Data connectivity is at the heart of any good logistics network. Because logistics needs to work with multiple organizations to store, manage, transfer and transport goods, excellent data communication is essential. This information is reviewed and shared to ensure the efficient flow of goods through the supply chain.
There are many ways to connect and share information across and between logistics functions and third parties, including API, EDI, TMS, IoT, chatbots, RPA and email. We’ll explore what the main data transfer methods are used for and the benefits and challenges of each.
An application program interface (API) is a customized way for a logistics application to send, receive and transfer information with other supply chain applications with no human involvement. APIs are specially coded to allow different applications to communicate logistics data so that both applications can understand and use that information. APIs are used extensively in the supply chain to transfer many different types of data between different supply chain software platforms.
Benefits of Using an API
Challenges of Using an API
Electronic data interchange (EDI) uses similar principles to API, with one important difference—APIs are customized ways to send and receive data, whereas EDI uses an agreed-upon standard to transfer information between supply chain businesses and logistics applications. Like APIs, EDI is used for many different types of logistics data and use cases.
Benefits of Using EDI
Challenges of Using EDI
A transportation management system (TMS) is a type of logistics platform that is used to plan, manage and optimize logistics operations and the physical movement of goods. A TMS can be part of a larger supply chain platform and they are ideally used to schedule, track and streamline the flow of goods in the supply chain.
Benefits of Using TMS
Challenges of Using TMS
Internet of Things (IoT) devices provide useful data to track the position and storage conditions of goods throughout the supply chain. They are typically used as GPS locators and monitoring tools.
Benefits of Using IoT Devices
Challenges of Using IoT Devices
Chatbots are an effective way to gather information that needs to be provided by humans. They use a combination of guided interviews, natural language processing and machine learning to gather information that’s not easily accessible by other means.
Benefits of Using Chatbots
Challenges of Using Chatbots
Robotic process automation (RPA) lets an organization create and deploy software bots to automate and optimize the flow of information within and between supply chain organizations. These bots use artificial intelligence and machine learning to copy human tasks and then carry out those tasks automatically, without intervention.
Benefits of Using RPA
Challenges of Using RPA
It’s no secret that logistics communication is still largely paper-based, especially for the first and last miles of shipments. Email has helped to solve some of the issues with paper-based communication, and is now the most common form of online communication that there is. It’s also one of the most basic ways to transfer data, and although it’s easy to use and accessible, it does suffer from several issues when it comes to logistics and supply chains. Emails can be used to query shipment locations, raise purchase orders, share reports and for any other written logistics communications.
Benefits of Using Email
Challenges of Using Email
There are many ways to manage and transfer data within and between logistics organizations, supply chain managers and other stakeholders. The optimal way to transfer logistics data ultimately will depend on your unique supply chain and organizational needs.
These information and communication technologies have one thing in common—they free up human resources, so employees can spend more time on adding value to the supply chain. Whether that’s a better customer experience, streamlining supply chain operations or developing new supply chain services, using technology for low-value tasks makes good business sense.
As AI, machine learning and other technologies evolve, transmitting, understanding and using data for supply chain management will become much easier. This will streamline supply chains, optimize operations and result in less human error and fewer wasted resources.
Learn how Blume Visibility enables air, ocean, rail and motor carrier connectivity (API, EDI, IoT, TMS, etc.) for comprehensive tracking of assets, shipments and inventory at rest and in-motion.
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