Improving Real-Time Visibility in Rail Transport for the Automotive Industry

June 5, 2024

Real-time visibility in rail transport is vital for automotive supply chains. Enhanced VIN-based tracking improves shipment monitoring, reduces delays, and streamlines operations.

When it comes to supply chain management and logistics, real-time visibility is a critical aspect that often poses challenges. One mode of transportation that offers cost savings and environmental benefits, especially for long routes, is rail transport. However, the lack of data and visibility in rail transportation can create obstacles for shippers.

The challenges of rail freight for the automotive sector

The rail freight industry faces challenges centered around visibility and the adoption of modern tracking technologies. Traditional logistics operators often resist investing in technologies like GPS due to cost concerns and integration complexities. This resistance results in a "black box" scenario, where shippers have limited visibility over their shipments, especially in intermodal transport.

In this context, a "black box" means that the shippers have limited visibility and control over the status and location of their shipments. This situation is particularly problematic in intermodal transport, where goods are transferred between different modes of transportation (e.g., from rail to truck).

The advantages of rail transport in automotive logistics

Rail transport provides several advantages, including cost savings and lower CO2 emissions. Trains are more fuel-efficient than trucks, making them a cost-effective option for long-distance shipments. Additionally, rail transport has a lower carbon footprint, contributing to the goal of decarbonizing the supply chain. However, this advantage is often offset by a significant challenge, the lack of real-time visibility. Shippers frequently face difficulties in knowing the precise location of their goods, the estimated time of departure (ETD) and estimated time of arrival (ETA), which hampers efficient supply chain operations.

The importance of real-time visibility

Tracking individual units in rail transport becomes even more complex for industries like Automotive and Steel that require tracking items such as vehicles and coils. Shippers often struggle to know the exact location of their goods, which wagon their products are in, and how many wagons are attached to a train. This lack of visibility hampers day-to-day operations and creates problems such as shippers not having real-time updates on the locations and condition of their goods, leading to potential delays. In the automotive supply chain, every second counts, and due to late delivery, shippers can have unsatisfied end customers.

To address the gap in information,  Everysens has introduced a new product feature in its TVMS (Transport & Visibility Management System) that allows tracking goods by product serial number, specifically Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). This enhancement allows for precise tracking of VINs per wagon, facilitating improved transport composition management.

How three-layer tracking enhances real-time visibility in rail transport

Gain a better understanding of the products contained within each wagon and their respective locations with the three-layer tracking system:

  1. Train Location: Track the location of the train the wagon is attached to
  2. Wagon Location: Identify the exact location of the wagon within the train 
  3. Product Location: Determine the exact wagon and location of a particular product by adding the VIN

Benefits and Impact of tracking VIN

The introduction of individual unit tracking in rail transportation offers significant benefits for shippers and especially in the Automotive and Steel industry that can now have visibility into each unit, improving efficiency and reducing delays:

  • Incident Response: In case of transport incidents, it helps identify which wagon carried which VIN, and where they are located, facilitating quick and accurate response.
  • Operational Coordination: Knowing the exact position of each wagon proves useful for logistics operators to help in coordinating loading and unloading processes more effectively. This minimizes delays and ensures that operations are carried out in a smoother manner.
  • Just-In-Time (JIT) delivery: When shippers have access to data and exact information about their transport, it becomes easier for them to manage their inventory and fleet, ultimately helping to save time in delivery.

Increased visibility and tracking of individual products greatly contributes to an efficient supply chain, and ultimately to customer satisfaction. Real-time visibility is crucial for effective supply chain management, and individual unit tracking fills the gap in information that exists in rail transportation. By leveraging VINs and the three-layer tracking approach, shippers can overcome the challenges associated with tracking individual units, helping them to accurately forecast future demand and optimize their supply chain operations accordingly.

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