We recently surveyed more than 480 logistics professionals to uncover how businesses can drive productivity within their operations, and the crucial role that technology will play in achieving this.
Leaders from Janel Group, Positive PC and CargoWise came together to discuss the research and explore key trends, including why forward-thinking freight forwarders and carriers are moving to a more digital environment to navigate disruptions and achieve long-term growth.
Internal and external visibility is essential for logistics providers
While the events of the past several years have been constant and unpredictable, the panelists all agreed that the logistics industry continues to prove just how vital and resilient it is.
According to the research, the three most significant challenges facing freight forwarders in 2022 are managing and reducing transportation costs, meeting customer expectations on delivery, and increasing visibility across operations.
For Erin O’Leary, Vice President of Technology and Innovation at Janel Group, the value of technology and data to improve visibility and improve overall efficiency has never been clearer.
She says that while COVID-19 brought with it unprecedented challenges, it also presented a unique opportunity to accelerate digital transformation initiatives that may have previously taken them years to complete.
“When we had everyone go home for the pandemic, there were a handful of people who took some laundry baskets full of file folders home," O'Leary said.
"Interestingly, they’ve since come back to the office, and that’s all gone. That's because giving managers the ability to better run their teams and manage shipments via a single system has created much more visibility, as opposed to a bunch of file folders sitting on people’s desks with no clue what was going on,” she said.
Mohan Dipsingh, President of Positive PC, agreed with O'Leary and said technology adoption was now top of mind for the industry, from the board-level down.
He argued that the pandemic has forced logistics companies to focus on and improve visibility, moving from a model where they would assume everything was in order just because staff members were in the office and at their desks.
“The new remote working environment meant leaders needed a different way to visually see what’s happening, and have visibility across entire shipment processes without being physically in the office,” Dipsingh said.
“And for that, you need to visualize data. They had data all along, but not many people were looking at it properly, or they didn’t have the tools necessary to actually leverage it.”
Logistics operations – linking technology and productivity outcomes
The need for increased digital capabilities is now widely accepted, and many logistics companies have prioritized strategic, long-term digital transformation initiatives.
According to Jarred Miltz, Business Development Lead – Europe at CargoWise, productivity has increasingly become a focus for logistics providers to ensure that output is maximized given the time, cost, and resource pressures on the industry.
“When it comes to the desired outcomes of improved productivity, our research shows increased operational efficiency and improved customer service are top of the list. Surprisingly, more traditional metrics such as increased profit, increased operational throughput, and increased revenue appeared lower on respondent's priority list,” he said.
Dipsingh agreed and said that while revenue and profit remain key, the pandemic has driven a transition towards ‘value over cost’ sentiments for some aspects of logistics and supply chain operations.
“If you ask freight forwarders, and brokers, they're all productive. But how are they measuring this? Just because the doors are open and the lights are on, it doesn't mean that the company is productive.”
He said he actively encourages clients to measure their task completion at various stages, to see who is doing what and how quickly it is getting done. He believed this helps to identity whether something is timely, and if it is satisfying the service level customers are increasingly demanding.
“While these individual measures are key, I'd also tell people to measure the final output, and the resources required to deliver it. This will give you a benchmark. And from that baseline you can improve or identify issues, because if you’re not measuring anything, you really have no idea what’s happening.”
Alignment, standardization, and collaboration is key
For Ashely Skaanild, Regional Vice President of Logistics Data and Connectivity at CargoWise, a big opportunity in 2022 and beyond is to drive greater collaboration between the many different and disparate players in the global logistics ecosystem.
“Take spot rates, which are technologically driven and rely on the complex supply-demand capacity and time algorithms. These take bias out of the equation and level the playing field, as you’re paying the same as anybody else.”
Of course, visibility also goes beyond not having to manually check on prices by picking up the phone and calling multiple carriers.
“In terms of visibility, carriers are providing more data than they ever have to enable customers to track their cargo,” Skaanild said. “If something goes wrong within a shipment, diverting it or putting it on a different aircraft is going to erode any savings you might have had in the freight rate. But greater visibility gives you more control and the ability to predict and react to disruptions, possibly managing by exception more than ever before.”
While there’s ongoing discussions as to whether the pressure on global supply chains has peaked and might be nearing a turning point, one thing is for certain – 2022 is another significant year for the global logistics industry. And freight forwarders that stay ahead of the curve through strategic planning and technology adoption, while prioritizing visibility and operational efficiencies, will be better able to keep up with the speed of oncoming change.
Watch the webinar to learn more about optimizing a digital ecosystem by streamlining digital capabilities, improving efficiency, and overcoming visibility roadblocks. Watch now
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