Logistics is a performance business. The successful management of goods in transit can be benchmarked with clear targets such as speed, cost, and accuracy.
However, as global supply chains become more complex and the pressures created by shifting demands in both the B2B and B2C spaces increase, consistently delivering on these metrics has become much more complicated.
According to Tim Josupait, Regional Sales Manager at CargoWise, logistics providers must take action if they are to keep pace with capacity demands, and navigate the considerable disruptions that have affected the industry over the last few years.
“A forwarder may have increased their productivity by say ten percent in the last year, but that doesn’t mean they can sit back and relax. Maybe their competitors also increased their productivity by a similar amount, so now they’re back to square one,” Josupait says.
“Being productive isn’t a one-time destination, it’s a journey. Extracting greater value from processes, improving operational yield, and providing a higher quality of service to customers are all crucial to remaining competitive.”
Why technology is key to driving productivity
Digital transformations have been ongoing for many years, but the constant and unpredictable pressures that have recently been placed on the industry and global supply chains, have accelerated the need for faster and more lasting implementations.
To explore this further, we recently surveyed more than 480 logistics and supply chain professionals. Our objective was to understand how logistics companies can drive productivity within their operations, and the crucial role that technology will play in achieving this.
When considering what will have the biggest potential impact on their productivity, our research shows that an investment in technology (45%) rates highest, followed by investment in process improvements (34%).
If we look in more detail at investment in technology, real-time visibility and automation of manual tasks are two outcomes that respondents said were their main priorities, and would have the most impact on their organization’s productivity.
“Having information available digitally allows event tracking, billing, and other operational data to be available for customers and related parties – such as carriers, partners and government agencies – across the supply chain,” says Marcia Faria, Business Development Analyst at CargoWise.
“But access to data is only one part of the equation. To successfully navigate this new normal and respond to disruptions from a position of strength, information must be current to be actionable, and it ideally needs to be available via a centrally managed, single logistics record,” she says.
The risks of a multi-platform, disconnected system
Of course, the usefulness of data is limited when using multiple, patched-together logistics software systems that may not be designed to communicate with each other. In fact, this approach may reduce or even eliminate the productivity advantages of digitization.
“If there is a disconnected approach in technology, then there is an increased need for many integrations to enable the systems to communicate. Unfortunately, that may lead to a lot of data loss, which can add to the time spent recovering it and re-entering it,” says Josupait.
The risks of utilizing a disparate technology stack go beyond visibility alone. And, as M&A activity increases, so do some of the problems facing freight forwarders when it comes to integration.
In fact, according to our research, more than half (54%) of logistics leaders say that technology integration is the most significant challenge post-merger or acquisition.
“Relying on multiple systems that don’t communicate natively with each other presents risks that can slow down innovation and a company’s growth, as staff are burdened with learning, navigating, and maintaining multiple systems. This extends from the C-suite to IT departments and the operations floor, slowing them down and reducing their capacity to handle other more essential tasks," says Josupait.
Faria agrees, and says having to enter and move data between different systems manually is time-consuming and error-prone.
“Every time you build an integration, it’s something else that you have to maintain. So you are maintaining multiple systems, but you’re also then maintaining multiple integrations between those systems,” she says.
“On top of this, the potential for error increases every time information is re-keyed – especially when you’re facing language, legal, and localization differences – and there is also an increased risk of data breaches, when integrating multiple systems from multiple vendors.”
The benefits of a single platform solution
One system capable of retaining and exchanging data - while offering a platform for customers and trading partners to monitor and maintain their supply chain - can significantly increase productivity and reduce the workload on employees.
A secure, cloud-based logistics solution can move data between departments, workforces, and operations, reducing the need to run multiple systems and ensuring that productivity isn’t threatened.
“There are offerings like CargoWise, where freight forwarders get an out-of-the-box, single platform solution that eliminates the need for integrations between modules,” says Josupait.
“This removes the need to maintain those integrations, and from day one, you’re getting that visibility and productivity that technology is supposed to provide.”
As demand continues to skyrocket, so do constraints on time, money, and resources. For businesses to succeed in this increasingly uncertain and competitive landscape, maximizing every aspect of efficiency and productivity is crucial.
With all this in mind, there has never been a more prudent time to update digitally. And with the right investment in the right technology, you can unlock new productivity gains and meet your customers’ needs now and in the future.
Want to learn more about the link between technology and productivity? Download the report now
A total of 488 logistics and supply chain professionals from around the world were surveyed between January and February 2022 for this report. Respondents were from North America (48%), followed by Europe (33%) and Asia Pacific (19%). Their responses – analyzed anonymously – represent what these industry representatives consider to be some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing logistics operations at this time.