments, update shipments and conduct other transactions for all parties through one website.
Carriers can also provide customers with proof of delivery, reporting, and online billing and payment options for freight charges through the network.
“Once carriers come on, they don’t have to rebuild these connections with other shippers on the network,” Pittman says.
One Network has just released a new mobile app for Android devices which provides a convenient way for carriers, or rather drivers, to provide shipment status updates. The app can also support barcode scanners in handheld devices to capture pickup and delivery information for parcels and other shipments with labels.
Through the mobile app, and through other forms of real-time communication, carriers can provide customers with online visibility of their shipment cycle from order placement.
The underlying technology of RTVN is designed to create a demand-driven supply chain that spans from retail stores upstream to the suppliers of raw materials, and all of the connections in between.
One Network’s cloud-based software is used by many Fortune 500 shippers that include Kroger and Safeway for transportation planning and management. One of the largest 3PLs, Menlo Worldwide, uses RVTN for Department of Defense domestic, non-Ammo shipments. Other large shippers include the US Marine Corp, which uses RVTN for all ammunition shipments.
Click here to see an example of how one carrier, Greyhound Lines, is using the RVTN to provide customers with real-time visibility of parcel shipments.