1. On the way to a standardised process

On the way to a standardised process

Track & Trace solutions are now standard for every (large) logistics service provider. However, the systems differ significantly, even though they often map identical processes. The new Working Group Track & Trace of the Open Logistics Foundation aims to standardise the Track & Trace process on an open source basis, ensuring greater transparency in the supply chain.
© Open Logistics Foundation

Whether barcode, blockchain, RFID or RTLS: today there are various technical options for tracking consignments. This allows everyone involved
in the supply chain to check the status of a shipment in real-time. Track & Trace helps companies organise their logistics processes more efficiently, ensure the quality of their service and create transparency within the supply chain. “Track & Trace is the epitome of a commodity: a standard service, but not a service companies use to generate revenue,” says Andreas Nettsträter, CEO of the Open Logistics Foundation. Nevertheless, in the past, every company developed its own Track & Trace solution – at considerable cost and time. However, the systems do not speak the same language, making collaboration along the supply chain more difficult.

The idea of standardising Track & Trace solutions through open source was first discussed by the companies in the Open Logistics Foundation’s Innovation Community at an Ideation Workshop, which the Foundation’s office organises regularly. After the logistics service provider DB Schenker agreed to take the lead and the other companies agreed to participate, the Working Group was founded in March 2024. “The high level of interest in our project, not only among the members but also in the logistics industry, symbolises the importance of the topic. There is a need for action!” says Andreas Nettsträter. The members keep up to date with the progress of the work in regular virtual meetings and meet in person if necessary.

The Challenge

Many different transhipment points and delivery partners make planning logistics transport processes difficult enough. In addition, logistics partners often talk past each other – especially if status terms such as “in transit” are not clearly defined. This usually results in non-transparent processes – especially for logistics service providers who rely on various subcontractors for their deliveries. At best, the status messages for Track & Trace are transmitted digitally but are not labelled in a standardised way. It is then up to the service provider to correctly interpret terms such as “in delivery”. Non-standardised acronyms (special code events) assigned to a transport phase cause additional confusion. An exact forecast, e.g. of the actual delivery time, is often challenging to make: planning becomes obsolete, and the customer only receives vague information about the actual delivery time and different information depending on the service provider. This also means that historical events cannot be processed optimally, for example, for performance analyses for SLA reporting or operational excellence targets.

“In the Track & Trace Working Group, we act according to the Foundation’s guiding principle: collaboration instead of silo thinking. We are, therefore, even more pleased to welcome so many market players to the Working Group.”
Christa Koenen, CIO/CDO DB Schenker

The Approach

The new „Track & Trace“ Working Group now aims to create a standardised solution with the help of open source. To this end, an event, notification and data model is to be developed on an open source basis. The aim is to achieve de-facto standardisation. The first and most important goal is to create a shared understanding of how transport works based on various events.

The plan is not to create a functional platform but a standardised process and interface designation. A standardised understanding of events and notifications should clarify where a delivery is. At the same time, standardised designations for delivery events will pave the way for easier automation of all communication processes.

The first step of the work focuses on communication with the end customer, i.e., mapping an end-to-end transport process. The focus here is on the following questions:
■ How many and which events and notifications are required for collaboration with the customer?
■ How can these be described and defined in a standardised way?

The communication between logistics service providers and freight carriers is then analysed in a second step to map the individual transport steps. The questions are similar but relate to a different level.

With open source for more efficient processes, better quality and more transparency in the supply chain.

Working Group Track & Trace
In logistics and production, tracking and tracing as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) enables real-time tracking of raw materials, components and fully assembled products within the production chain. The Working Group wants to lay the foundation for a standardised solution in Track & Trace and develop ideas for individual projects.

Start March 2024

Aventeon, Bohnen Logistik/ duisport, Dachser, DB Schenker (Lead), Fraunhofer IML, logistics cloud, Rhenus, TradeLink

Lead Marius Hilb, DB Schenker

This article was published in the third edition of the Open Logistics Magazine. You can read the entire magazine and register for future editions here.

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Nathalie Böhning

Innovation and Project Manager

Open Logistics Foundation

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