The power of real-time visibility

Where is my order? Brother explores the 5 reasons why real-time visibility (RTV) capability makes your logistics faster, easier and more efficient.

Most household consumers are now familiar with track and trace applications, by which the current location and journey cycle of shipments and parcels can be timed and logged, principally by using QR code and barcode technology. The technology is still new, but so successful because it has undoubtedly saved millions of phone calls to and from logistics providers, meaning that customers no longer need to pick up the phone or punch off an irritated email with the long-familiar WISMO (“Where is my order?”) refrain.

State-of-the-art Brother technology can print on demand the trackable codes without which the tracking systems cannot function.

Similar ‘Visibility’ applications are gaining further ground in the wider logistics industry. Estimated time of arrival (ETA) calculations are now far more reliable as a result of such tracking capability, bringing obvious benefits to shippers, carriers, warehouses and distribution centres (DCs) in their day-to-day planning operations and communications and in their management of unexpected delays. 

What is real-time visibility?

RTV capability now includes the opportunity to have full visibility of all goods and shipments end-to-end throughout the supply chain, both in transit and when switching modes or depots. Previously, the capability was limited, or restricted to certain modes, creating a ‘silo’ effect. 

The seamless link has created a whole raft of opportunities for supply chain efficiencies. The most advanced transport management platforms will now do more than simply alert exceptions – they will make recommendations on your best course of action when those exceptions occur, tailored to a set of criteria drawn up and agreed by you and relevant partners.

Real-time visibility as a business enabler

A 2021 article by respected industry analyst Gartner predicted that “by 2023, 50% of global leading enterprises will have invested in real-time transportation visibility solutions”1. Such visibility technology has brought some calmness to once-fraught operations desks and offices, which, by their very nature, are busy and fast-moving places of work. And it doesn’t end with track and trace – because real-time visibility (RTV) has now become a much bigger and meatier proposition, with the potential capacity to change the scope and speed of logistics decision-making in ways the industry has previously been unable to enjoy.

5 ways real-time visibility enables more productive business processes

Improved RTV offers multiple opportunities to run more effective operations throughout the goods journey.

1. Better decision-making

Real-time visibility means having the opportunity to react to events faster than ever before because alerts arrive in real-time and there are no visibility gaps in your supply chain that would have delayed those alerts in the past. Global giant Nestlé reported improved customer satisfaction and service levels and a decrease in manual operational resources needed, as well as more stability2. Actions available include re-routing a truck, changing modes, or rebooking an arrival time-slot. All are potential time and cost savers, while on-time-in-full (OTIF) figures, which are often significant terms of an agreed contract between shippers, carriers and customers, become less vulnerable to being missed.

2. Smoother site operations

In fast-moving logistics and warehouse environments - which by their very nature are subject to unpredictable delays and bottlenecks - any valuable information which can help intra-day and day-to-day planning is a massive boon. If ETA information is both more reliable and delivered earlier, all relevant personnel are better informed at all times, while processes and the movement of goods within a facility may be managed to be better controlled and less affected by unexpected events. Accurate ETAs allow better day-to-day management of on-site logistics away from the loading docks, allowing allocation of staff resources and warehouse movements to be optimised cost-effectively. Meanwhile, data-driven decision-making allows you to identify the source and cause of regular bottlenecks more quickly, backed up by clear evidence.

3. Dock/yard optimisation

Reliable ETAs and delay alerts allow better planning, and longer reaction times. Allocation of load/unload docks at warehouses, which can become a headache if multiple vehicles of varying sizes and loads arrive at the same time, becomes more trustworthy. Truck turnarounds are quicker and driver waiting times are reduced, enabling a  saving in both driver hours and costs.

In a case study, Hamburg-based steel specialist ArcelorMittal says that it cut lead times by 90% and truck waiting times by 30% using such a solution. 

4. Effective transport management

Transport management is about the movement of goods between shippers and customers, both on roads (and other modes) and at connecting points, such as warehouses and DCs. Companies that are better able to manage delays have the best chance of reducing the cost of those delays, including the potential cost of meeting carbon emissions regulations.

“With real-time visibility, customer and internal queries on order status decreased by 40%, leading to a direct reduction in personnel costs in internal sales and transportation planning,” said the head of transport management at mineral wool insulation specialist Saint-Gobain Isover, quoted in a case study.

5. Reduced fees and penalties 

Shippers and carriers are understandably keen to avoid paying the detention and demurrage fees incurred when transport containers are either delayed too long at ports or returned later than agreed when empty. Real-time visibility allows a precise view of relevant container locations, timings and delay alerts, visible to all relevant parties. It offers the responsible ship-per/carrier the opportunity to take more proactive control where possible.

Visibility underpinned by reliability

Visibility is a proven business enabler, with the potential to play an even more important role in the future, particularly as businesses seek transport efficiencies in the fight to cut carbon emissions.

There’s another important consideration, though. Visibility is only useful if there is absolute confidence that the shipment or parcel being tracked is the right one, going to the right destination, at the right time. For this confidence to be in place, the data source has to be trusted. When drilling down to individual pallet, crate, tote or parcel level, the accuracy and reliability of the data output onto the label, along with the quality of the label itself, and its bar-code or RFID, is vital if the benefits of visibility are truly to be felt across global supply chains. 

Brother is a key player in this journey. We know that reliable, premium-quality label printing is an absolutely vital part of any smooth-running logistics operation; but we also know that label printing is not a subject that managers want to spend much time and energy thinking about. So we live for the label on their behalf. We focus on forensic precision, reliability and quality - every label, every time. 

Find out how Brother Lives for the Label here.


1. Article: Gartner Predicts The Future of Supply Chain Technology, April 2021

2. Case study: How Nestlé is using real-time visibility to manage supply chain disruptions, Sixfold, 2022

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