June 22, 2022

How to Transform Supply Chain Visibility Into Proactive Container Management

Today’s Shipping Container Management Comes with Unique Challenges

More than 11 million shipping containers arrive at U.S. seaports each year.  [1]  Wow, that’s a lot.  And as logistics professionals know, those ships, trains, and trucks can hit all sorts of obstacles in transporting shipping containers to their final destination.

Like a domino effect, one delayed supply chain partner affects all the others. Out on the ocean, weather can delay or re-route vessels, putting them into port much later than expected. In port, drayage companies face a scarcity of labor, capacity, and chassis. At backed-up ports and railyards, they find themselves waiting for hours in long lines to get their loads. This prevents them from making their other deliveries and slows the supply chain in general. Meanwhile, BCOs are helpless as they watch their containers’ last free days go by and they begin to accrue port terminal demurrage or inland rail storage fees.

These supply chain challenges are not all new. Some, like harsh weather events and labor issues, regularly rise and fall. Others are common to our particular time in history, like the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.  Yet for the logistics company, the solution to keep shipping containers moving despite the obstacles in their path, comes down to two things:

Your supply chain visibility data and what you do with it   

The question then becomes, do you have the supply chain visibility you need to be proactive with your logistics? It all starts with the data because being proactive requires the right information!

The Rise of Supply Chain Visibility

Information is, and always has been, a commodity. Some of us have never known a world without iPhones or the internet. Yet there was once a time when information along the supply chain, especially on the water, was nonexistent.

When computers first came on the scene (and took up the better part of a room), most operations were centralized at the manufacturer or the retailer. Information was a one-way street, and computers were basically used to keep track of goods being manufactured and shipped out. EDI didn’t show up until 1965, when Edward A.  Guilbert, who is considered the father of EDI, used crude computer systems to develop a way to send shipping manifests from the Holland-American steamship line using telex messages. It took a full two minutes![2]

In 1973, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) was ready to transfer information quickly between internet sites. Guilbert helped release the first EDI standards. The same year, the Value- Added Network (VAN) was established. [3]

EDI Boom: The Eighties and Nineties

The use of EDI in the supply chain grew rapidly in the 1980’s, and in 1982, a man named Keith Oliver aptly coined the term “supply chain management.”[4]  That same decade, auto companies and large retailers like Sears and Kmart began mandating EDI for their suppliers. [5] Simultaneously, the deregulation of the trucking industry via the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 gave rise to an increase of companies using storage and transport services. This led to a greater need for 3PL services. The 20,000 trucking carriers that existed in 1980 ballooned to the 1.2 million on the road today. [6]

We all know what happened next. As the industry became more sophisticated, our ability to communicate along the supply chain became easier. BCOs could track containers as they crossed the ocean through more complex systems like GPS. U.S. imports from China grew from $45 billion in 1995 to more than $280 billion by 2006 [7], tracked and monitored by logistics software platforms. The industry continued to demand ways to track shipping containers on their overseas journeys and technology was poised to make it happen.

Tech Boom: The 2010’s to Today

The 2010’s brought more complexity and options with great advances in telecommunication (smartphones, apps, and texting), personal computing (iPads), artificial intelligence, social media and more. [8]  Software programs for 3PLs kept up with the latest technologies.

Then the turn of the decade ushered in an overwhelming adversary—the coronavirus. So many businesses in the supply chain were caught unaware. According to one source, when the pandemic hit, 44% of executives surveyed said they did not have a plan in place to address supply disruption in China.[9]

Pandemic Panic

As the pandemic raged on, the increase for mail-order goods skyrocketed. This demand is still squeezing the supply chain. There is also a severe chassis shortage in the country right now, so 3PLs are still struggling with finding drayage services from ports and railyards to distribution centers. In an effort to meet the demand, chassis manufacturers are ramping up. Yet JOC reported that 20,000 to 25,000 marine chassis will be built in 2022, but 45,000 to 50,000 are needed to serve the industry’s needs. [10]

The greatest weapon a 3PL has against all this volatility in the supply chain is a good real-time supply chain visibility software platform. However, that software must do more than simply provide data. It should support the software user’s ability to pivot their logistics at will.

The Value of Supply Chain Visibility

Supply chain visibility is not just a buzzword these days. It’s essential for a 3PL and/or BCO to have in order to locate and track their containers.  Real-time information keeps companies aware of supply chain disruptions like weather delays, port congestion, and traffic. The best software platforms offer a 24/7/365 customer portal to provide easy access to this information not only for the shipper but for anyone essential along the supply chain.
Supply chain visibility is essential for many reasons:

Measurement of KPIs.

  • With the information you receive from your supply chain visibility software, you will be able to calculate the key performance indicators (KPIs) of greatest importance to your enterprise. These may include:
  • Deliveries
  • ETAs
  • Cost of inventory
  • Time on the water
  • Dwell time
  • Per diem and demurrage fees

Look for a software platform that can customize reporting options so you can receive reports on-demand, for whatever metrics are most important to measure your company’s specific KPIs.

  • Competitive Advantage. On the global stage, your company needs to perform its best. Having the tools that put valuable intelligence at your fingertips will keep your operations lean and help you stay competitive.
  • Addressing Exceptions and Discrepancies.  Better visibility of your shipping containers helps you anticipate supply chain disruptions and make better decisions in the event of schedule changes or delays. A good visibility solution will identify issues that may eventually derail or complicate container shipments.
  • Improve Communication. Some visibility solutions facilitate communication along the supply chain. Within a portal, distribution centers, partner carriers, and shippers can all communicate with each other. It speeds efficiency as it drastically reduces back-and-forth calls and emails.
  • Stay Compliant.  Being able to track the location of your shipping containers is key to remaining compliant with regulatory requirements around the world. Having complete information about container status will always put you in an advantageous position.

Requirements for Best Supply Chain Visibility

Recognizing that supply chain visibility is essential for your logistics operations, it’s important that the solution gives you the information necessary to make proactive decisions.
Supply chain visibility is served best by three things

  • The quality of your data
  • The specifics of your data
  • Your proactive response to the data

Data Quality
Have you ever been handed a spreadsheet with missing information? Or worse yet, one with inaccurate information?

It’s frustrating not to have the information you need to do your work, especially when great amounts of time and money are at stake. Inaccurate information slows you down and in worse cases, leads to critical errors.

Any software program is only as good as the quality of information within it. For 3PL real-time visibility software, this is especially true.

3PLs regularly download data from various sources to track containers, such as:

  • Ocean carriers
  • Port terminals
  • Rail partners
  • Drivers
  • Distribution centers
  • BCOs

The information is loaded into the visibility platform and is used to calculate ETAs and other milestones. However, if the information from the source is inaccurate or not recently updated due to a weather condition or atypical port congestion, the wrong information will make it into the system and throw off milestone calculations.

The sad truth is that wrong information leads to supply chain missteps more often than people realize.

Routing information for shipping lines isn’t static. We acquire updated re-routing information for our customers in enough time to manage their logistics on the other end. It would be catastrophic for a customer to expect their containers to be at one port when the containers are actually at another. But prospective customers have repeatedly come to us with that story to ensure it never happens again. We make sure it doesn’t!

–Felecia, Coreviz Marketing Manager


At AV Logistics, we have found that the most common types of misinformation that we receive from either clients or their supply chain partners include items such as:

  • Missing PO numbers
  • Wrong ship names
  • Missing bill of ladings
  • Incomplete bookings on the steamship lines
  • Routing issues
  • Time zone issues
  • Unrefreshed data

The only way to head off problems caused by this misinformation is to catch any discrepancies between the information from the client and the supply chain sources. If all information is verified and updated, then only the freshest, most reliable information will make it into the system. Few real-time visibility solutions take this step and verify all client-submitted data but scrubbing 100% of the data received from clients and outside supply chain partners is the only way to make sure only “clean” data makes it into the supply chain visibility system. In other words, taking this proactive step at the outset prevents problems later.

A dedicated track & trace team should monitor the inbox to make sure the most up-to-date information from the supply chain always makes it into the system.

We can receive up to 17 different spreadsheets from NVOs. We translate and corroborate all the information into readable metrics and milestone dates so our customers can easily access and understand them in Coreviz.”
–Felecia, AV Logistics Marketing Manager

Taking these measures will provide you with the excellent data quality you need to manage your containers with confidence.

Data Specifics

Often real-time visibility solutions provide plenty of data, but the recipient is unclear as to how it translates to hastening the supply chain. The missing link is typically the actual milestones that are available from the software.

Knowing the milestones you want (and need) from your supply chain visibility solution is essential for proactive container management. The more information you have, especially at certain points of the journey, the fewer surprises you will experience and the more efficiently you will be able to manage your containers.

“We’ve had situations where we were handed two very different ETAs—one from the customer and one from the shipping line. Because of our experience we understand the best way to trace the information (with the ship name) and who to ask (the fleet owner) to get to the bottom of the discrepancy. Our goal is to always be working with the best possible information sources on behalf of our customers.”
–Coreviz Track & Trace Team

For true, proactive container management, you will need end-to-end visibility of your containers, from place of foreign origin to return. On the water, this means not only your ETA to port, but your ETA to berthing as well. The more information you have, the more you can anticipate and manage resulting timing issues and fees.

Be sure your real-time visibility software platform offers you the following milestones:


  • Sail Date
  • 30-day visibility
  • 14-day visibility
  • 7-day visibility


  • Port Availability
  • Vessel ETA
  • Berthing ETA
  • Arrival
  • Container Discharge & Dwell
  • Custom Holds
  • Delays to Inland Dray
  • Container Dwell
  • Port Last Free Day (LFD)
  • Container Outgate


  • Load Pickup Notification
  • Container Rail Ingate
  • Availability, custom holds
  • Storage Last Free Day (LFD)
  • Container Outgate


  • Load Pickup
  • Load Delivery
  • Empty pickup
  • Return


  • At steamship line
  • At container yard
  • At port
  • At railyard
  • At offsite depot



The third component you need for proactive container management is the right response to the information you receive from your real-time visibility solution. For this step you need a reliable logistics partner who can help you monitor your supply chain data and prepare you for delays and other issues. For example, the sooner you find out the shipping line has re-routed your freight in a timely manner, the sooner your 3PL can begin making alternate arrangements for your containers at their unscheduled destination.

For the most proactive monitoring of your logistics, look for a visibility platform that also offers regular, on-demand updates on the location of your containers. Monitoring should be continual to keep the freshest data in the system.


We received information from a customer that the vessel for their containers was due into port in three weeks. When our track & trace team confirmed the sail date, we found that the ship was arriving in a week! Had we not verified the information, it would have cost the customer excessive fees and many logistical headaches.”
–Ashley, AV Logistics/Coreviz Track & Trace Team


The right information can also help you calculate risk of per diem and demurrage fees sooner. That way you can make the most advantageous decisions about your container’s drayage solution.

Making Supply Chain Visibility More Proactive

Having the right software is a giant step towards operating your supply chain more proactively. There are many other elements of your logistics operations that you can have in place, ready to spring into action at the first sign of supply chain disruption.

Single Point of Contact

Throughout your supply chain, you should have a single point of contact with every partner, especially your logistics team. Then when something unwanted happens, you will know exactly who to contact. That person should have the expertise and resources to troubleshoot your situation and be easily accessible.

User-Friendly Visibility Software

Make sure the visibility software you choose not only gives you everything you need but is also a pleasure to use. The more you feel comfortable with the software, the more easily you will use it, follow the journey of your containers, and be able to respond proactively to anything abnormal.
At AV Logistics, customers have remarked on the simplicity of Coreviz over the competition and how easy it is to use. Whatever software you choose, make sure it is a platform that meets your functional needs as well as your need for intelligence. Select a right-sized logistics software interface that you appreciate and is easy to use, not a bloated one that is cumbersome and barely tolerable to operate. Logistics is difficult enough without having to use a tool you dislike!

“Scrubbed” and Clean Data

As described above, there is no greater ally to responding to logistical changes than having the right data in your visibility platform. Taking the extra step to verify information, as Coreviz does, is essential. It’s the only way to have the most up-to-date information as it becomes available and respond to schedule changes as quickly as possible.


While you may breathe a sigh of relief once you know your containers are on the water, schedules can change as a vessel is en route. Weather and port congestion can mean delays and even re-routing. With on-the-water visibility, you will know of these changes as soon as possible and be able to make new arrangements for the containers before they arrive at port.

Managing Demurrage

Port congestion is on a sharp incline, particularly on the west coast. For example, at Long Beach, the average dwell time is about nine days. The Pacific Maritime Association shows average box dwell times of 5.2 days in February of this year, up from 3.5 in January of this year.[1] For BCOs, this means containers are at risk for remaining at port longer than expected, past the last free day, and become subject to demurrage fees.

Expecting this port congestion and knowing what to expect for your containers will allow you to prepare a backup plan for your drayage management or know when to request extended free time. Some of this information may even become available while the vessel is on the water. This makes on-the-water visibility, once again, the key to proactive container management. The best way to make decisions is to have the whole picture—the end-to-end visibility of your container journey.

The Future of Proactive Container Management

When it comes to the information needed most in logistics today it’s not just about quantity; it’s about quality as well. It’s also about the support team that stands behind the information, and if they can help you transform the pure metrics into actions that will make the most sense for your operation. Does your real-time visibility software solution offer that kind of support?

Experts agree that the challenges of the supply chain aren’t going away anytime soon. It’s a good idea to arm yourself with the knowledge, resources, and expertise you need to ride this particular wave in history.  By expecting the unexpected, you can be sure you are making the most efficient decisions for your container management. You’ll also be sure to help them reach their destination on schedule, based on the most accurate information.

This paper was produced by:

Coreviz is the proprietary, real-time supply chain visibility software for container management from AV Logistics. Coreviz gives an invaluable, 20,000-foot view of container logistics, simplifies tracking, and provides clear visibility of every container, every step of the journey. The solution includes a verification process for all container information before it is inputted into the system, 24/7/365 access to container status, and the ability to centralize supply chain communication within the app.

Coreviz was introduced in 2021 upon customer request for a solution that filled in the gaps within the modern supply chain. The software was developed with feedback from customer beta testers who shared their most urgent needs for a proactive solution for their container management challenges.

AV Logistics has more than twenty years of experience managing the containers of some of the world’s largest retailers. Scaled services are available, from on-the-water visibility only, to end-to-end drayage management.

Contact us for a demo of our software or to learn more about what Coreviz can do for your container management.

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