6 reasons why you should forget “track and trace” immediately
You should forget end-to-end track and trace. At least for now. We started our software company in 2014 because of a lack of visibility of shipments when I was creating annual reports for my clients. Usually these prints are finalised and, in particular, also printed at the last minute. So, generally, the reports were then picked up and delivered just in time to our client’s press conference. Unfortunately, the shipping process wasn’t transparent and, although it had been discussed with the printer, the courier never delivered the package to the agreed location. Usually because the janitor didn’t want to take the packages and store them at the front door. As I oversaw the entire project and didn’t have an assistant that could do the research, I spent a lot of time on the phone to find the reports and satisfy the client.
To reduce our daily hassle, we looked for an existing track-and-trace solution that could bring transparency to the shipping process and communicate autonomously about the status. But we couldn’t find a compelling solution.
So we decided to start our own project to solve this problem. We used the idea during my Executive MBA studies, researching, identifying needs, creating a market study, building a business plan and defining a proper strategy. We concluded that our idea had huge potential, as there wasn’t a similar solution available on the market but the expressed needs were high.
Best product – why no success?
We started to develop our software, flew to China for our hardware and made every effort to build a sophisticated solution. We presented our product, which was cheaper than others, was easy to use, could smartly manage many devices and at the same time provide information and autonomous communication with all those involved in the supply chain. However, although we worked closely together with companies that showed great interest in our product, nobody was eager to purchase the end result.
Despite this frustrating experience, we were lucky that a local newspaper ran a story about us and our product, as well as a TV station, because they liked our concept. After this exposure, companies approached us with completely different needs, which we had identified. As we were stating that we focus mainly on software and had built algorithms that allow easy integration and smart device management, they understood that our product has the potential to solve other logistics problems that we had never thought of. We not only provided the current location, we also handled the data smartly – we did this intentionally because we needed it for our device management.
The requests all led to an optimisation and automation of the process. We were supposed to automate events in supply chains, such as scans or pickups, manage thousands of moving assets or monitor the quality of a shipping network.
The breakthrough – improving processes with Artificial Intelligence
So we used our core technology and started to build smart algorithms and APIs to manage processes by using seamless real-time data. We understood that they were all looking for a track-and-trace solution, but primarily to obtain the real-time data to optimise their operations.
Today, Evertracker offers a sophisticated IoT platform in combination with Artificial Intelligence. Our technology knows and learns logistics processes as well as those of our clients. We automate processes along the entire value chain using seamless real-time data. We provide our hardware solution to close gaps and to integrate existing sources to make our clients’ entire chains fully transparent, which means that they have the chance to control the entire processes.
The 6 reasons you should get track and trace out of your mind
We don’t offer track and trace anymore. We could, as our solution can be fully integrated, is easy to use and very cost efficient. However, we don’t see a seamless track-and-trace solution bringing enough value to our clients to make them pay for it.
We have identified six main reasons why we don’t believe in seamless track-and-trace solutions and why you shouldn’t think about it anymore. You should start thinking about using the technology to gather real-time information to automate your processes and gain full control over your value chain.
Total of costs
The related costs are one of the biggest challenges when implementing a seamless track-and-trace solution. Track-and-trace solutions are focusing on single packages that are shipped from A to B. To get the full traceability of all parcels, you need to insert a GPS device into every package. We got requests from companies that were shipping more than 30,000 packages per year. Let’s consider that you just need to buy a cheap hardware at a price of 30 euros, online from an e-commerce platform. Let’s assume that you have a very well organised process, which means you only need to buy 5,000 devices. This adds up to an investment of 150,000 euros, including at least 20,000 euros every year as you might lose some regularly. And don’t forget, I haven’t even considered the monthly charges for the connection and access to a software platform.
Coverage of costs
The next problem that occurs is the question of who will cover the costs. The sender usually has no interest as the added value is quite low and they chose a reliable and trustworthy logistics provider. The receiver might also be unwilling to pay the extra costs as they already expect a proper process when ordering from the supplier. The logistics company itself cannot afford to cover the costs as it would almost kill their entire margin. And on top of that, the supply chain is usually secured by an insurance company paying in case of a loss.
Challenges of operations
Another challenge will arise for your operations. Adding a seamless tracking solution to your processes means integrating some additional processes into your workflow. You need to recharge the devices, you need to have them in the right place at the right time, you need to put them into the right packages and you need to make sure that those devices are then being returned by the clients.
It’s not impossible to find a solution that provides full integration into ERP systems to link devices to the right package, and clients could get a discount on their next purchase when they ship the tracker back. However, it always means integrating more steps into your processes and it will add more costs than just buying the trackers.
A question that often arises is the issue of disposable products and the fact that it’s not environmentally friendly, as a GPS device contains electronics and, especially, batteries. If thousands of devices are used for track-and-trace solutions, of which a lot will end up as trash, you need to make big efforts to set up a friendly process.
Experience for customers
The satisfying shipping experience for customers is becoming more and more important today. Increasing the shipping experience might look like a very compelling marketing tool, and we could fully agree to that, as making the shipping processes fully transparent will add a lot of value for your clients. However, the problems start as soon as your clients receive the packages and now have an additional process to handle. Either they will throw the trackers away – which isn’t environmentally friendly – or they need to send it back – which is an additional process that decreases the experience – or they store your trackers in the facility – which helps nobody in the process chain. You want to satisfy the customer and not add problems to their operations.
Production of data trash
The remaining question is what you do with the gathered data. You can constantly provide the current location to your clients, which might lead to a lot of unwelcome calls, as they see when packages aren’t moving. This will also add to your costs as you need to provide proper resources. If you want to monitor the parcels yourself, you need to check the current location on all packages constantly.
So, really, start thinking from a new perspective
For all of the above-mentioned reasons – and we could solve a lot of issues with our intelligent platform – we don’t believe in track and trace. We don’t believe that you add enough value to your business to justify the integration of a seamless track-and-trace solution.
This is why we’ve built a sophisticated IoT platform that handles devices very smartly to gather seamless data when necessary, and have enhanced our solution by building Artificial Intelligence to understand and learn logistics processes.
We have understood that seamless information of logistics processes is crucial for successful operations. Seamless information brings a lot of value to your operations when rethinking the entire setting. You must understand that it’s not the information towards your clients that is the key for optimization, it’s a software technology that understands your processes and those of your partners, in order to gain full control over the supply chain.
So we’re providing a solution that integrates existing sources to monitor and automate operations, and we add our sensors if seamless information is important for full transparency and automated processes.
Controlling the supply chain is more important than providing information on parcels to your clients. Track-and-trace solutions mainly bring transparency to your clients, but don’t allow you to get more control over the processes as such.
You must rethink track and trace but especially supply chains. You need to integrate a solution that can provide full visibility of all processes and can manage and steer processes autonomously.
Your clients aren’t interested in following every package constantly through a network – they are interested in receiving the best services and a seamless process. Think about it from a private perspective. How often are you checking the status of packages that you’re waiting for? Usually only if they are delayed. So, adding real-time tracking wouldn’t solve the problem of improving the shipping process as such. However, if you can control the entire process by getting full visibility and implementing a smart platform technology, like Evertracker’s, that automates processes, then you’re able to increase the experience of your clients.