WITH A 14-PERCENT SHARE OF THE
global tire market, the automotive manufacturing giant Michelin has a supply
chain that spans the globe. The 130-year-
old company, which makes rubber tires
for everything from cars and bicycles to
airplanes and mining vehicles, provides
tires to customers in over 170 countries.
As part of its worldwide logistics operations, it manages more than 100,000
container shipments each year.
That kind of volume presents challenges in managing global logistics. So about
two years ago, Michelin launched a project to improve end-to-end visibility in its
intercontinental supply chain.
Based on the results, the company is now planning to
launch a commercial version of the platform it developed
this September, saying it will allow any company to locate
its shipments and track their transport conditions—such as
temperature, humidity, and shocks—in real time. The solution, called “Safecube,” is a joint venture between Michelin,
wireless-network operator Sigfox, and industry consultancy
A LOW-COST ALTERNATIVE
As any global shipper can attest, intercontinental container
tracking has long been a pain point in the supply chain.
“From an industrial point of view, maritime flows are
probably among the most complex and the least controlled
within the supply chain,” Argon CEO Fabrice Bonneau said
in a statement. “Some of the key challenges are poorly optimized routes, a lack of visibility, and administrative complexity linked to the large number of actors in this space.”
While many major third-party logistics service providers
(3PLs) address those challenges with their own track-and-trace systems, those platforms are limited by the high cost
and technical restrictions of commercial data networks,
Safecube Founder and CEO Waël Cheaib said in a call.
Safecube offers an alternative approach that relies on
inexpensive, reusable trackers that are attached to the door
of each container with strong magnets, he said. The trackers
function as an Internet of Things (IoT)
network that sends small bursts of data
over an energy-efficient wireless system.
After each shipment arrives, users can
detach the tracker and attach it to a new
“The intercontinental supply chain
challenges are quite complex; there are
more than 20 different entities taking
minute of every day, with large amounts of data. To control
your logistics and improve your supply chain, you don’t
need much data or connectivity. You just need a few data
points: precise location a couple of times a day and real-time updates on specific events.”
BETTER VISIBILITY, SHORTER TRANSIT TIMES
In the past two years, Michelin has used the system to
improve shipment visibility for its clients, reduce inventory, and cut transportation costs by tracking what’s happening with each container, Cheaib said. By sharing that
precise information with ship-to-train transfer yards, last-mile carriers, and other supply chain partners, Michelin has
been able to optimize certain routes and cut transit times.
Those moves have improved the accuracy of the tire
company’s estimated time of arrival (ETA) projections by
40 percent and led to a 10-percent reduction in leadtimes,
he said. Specifically, Michelin has been able to cut five or
six days off transit times on routes that used to take six to
seven weeks. On a route from Michelin’s headquarters in
Claremont-Ferent, France, to Chicago, for example, the
company cut actual transit time from 40 days to 35.
In an industry where a single container can hold more
than a thousand automobile tires—or just two to three
of the colossal tires used on mining trucks—every day
counts, and those improvements can be critical in keeping
Michelin’s clients working at top capacity, Cheaib said.
Michelin keeps tire shipments
rolling with help of IoT trackers
Safecube system brings Internet of Things functionality to ocean shipping.