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Technology, networks and data: The trifecta of high-performance supply chains

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– Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder. “I believe in the power of shared data and technology to build a better future.”

It’s unlikely Allen had the export community in mind when he said this, however the statement is truer than ever in our industry. Shared data and technology have the power to propel supply chain performance for exporters to new levels.

Moving beyond commoditised capabilities

By now, most companies have exhausted the “5-10 per cent savings” every transport management system vendor promises. Applications in isolation do the best that they can, but an application within a network, leveraging data from the ecosystem, is where the real magic starts to happen.

Gartner last year released the first-ever Multienterprise Supply Chain Business Networks (MESCBN) Magic Quadrant, which evaluated networks that “support a community of trading partners that need to coordinate and execute on business processes that extend across multiple enterprises.”

A subsequent report summarised that MESCBNs “are essential and chief supply chain officers need to incorporate them into their business plans.”

The conversation about supply chain software development can no longer start and stop with applications, data or a network. These components must work together intelligently – this is where we believe supply chain technology is going to take the export industry to a whole new level.

Operating in a network

Purpose-built applications for transportation have long done their job very well. But if that application is built to work within a network, companies gain easier access to services and other benefits.

Essentially, a global trade network (GTN) is a connected, collaborative network that provide companies with access to a broader, deeper community of shippers, trading partners, carriers, freight forwarders and so forth.

The power of a network lies in its ability to bring clarity and certainty to a volatile situation and its ability to offer “on-demand” connections to thousands of potential carriers. Operating in a GTN means exporters can adjust to fluctuations in available capacity and have visibility into optimisation opportunities.

GTNs also allow potential partners worldwide to develop closer relationships than ever. Without the costs of new infrastructure, personnel and other assets, companies can explore new markets and trade routes with relatively lower risk.

By helping companies to “test the waters” in this way, businesses looking to grow can build mutually beneficial relationships.

Producing and harnessing data

Beyond this connectivity and collaboration, networks that manage transactional data also have a natural by-product: data. Tens of millions of loads and billions of dollars in freight spend moving through an application and network equal massive amounts of data.

When made available to the original applications, decisions can be driven by data. Choices can be made based on analysis and comparisons.

A good example of this is BluJay’s partnership with Convoy, a digital freight network in the United States. They use real-time pricing models to their advantage, along with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of carriers to generate market-relevant prices. This means customers can quickly find reliable, affordable coverage from high-quality carriers when needed.

The traditional benefits of cloud technology are tables stakes now. To again quote Allen: "There are relatively few ideas that you can do just by yourself”.

Supply chain technology providers, like BluJay Solutions, are helping exporters create frictionless, high-performing supply chains where goods cross borders more quickly, information is shared more readily, users operate more productively, and waste (that is, cost) is eliminated from operations.

Paul Soong is Regional Director, Australia and New Zealand, BluJay Solutions

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