Written by
David Koke
Senior Marketing Manager

Beacon’s supply chain visibility and collaboration platform empowers organizations to achieve more efficient, reliable and sustainable supply chains.

In this article

February 15, 2024

Lost and found in Europoort: A supply chain collaboration story

You might have lost your toothbrush somewhere on your last trip overseas. But at least you’re not Yasmin. She’s a month back from a business trip to Shanghai and realized her kids didn’t come back with her.

All 10,000 of them.

That’s right. 10,000 Magic Kidz Glitter Dolls sitting in a container on a quay at Europoort in Rotterdam. While Yasmin was flying, they’d traveled to the Netherlands by sea. By now, they should be at home in the UK.

But somewhere, something went wrong. 

This is a much more common story than any of us would like. But it’s something that we’ve all seen and dealt with – probably more times than we care to remember. 

That’s because supply chains are complex. Along the way, there are dozens of different stakeholders, partners, ports and shipments to keep track of. If a single link cracks, the whole thing grinds to a sudden stop, leaving valuable cargo stuck hundreds of miles from its final destination. 

The longer it stays there, the higher the potential costs become – from demurrage charges to haulier and warehouse rebooking fees, customer fines for late delivery and the knock-on revenue impacts of not having stock on shelves.

Without effective collaboration structures in place, the harder and slower it is to find a resolution that gets things moving again.

So what can you do to avoid disruption? There’s always an element of risk in supply chains, but with the right supply chain collaboration software, logistics teams can plan and operate with more agility – taking action to respond to disruptions quickly and effectively.

What is supply chain collaboration?

In the simplest sense, supply chain collaboration is any process where two or more different parts of the supply chain work together to keep things running smoothly as part of one cohesive, integrated whole.

For supply chains to work properly, this needs to happen from start to finish, from planning, sourcing materials, and manufacturing all the way through to final delivery and the returns process. 

Most supply chain collaboration can be characterized as vertical collaboration in which a ladder of collaboration runs from one end of the supply chain to the other, with each partner working with the organizations directly above and below it. For example, a manufacturer would focus on collaborating with the companies that supply its raw materials, as well as the ones purchasing its products.

Effective coordination and communication are vital to make sure everybody’s on the same page and don’t end up like Yasmin – wondering where her stranded Kidz are.

Without effective (and scalable) collaboration mechanisms in place, no supply chain can ever get close to the ultimate goal that each partner is working towards – delivery that’s on time and in full.

Why does supply chain collaboration break down? 

Even though some supply chains are incredibly complex - encompassing all sorts of different organizations in various countries around the world - they all rely on the same basic building block – data. 

Data lives and dies in static formats

Data is what links each piece of the supply chain together. It lets factories know how much to make, helps ocean carriers understand how much container space is needed to transport it across the ocean and enables warehouses to plan for the arrival of incoming goods.

But too often, that data is static and already out of date by the time one person shares it with another. Usually, it’s shared using siloed email communications and lives in old-school spreadsheets that are time-consuming to maintain and fail to reflect real-time changes. 

In Yasmin’s case, the Kidz should have traveled directly from Shanghai to Felixstowe. But when they ended up on a ship to Rotterdam instead, nobody thought to make sure that information flowed through the supply chain. 

Yasmin, her hauliers, and her UK warehouse didn’t realize anything had gone wrong. At least, not until Yasmin received a report from the warehouse that the shipment still hadn’t turned up. 

There’s a second factor at play here too, which is the difficulties of resolving problems when the partners involved are on different continents, use different systems, and speak different languages.

Breaking down global barriers

Without a centralized platform for the sharing of real-time data, supply chain partners don’t have access to a system where they can see all the information that matters to them, and know for sure that it’s accurate.

When Yasmin tried to get in touch with her Kidz’ family in Shanghai, she was simply told that the shipment had been sent and should have arrived by now.

Neither side knows they’re missing a crucial piece of information about the delay.

By the time they manage to work out where the Kidz are, Yasmin’s already had to delay shipments to various distributors, and temporarily pause new orders until the situation’s resolved. 

This process doesn’t deliver for anyone, and underlines the very real need for supply chain collaboration platforms built to make all the data available, all the time, to everyone who needs it.

The benefits of supply chain collaboration software

Beacon Live Boards brings supply chain collaboration out of the dark ages and into the future, with dedicated tools for planning, tracking, reporting, and, most importantly, sharing real-time transportation information. You can even leave comments directly alongside the live data, making it easy to draw attention to new issues and work with your partners to swiftly respond to problems and keep your goods moving along.

That streamlines all the points of collaborative friction that we’ve talked about in this article – facilitating easy, instant data sharing and communication between every member of the supply chain. 

This is all managed from a communal Live Board where you can control who sees what elements of your live data. Best of all, it’s accessible at any time, from anywhere.

But Beacon Live Boards are more than just efficient. They build trust and foster greater transparency throughout your supply chain, while also building better data standards, improving your business reputation, and even helping retain talent by equipping teams with the tools to do their jobs better. 

That’s the power of collaboration in action. And for proof of just how much of a difference it can make, look no further than Fever-Tree. They’ve been using Beacon to save time, spot errors, and hold their supply chain to higher standards – while reducing the punitive costs associated with delays at the same time. 

“We had a recent instance where a number of containers were rerouted from Chicago to Montreal, without the forwarder letting us know. Because of Beacon’s data and insights, we could update our hauliers, warehouses, and customers.”

To get results like that, you need state-of-the-art supply chain collaboration software. So avoid being caught by surprise like Yasmin and get started with Beacon to take control of your supply chain and make sure your shipments move faster than her 10,000 Magic Kidz Glitter Dolls.