Synchromodality moves from buzzword to supply chain’s future

The multi-modal supply chain now has the potential to work the way it was always envisioned thanks to data and systems integration, summed up in the buzzworthy term: synchromodality.

Sure, it sounds like one of those “synergy” words that doesn’t actually mean anything, but synchromodality is an important next step in supply chain development. It isn’t necessarily something new, but instead is new way to think about and use all existing transport modalities in parallel.

What is synchromodality?

First things first, synchromodality is a way of looking at your moves across the entire modal network available to you as your goods move across the world, and then picking routes and lanes based on how you can best use the entire network.

Data systems look for the most efficient path of all your goods and moves, prioritizing and making selections based on cost, time, total distance and special characteristics like emissions and carbon footprint.

Use this WMS selection survival guide to identify key supply chain requirements for your warehouse

When done correctly, it is essentially a way to choose the right transportation mode at the right time based on your business needs.

How is it achieved?

Here’s the hard part.

To have true synchromodality, you need to have a connection to all your available transport modalities at the same time, often in a real-time data flow. This is a requirement because the methodology is not only for planning initial lanes and modes but also for adjusting when a shipper misses a deadline or delivery window.
It doesn’t matter what your plans were if your container doesn’t make its way onto a cargo ship, it matters how you adapt and still get things delivered on time.

After having everything connected, you’ll then need a system in place to rank choices based on your preferences and requirements. Rankings not only address modes like rail, barge, and road but consider dock schedules, travel/material restrictions, and checks to ensure there is space that can be allocated for your shipment.

Pricing data is the final piece of the puzzle, with analysis covering each leg and modal shift.

A synchromodality platform will look at every available option based on your speed requirements, adjust for pricing and route optimization needs, determine if space is available, and then make the selection best for your business based on these inputs.

Is synchromodality ready now?

In some cases, there are services and in-house development that offer robust synchromodality, though the reach of these platforms can differ.
The positive side of things is that these types of platforms are growing in prominence and can reduce your order process for large shipments down to just a few minutes of time. The unfortunate side of things is that the platform needs access to a wide range of supply chain partners’ real-time data.

Real-time information is not available for all shippers, nor are they all synched to a universal platform that provides this data in ways your software can immediately access and understand.

Like the modes themselves, the diverse set of systems used by supply chain software providers, 3PLs, shippers, carriers, and other partners means a truly synchromodal platform still requires significant development and integration work.

Today’s development continues to focus on delivering more real-time data, from truck positioning and road status to container-level information to check your shipments, so it is likely that synchromodality will soon be available most.

Who controls the tops platforms and is best able to deliver a system that generates a near-term ROI is still yet to be seen. 

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Geoff Whiting

About the author…

Geoff is an experienced journalist, writer, and business development consultant with a focus on enterprise technology, e-commerce, and supply chain development. Outside of the office he can be found toying with the latest in IoT, searching for classic radio broadcast recordings, and playing the perpetual tourist in his home of Washington D.C.

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Geoff Whiting