How Technology Can Impact Global Logistics

There’s a lot of talk these days about the impact of technology on the global shipping logistics industry. One article, published online by Manufacturing Business Technology, discusses five tech trends and what effect each might have. These include 3D printing, IoT connections between machines and systems, mobile robots, drones, and trucking and brokerage.

While the first four touch our industry in certain ways, none will have a substantial impact. The fifth, however—technologies related to trucking and brokerage—likely will. It’s here that our industry could be poised for the kind of change that will benefit customers.

So far, the industry’s primary technological advancement has been the adoption of visibility systems that enable customers to locate their shipments globally, providing critical timing and movement data that keep supply chains running smoothly. These systems provide significant benefits, but they’re not disruptors. Further, they do not address the work that must be done before the actual shipping begins. These are best achieved with deep industry knowledge, familiarity with international nuance, and the planning, attention to detail, and the coordination that true logistics requires.

“Disruption can only take place when the industry you’re disrupting has standards you can use across multiple parties and multiple situations,” says Mark Laufer, CEO of Laufer Group International. “With Orbitz, it only worked when the airlines got together. They did everything the same way, booking, flight updates, etc. Orbitz was a conglomeration of airline sites that shared common standards in terms of how they send and receive information.”

The logistics industry is not there yet in terms of agreement among the various constituents. “None of the key assets managers, trucking, freight forwarders, owners, and terminals in different parts of the world or in the US have any sort of common standard by which they’ve agreed to communicate,” Laufer adds. “As long as that is the case, there can be no real disruption in the industry.”

Of the many parties involved, freight forwarders have the best chance of creating a better experience for the shipper. Laufer believes that experience is key. “The complexity and disjointed nature of all the parties in shipping and logistics means the only people who can bring it all together are freight forwarders like Laufer. We need to improve the customer experience, and by using technology we have the opportunity to improve that experience.”

To more fully illustrate what he means, Laufer continues to use the travel industry as a point of comparison. “When someone wants to book a flight, any of the ticketing websites will do. However, when someone wants more of an experience, it requires coordinating on-the-ground sightseeing, personal preferences, and other key aspects that impact the overall experience. That takes a travel agent who can offer a human touch and expertise that comes only with experience.”

Logistics, with its myriad details and points of connection, requires a similar expertise. True logistics has an intricacy that simple software cannot replicate. Until the many parties involved in logistics agree on a common standard, true disruption will remain a dream with little possibility of universal adoption.

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