Commentary: Rail freight real-time, all-the-time inventory visibility

Which of the big seven U.S. railroads could make 2021 the year of railroad advanced cargo visibility — thus introducing a real game changer for railroad cargo shippers?

Something more than just a cheap, small, smart communicating sensor indicating whether the rail car doors are closed.

Shippers need something more robust. And rail shippers want it now, not in 10 to 12 years.

Rail customers want to have usable logistics intelligence in an open-architecture API integrator software application — a service that delivers carload freight location and condition information into a meaningful, easy-to-understand status report message. They do not care about the device used.

As identified in previous columns, experts like Oliver Wyman show that each mode of freight transport has a small black dot area to directly help their customers’ supply chain with visibility.

Freight customers want that data fed right into the shippers’ digital supply chain data bases.

Unfortunately, providing that kind of cargo location and status messaging real time is still a head scratcher for railroads.

Here is why that is a problem: The truckers are already doing this for customers.

Published logistics reports calculate that improved visibility might reduce shippers’ total supply chain costs by 7% to 10%.

The bottom line is that rail could leap forward with this kind of on-time management of shipper goods if it were bolder and faster at innovating.

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Source: Freight Waves