Geographic Information Systems and Supply Chain Management

Photo by Josiah Farrow on Unsplash


By definition: the supply chain represents all the steps taken to get products or services from their original state to the customer.

Geographic information system (GIS) role in the supply chain involves more than just visualization. It has advanced tools incorporating transportation analysis functions. The tools bring data together, analyze and map it to help users make intelligent and strategic operational decisions.

Creating Efficient Routes

Low overpasses are more than just a nuisance to truck drivers. They cost time and money. Costs on equipment, shipments, clean-ups and fines. These costs can quickly add up. GIS technology for route optimizations uses truck-safe navigation systems that take into consideration routes with limited truck access. Access limits based on loads, overpass heights and even, where known, low-hanging trees. This avoids scenarios where drivers have to take alternative routes because of unforeseen load limits or low bridges.

The biggest benefit efficient routing has on the supply chain may be backhauling. Backhauling is assigning the fleet a pick-up load on the return trip. Visualizing all pick-up and delivery locations on a map gives planners the ability to match supply with demand and plan backhauling. Since truck companies spend more than 3 billion dollars on operating costs each year on trucks driving empty, backhauling minimizes dead miles problems and maximizes profits.

Fleet and Good Monitoring

Other companies track individual loads as well. Monitoring loads in transit provides peace of mind, especially for high-sensitivity shipments. It is also beneficial for monitoring intermodal shipment, for example, rail cars to trucks or where the shipment has to be staged for inspection.


These are just some of the examples where GIS plays an important role in supply chain management. Although many companies already recognize the benefits of GIS technology and are using it to become more profitable, potential exists to increase responsiveness, minimize accidents, and many other problems.

Armed with better ETAs, distributors can make better use of their crews and other logistic plans and avoid having workers sitting around waiting for the shipment. And keeping your customers up-to-date on their goods makes their lives a little easier, a very important key to building better relationships.



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Ally Fumo

Former GIS Analyst in Oil and Gas industry turned Copywriter.