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Product Review – Beacon’s Supply Chain Visibility Software

The global logistics and trade landscape has constantly evolved over the last decade.. I would even say that the industry got its nitrous fix since COVID-19 which brought out several vulnerabilities and gaps in how the industry has been functioning..

Businesses are working harder than ever to stay ahead of the curve and are increasingly looking towards advanced technology to streamline their operations and improve efficiency..

As part of the Product Review series, I deep dive into the features, accessibility, and strengths of Beacon, a comprehensive web-based freight visibility and collaboration software, and thoroughly assess its capabilities..

The first point relating to Beacon’s use and accessibility is perhaps its strongest and that is its simplistic approach to UX.. Beacon’s comprehensive web-based software eliminates the need for any software installations, allowing users to access the platform from any device with an internet connection..

The simplicity of the sign-up process is also notable because users can begin utilizing the platform within seconds, without any complex setup procedures..

All it needs is for the users to sign up for a free trial (includes first 20 shipments irrespective of however long it takes to be shipped – sweet deal if you ask me) and provide the basic details like company name and email address based on which the user is onboarded immediately..

This easy onboarding is particularly beneficial for businesses that need to quickly adapt to new tools and technologies without investing heavily in IT infrastructure..

When it comes to core features, Beacon seems to be chock full of the good stuff..

Beacon’s unified platform offers tracking of cargo across various modes—ocean, air, and road with real-time updates pulled directly from carriers, ensuring that the information is current and accurate..

This real-time tracking includes container-level detail for ocean shipments, airway bills for air shipments, and license plates for road shipments.. The ability to track multiple modes in one platform is a significant advantage for companies with diverse logistics needs..

Something that I found interesting and useful is that Beacon’s system allows customers to track their shipments at a purchase order/SKU level as well.. Once the user updates the PO/SKU information in the Beacon system, the platform links purchase orders to container or air waybills so you can see how many shipments are being used to fulfill a purchase order..

Depending on who the user is, some people prefer looking at purchase order views while some prefer container views, for example, logistics teams versus procurement teams..

Beacon’s tracking capabilities extend beyond mere location updates and users can track the progress of their shipments from the point of origin to the final destination, receiving notifications about key milestones such as departure, transshipment, and arrival.. This level of detail is crucial for maintaining visibility and control over complex logistics operations..

The tracking and dashboard are supported by an interactive map that visually represents the location of all the shipments and by simply hovering over the shipments, users can see detailed information such as container count, vessel details, and estimated arrival times..

Beacon Product Review - Cargo Tracking

The customizable map provides some useful options for users allowing them to filter only shipments that meet their required criteria, such as those that are delayed or those that are due to arrive within a specific time frame allowing for proactive management of potential issues, and finding solutions before those problems escalate..

Beacon Live Boards are designed to provide users with a clear and concise overview of their shipments. Key metrics such as the number of ocean shipments, recent ETA changes, and upcoming container arrivals are prominently displayed..

What I also liked about the Live Dashboard is that you can create bespoke dashboards for different purposes and stakeholder groups.. Like for example, inbound cargo views for warehouses, customer data views for customers, product category views for buyers/merchandising teams, shipments that have been delayed, and specific boards for destinations..

This feature is particularly useful for exception management, enabling users to focus on shipments requiring immediate attention rather than sifting through all active shipments.. The dashboard’s layout is intuitive, making it easy for users to navigate and find the information they need quickly..

In addition to its standard metrics, the dashboard can be customized to display information based on user interests and priorities.. Whether it is tracking high-priority shipments in detail, receiving alerts for potential delays, or gaining insights into shipment costs, the flexible and user-friendly interface ensures quick access to critical information avoiding the need for users to ask for updates or uncover issues independently..

The dashboard highlights incidents where some shipment information has changed, like if there are say 500 containers for a customer in the water and the ETA for a ship carrying 15 of those containers has changed, that is shown in the dashboard as an exception which then alerts the customer of this change, so they check on that exception.. Nifty huh..

Beacon Product Review - Live Board

Customers can share the dashboard with their service partners, enhancing collaboration, communication, and eliminating the need for emails and spreadsheets as all info is sent from the website itself..

There are also various filters to allow users to create bespoke views for warehouses, hauliers, customers, and other stakeholders and as based on settings, the boards are available as a public or private link..

Overall, the Live Dashboard by Beacon is a handy tool for users to have a 360° view of their shipments..

Collaboration is at the heart of what we do” – was what Fraser Robinson, CEO of Beacon said in his Executive Insights interview on this site.. True to this, Beacon’s collaboration tools allow all stakeholders in the supply chain to interact effectively around data without the need for multiple logins or platforms..

The shareable Live Boards allows customers to share information with their service partners, enhancing collaboration, communication, and eliminating the need for emails and spreadsheets as all info is sent from the website itself..

So whether it is the Live Boards which allows users related to a particular shipment to interact with their suppliers, forwarders, and other stakeholders directly on the platform, or the Doc Manager which houses all the critical shipping documents, Beacon’s collaboration tools are extremely user-friendly.. These tools eliminate the stress of sharing information or locating important documents when required..

Beacon Product Review - Collaboration

The upload process is intuitive and efficient, making shared drives a thing of the past allowing users to quickly and efficiently upload and label invoices, packing lists, bills of lading (BOLs), and other essential documents..  The system allows these documents to be always linked to the relevant POs or shipments making the process that much simpler for the users..

Comments and updates are documented and timestamped, creating a clear audit trail.. The ability to document and timestamp all interactions within the platform is a valuable feature for maintaining accountability and transparency.. This detailed record keeping is particularly useful in resolving disputes or investigating delays..

Data entry on Beacon also seems to be versatile and user-friendly although I have not tested it extensively with enough data inputs.. But the system has the option to upload shipment data via  Excel (csv) files, manually input data, or use API integration for automated data transfer..

The platform includes data validation and key identifier features including checking of container number formats to validate the and ensure data accuracy and data integrity to avoid potential errors..

This is especially important for businesses that handle large volumes of shipments, where even a small mistake can have significant consequences in terms of time and effort..

Using this data, users are able to enrich their tracking data by creating custom properties to generate different views like associated customers, product category, SKU number etc..

While data input, accuracy and integrity is one thing, getting usable and relevant outputs is a problem that many systems face.. In the case of Beacon however, the reporting capabilities are truly robust offering several valuable insights into the users’ logistics operations..

Reports covering various metrics can be generated in the platform including key and day to day information like total shipment volumes, average transit times, and ETA accuracy that can be broken down by route or carrier..

Beacon Product Review - Reporting & analytics

The platform also provides accurate reports on scope 3 carbon emissions by route which is crucial for many businesses for tracking their sustainability goals and progress.. Users can also compare these emissions by carriers (for Air at this point)..

The analytics tools used in these reports are designed to provide both high-level overviews and detailed breakdowns, catering to different user needs and helps users identify their own and market trends, assess performance, and make data-driven decisions..

Beacon’s reporting features are designed to support a wide range of business needs..

Beacon includes tools for supply chain planning, essential for optimizing supply chain operations.. Features such as spot rate tracking, port-to-port schedules, port congestion reports, and temperature planners for perishable goods provide users with critical data for strategic planning..

These tools help users anticipate challenges and make informed decisions to improve their operational efficiency.. As an example, the spot rate tracking feature allows users to monitor freight rates and identify opportunities for cost savings, while the port congestion reports provide insights into potential delays..

The temperature planners can be used to ensure that perishable goods are transported under the right conditions, reducing the risk of spoilage..

Beacon Product Review - Temperature Planner

Similarly, the port congestion reports can help users identify potential bottlenecks and develop strategies for avoiding delays..

These planning and forecasting tools are designed to help users stay ahead of potential issues and optimize their logistics operations allowing them to make decisions on how many containers they should plan to ship, to and from which ports (based on congestion/delays etc), which ports are more delayed than others etc..

Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions..

Companies are increasingly under pressure to reduce carbon emissions and measuring Scope 3 emissions has become an imperative in business today for companies to be ESG compliant.. There are several protocols, measurement and disclosure requirements in place for companies to stay compliant..

Beacon’s offering includes a quick and easy tool to measure Scope 3 freight emissions based on the GLEC and ISO10483 framework.. It uses distance, shipment size, and carrier to measure and report the carbon impact on shipments..

Beacon Product Review - Carbon Emission

Users are able to measure “emissions intensity” by carrier in CO2 tonnes per TEU for ocean and per KG for air allowing users a clear view of which carriers may need to be used to achieve ESG goals..

The intensity details are available at a container level as well on this tool..

Strengths

In summary, what I have found in terms of strengths were

  1. Ease of Use – This, for me, is the first strength.. It is just really super easy to navigate and provides several intuitive features and a straightforward onboarding process..
  2. Real-Time Tracking – Accurate and up-to-date shipment information is readily available..
  3. Customizability – Extensive options for filters and live boards allow users to tailor the platform to their specific needs..
  4. Collaboration Tools – Advanced features for collaboration and document sharing enhance communication and coordination among stakeholders..
  5. Comprehensive Reporting – Detailed reports provide valuable insights for performance assessment and strategic planning..
  6. Integration & Input – Integration and Input seems a breeze with API and CSV upload options allowing for seamless data integration..

Areas of Improvement

Of course, there are a few areas for Improvement

  1. Currently, the platform does not support tracking for House Bill of Lading (HBL), which could be a limitation for some users, but understand this functionality is under development for release later this year..
  2. LCL Tracking – The platform does not yet support Less than Container Load (LCL) tracking, though this feature is on the roadmap..
  3. API Integration for Smaller Carriers – While Beacon integrates with major carriers, extending this capability to smaller carriers could improve coverage..

Nice to Have

There are a few Nice-to-Have features that I feel would enhance Beacon’s offering..

  1. Enhanced integration with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems could streamline data exchange processes, reducing manual entry and improving accuracy for those who still use EDI (yes a lot of companies still use them)..
  2. Advanced Analytics Reporting – Additional analytics reporting, such as predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms, could provide deeper insights into logistics operations and help users identify potential issues before they occur..
  3. Mobile App – While the web-based platform is accessible on mobile devices, a dedicated mobile app could enhance user experience and provide additional functionalities.. This could include offline access, push notifications, and a more optimized interface for smaller screens..
  4. Integration with IoT Devices- The ability to integrate with Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart containers and temperature sensors, could provide real-time data on shipment conditions, improving monitoring and control..

Beacon comes across as a truly powerful tool for managing supply chain and logistics operations, offering a range of features that enhance efficiency and collaboration.. Its real-time tracking, interactive dashboard, and robust reporting capabilities make it a valuable asset for shippers and logistics professionals..

Looking ahead, Beacon is poised to introduce several new features and enhancements based on user feedback and industry trends.. These include expanded integration capabilities, especially for order visibility, and enhanced analytics..

Beacon’s commitment to user satisfaction and innovation is evident in its continuous updates and enhancements.. Beacon’s user-friendly design, comprehensive tracking capabilities, and robust reporting tools make it a valuable addition to any logistics professional’s toolkit..

For businesses considering Beacon, the platform offers a free trial that provides a good opportunity to explore its features and capabilities.. Given the strengths discussed above, Beacon is particularly well-suited for companies with complex logistics needs and those looking to improve transparency and efficiency in their supply chain operations..

Before committing to the platform, I would however recommend that businesses take advantage of the free trial to thoroughly test Beacon’s features and determine whether it meets their specific needs..

This might involve setting up sample shipments, experimenting with different customization options, and exploring the platform’s reporting and analytics capabilities.. By taking the time to evaluate Beacon’s functionality, businesses can make an informed decision about whether it is the right fit for their operations..


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiarhttps://www.shippingandfreightresource.com
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..

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