No matter what industry providers operate within, it's imperative to keep on top of the latest trends and emerging technologies. The implementation of new systems, software and internal business approaches can be just the thing to make an organization stand out in its marketplace and earn a competitive edge. Failing to keep pace, on the other hand, can create a dire situation in which a business falls far behind its competition.
Within the shipping and logistics industry, things are no different. Shippers and logistics managers must be sure that their business remains on the cutting edge, and can fulfill the needs of senders and recipients all along the spectrum.
As we make our way into the new year, there are a few key strategies, concepts and innovations that those within the shipping and logistics industry should be aware of. Let's take a closer look at these emerging advancements, as well as the type of role they'll play in this sector moving forward.
Overcoming challenges with big data
By now, it's no secret that organizations need access to and analysis of available data. This can include all kinds of things, spanning customer demographics and preferences, to performance data pertaining to carrier partners. As Youredi pointed out, many shipping and logistics businesses understand that big data and its analysis is the key to success in the industry, and that these initiatives can offer considerable value when carried out properly.
"The vast majority of shipping carriers and 3PLs believe in the power of data analysis for informing critical decisions."
In fact, a recent study from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals found that the vast majority of shipping carriers and 3PLs believe in the power of data analysis for informing critical decisions, including 93 and 98 percent respectively. At the same time, though, only 35 percent of 3PLs believe their shipping partners can support the type of big data strategy that would offer the level of insights needed.
And as Youredi noted, there are additional challenges in play here as well, including a need for more advanced, data analysis-capable technologies to replace legacy systems.
"First of all, the industry needs to overcome its legacy mentalities, like manual paper-based processes, lack of collaboration and lack of visibility into operations, as well as they need to find ways to overcome the roadblocks of legacy technologies."
In this way, 2019 will likely bring considerable technological upgrades within shipping and logistics providers' infrastructures in order to support big data initiatives. This might encompass elements like the use of an advanced transportation management system that can provide access to critical logistics metrics and shipping analysis.
Digitalization of internal service models and business processes
Going hand-in-hand with investments to support big data analysis, this year will also bring rising digitalization within the shipping and logistics industry. As a report from PwC pointed out, this innovation won't come in the form of simply digitizing information, communication and resource planning. The leap will be more advanced, and include digitalization of business processes like supply chain integration.
"It is more about leveraging the possibility of moving the point of purchase as well as important elements related to service provision into the digital environment," the PwC report stated. "Digitalization can be expected to reshape the way consumers interact with business, which is already visible in the online and mobile ordering of transport."
Overall, just over half - 54 percent - of transportation and logistics business leaders believe that digitalization on this level will help boost profits. Other benefits of digitalization strategies include more streamlined internal processes, improvements in service models and bridging the gap and impact of talent shortages.
IoT, AI, and ML
In addition to data analytics, the shipping and logistics industry is also increasingly jumping on board with other cross-industry disruptive technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
A few use cases to consider here include:
IoT systems to help track elements like shipment locations, container temperatures and other metrics. Furthermore, this information can then be used as part of big data analysis initiatives to improve performance and service.
AI to automate and streamline internal processes, eliminate manual work and support increasing client demands.
ML to support AI, and for processes like analyzing invoices for fraud or predicting delays in freight schedules.
Innovations like the use of IoT, AI and ML will start to come to the forefront of shipping and logistics this year.
However, as with big data analysis, significant advancements must be made on the part of shipping and logistics organizations looking to take advantage of these emerging concepts. Unfortunately, this sector hasn't been as quick on the uptake when it comes to IoT and AI as other industries. Considerable opportunities exist for shippers and logistics managers that begin incorporating AI, ML, and IoT systems and sensors into their operations.
"Logistics is still extremely old-fashioned," Youredi explained. "Little has changed during the last few decades. Processes are manual and inefficient, and improvements haven't been happening at the same pace as in other industries. When the industry adopts AI, a lot will change."
Starting small: Supporting visibility and data access with an advanced TMS
Many of these trends have a few key elements in common: the need for improved visibility into shipping and logistics processes, coupled with access to up-to-date data. While there are certainly stumbling blocks ahead of mainstream adoption, shipping and logistics firms can put themselves on the right path by incorporating an advanced TMS.
An innovative TMS is a powerful asset that can enable real-time shipment tracking, performance monitoring and reporting, auditing and integration with other key platforms like ERP, CRM and WMS solutions.
To find out more about how an advanced TMS can help your business keep up with current shipping and logistics trends, connect with the experts at FreightPOP today.
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