The “Great Resignation” has seen more than 4 million U.S. workers voluntarily quit their jobs since September, 2020. The trend has hit many industries hard, including the transportation sector.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the unemployment rate within the transportation industry — including ports, customs brokerages and ground transportation — is higher than the U.S. average. But it’s far more than a U.S. problem.
At a time when more consumers are embracing e-commerce and global manufacturers are still trying to catch up to demand, international shipping companies and ports continue to face labor shortages. Technology for streamlining tasks such as customs clearance and drayage can help.
According to an Adelante SCM survey, 67% of the supply chain runs on spreadsheets. The movement of goods across borders requires communication between shipping lines, ports, terminal operators, truckers, warehouses and cargo owners. Traditionally, that has been based on manual data entry in spreadsheets, which are then e-mailed throughout the system. While these various entities have begun to digitalize their internal operations, information is still not easily exchanged as cargo moves through the supply chain — driving up costs, creating confusion, delaying shipments and impacting workforces.
Technology from a provider of logistics as a service (LaaS) can digitize documents and extract all relevant information using artificial intelligence and machine learning. It can turn unstructured data from multiple formats into structured data, providing customs brokers with accurate, verified information for submission to customs, and limiting the need for human entry writers, a position with a high turnover rate.
Unlike manual systems, AI-powered platforms look for required documentation and proactively manage exceptions, so that inaccuracies are addressed in transit instead of when a shipment arrives at the port.
Digitization can sharply reduce the need for full-time personnel, freeing them for more strategic work such as compliance, customer service and other revenue-generating functions. In the process, a customs brokerage or third-party logistics provider can save an estimated $500,000 annually, based on an industry average wage of $25 per hour plus benefits. That doesn’t include the costs of recruiting, hiring and training employees that quickly burn out and leave the field.
When a shipment arrives at a port, drayage companies often lack clear visibility of the process. Antiquated systems and manual workflows make it challenging to coordinate and connect truckers with containers for accurate and timely shipment pickup.
AI simplifies the import and procurement process by digitizing and automating drayage data. It provides all shipment stakeholders with the same level of visibility, including accurate arrival dates, container numbers and port terminal information, as well the right trucker for each job. The technology platform also proactively alerts importers if a container has any shipping line holds, and can determine fee payment status.
Whether an organization is facing a labor shortage or quickly needs to scale up, an AI platform can allow for various positions to be combined or eliminated, while putting technology to work on repetitive, mundane tasks, and moving putting people into more strategic roles.
The one certainty within the logistics industry today is ongoing uncertainty. By integrating innovative technologies for customs clearance and drayage, and being nimble in an ever-changing environment, logistics providers can help their customers to succeed.
Rick Tellez is co-founder of KlearNow.
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