Whether you’re ordering a new blender on Amazon or shipping freight across the Atlantic, consumers and businesses have felt the pains of recent shortages and supply chain bottlenecks. For logistics companies, the pandemic has brought sustained complexity to running their businesses efficiently that’s never been seen before.
In a recent Journal of Commerce study, 80% of respondents shared that global supply chain issues have increased the frequency of internal communications. Companies that embrace technology and change have considerable opportunities to offer customers better value and thrive in a changing world. When everything's out of your company’s control, there’s one thing you can control: the experience you give your customers. The following industry trends are opportunities to harness.
Big Data, Automation
Years ago, devices called tachographs started to track braking and stop times in trucks. Diagnostic data on vehicle battery and tire pressure increased safety. Now data from these devices, along with data from sensors that measure speed, braking, backing up, location, and idling time, have moved to the cloud.
Businesses can use this information to improve performance and increase profitability. For example, two drivers with similar safety records may represent different risk levels. A driver who often makes U-turns puts their truck at risk, even if an accident hasn’t happened yet. Similarly, a driver who doesn’t keep consistent tire pressure runs a greater risk of accidents. When management can see current risk factors instead of estimating them based on past incidence, drivers can receive better training before accidents happen, saving lives and avoiding financial impact. And, autonomous trucking shows a lot of promise as a driver of change in the industry. More advancements in automation are happening in warehouses and trucks: robots like those in Amazon’s warehouse are poised to go mainstream and work with robotic forklifts and RFID tags to move goods around quickly and accurately.
Investing in data collection technology that supports safer driving will pay dividends for trucking companies that embrace it. However, the implementation of this kind of tool isn’t easy without a good technology provider. Even for companies already collecting a lot of raw data, there is still a need to interpret the data and use it to make operational decisions, which can be costly for fleets to do in-house. Partnering with the right technology service provider means vital information gets to the right employees at the right time.
Drivers and warehouse workers are not the only ones who will benefit from automation. A common pain point in logistics is the time and labor needed to communicate between freight companies and their customers. Now, technology that automates information sharing will allow companies to better serve and help retain their customers.
By automating data sharing with customers and vendors, companies can improve visibility internally and for customers, and reduce work for both your data entry clerks and those of your customers. This technology allows companies to eliminate manual emails for arrival notices, delivery confirmations and warehouse availability. As in trucking and warehousing, automating these manual, repetitive tasks saves money and avoids mistakes. Freight forwarders can better calculate average transit times, measure on-time delivery rates, and better manage vendor performance. Embracing information-sharing technology allows companies to make their customers, vendors, and employees happier while making more money.
According to Freightos, global freight rates in January 2022 were $9,604, which is 140% higher than January of last year. Along with supply chain issues and consumer demand, increasing freight rates only put logistics companies in a deeper hole. This increasing demand has not been paired with a corresponding investment in supply chain capacity, leaving freight and logistics providers struggling to keep shipments on time and under budget.
So what can be done? For now, if you are a transportation provider, it’s all about making the most of your existing capacity, but in a new way. New shipping routes, alternative modes (air vs. trucking), and using different ports have all been successful strategies for keeping freight moving.
In the long-term, logistics companies need to focus on building supply chains that are more flexible to meet their customers’ needs. Investing in capacity that can be elastic and react to changes quickly is crucial. Many freight customers want smaller, more frequent shipments and a low carbon impact. This means Latin and North American manufacturing will play a more significant role, and freight companies prepared to handle that business will be positioned for success. Logistics companies who pair nimble shipping from Latin America with inventory management technology to help customers avoid stockouts and overstocks will create huge value for their customers.
In 2021, the trucking driver shortage hit an all-time high of 80,000 unfilled jobs.f current trends continue, that number could easily pass 160,000 by 2030. Beyond drivers, employees across the entire logistics industry are demanding higher pay and quality of life improvements at work. With higher demand, longshoremen, warehouse workers, and airline personnel are no longer willing to work under the same conditions — and these labor issues won’t disappear anytime soon.
Management will need to learn how to do more with less, without leaving their workers feeling squeezed. Leveraging technology that makes flexible scheduling less time-consuming lets managers cover shifts. At the same time, workers have time off when they need it. Communications technology allows management to better oversee team communications and avoid the costs of poor internal communications. When digital freight forwarder sennder started using communication technology, more than 3,500 hours were saved per month by improving data on team performance, visibility between teams, and customer satisfaction. Workers who have the technology to do their jobs better are happier and easier to retain. Using new technologies to create a workflow that meets labor’s needs will pay off in operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.
As we continue to navigate supply chain disruption and its impact on logistics, it's crucial for forward-thinking logistic companies to keep these trends in mind — and to be prepared for the changes these trends will have on the industry long-term.
Sylvie Woolf is global vice president of customer success and solutions at Front.
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