INTTRA said that it will roll out a cloud-based product early next year that will allow shippers — even and small- and medium-sized businesses — to get better visibility into their supply chains.
Shippers will be able to log onto the INTTRA website and get updates on the status of their shipments, much as larger organizations have such information fed into their computer systems with electronic data interchange messages (EDI) today. There will be a monthly subscription fee, but officials said the new service will be priced so that it
could be attractive to small shippers. The company has entered into a strategic agreement with Kewill, a provider of
multimodal transportation management software, to provide the technology
that underlies the new product.
“By offering easy access to our expansive set of container-status events, we aim to help ocean shippers gain measurable improvements in the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of their data, so it can serve as a valuable asset for improving business results,” said Ken Bloom, the chief executive officer of INTTRA.
INTTRA estimates only 9 percent of logistics professionals have complete visibility into their supply chains today, due to the lack of access to quality data and a reliance on manual processes. As a result, it said, “many logistics professionals remain without effective supply chain shipment visibility — resulting in inefficient processes and information gaps.”
The company argued that access to visibility data is limited to larger shippers and freight forwarders. “The data that flows about shipments is usually transmitted electronically, so it would be companies with extremely large software and IT investment dollars, a lot of systems integrations,” explained Sandra Moran, vice president, industry and product marketing, at INTTRA.
The new product will allow shippers to gain access to similar information over the internet.
“For people under that tier to get access to information about where the shipments exist, they typically have to log onto each one of their carriers’ websites and literally enter the container number,” said Moran. “So INTTRA’s solution will be about bringing all of that data together and shippers really having a window or lens into all of those transactions. Whether they are small or large, they will still be able to participate in a new level of visibility that previously wasn’t available to them.”
INTTRA, which has been in business for 12 years, has over 220,000 shippers connected to 43 carriers and six NVOs. Company officials say about 24 percent of global containerized trade — 530,000 container shipments a week — are booked or processed on the INTTRA network. It receives status messages on an even bigger share of global container movements (34 percent) because it gets status events for cargo that was not booked on INTTRA — the data about where the container is located flows through its network.
INTTRA said a “comprehensive shipment information-quality program has been created for the ongoing analysis of data quality on INTTRA’s network of ocean carriers and for driving sustainable quality enhancements. This program provides carriers with a systematic approach for gauging the timeliness, accuracy and completeness of container status events, and for helping them collaborate with shippers to pinpoint improvement areas.”
Moran said shippers of all sizes will benefit from work that INTTRA is doing on data quality. The company has created an analytics platform with a standard measurement system that measures completeness, the carrier’s fulfillment of their contract with the shipper.
Moran explained that there are certain milestones that carriers report back to the shipper such as when a container is loaded on the vessel, when the vessel leaves the port, when the vessel arrives, and when the container is unloaded. Measuring the completeness includes analyzing whether all those messages have been sent, whether the information is accurate, and whether the information is being sent in a timely fashion. That information will be sent to both the shipper and the carrier.
Moran said this should help reduce the amount of work that has to be conducted if information arrives late or is not compete. For example, if a stream of messages show a container has been loaded on a ship, but the message about the ship departing never arrived, a shipper may be forced to phone, send emails or log onto a carrier’s website to find out what is really happening to its shipment. INTTRA will also have the ability to provide information from other carriers allowing the shippers to add additional data sources. Similarly, INTTRA has the ability to arrange the forwarding of data from railroads or trucking companies if a shipper does not book the inland portion of a container shipment through its ocean carrier.
Moran cautioned “there is a wide variety of capabilities even among U.S. trucking companies as to how sophisticated their technology is, but we can receive those messages.” She said INTTRA is “doing some work like the work that we have done on the shipping-documentation side, which is to say, if you don’t enable your truckers with a mobile application but your dispatcher can just upload that information to INTTRA, we’re creating some mechanisms by which we can take that information in a variety of formats and convert it to the required format without process change on the part of the trucking company.”