Bridging the Gap Between Craft and Technology
Blockchain, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles…it seems like you can't have a conversation about technology without these buzzwords being thrown around. These kinds of technologies are extremely exciting and will likely change the way we live and work. Having said that, it's important for companies in our space to strike a balance between the craft of our industry and technological progress happening today.
There is currently an arms race in the transportation and logistics arena. The larger companies are continuing to consolidate in order to drive scale. Too often though, this actually results in bringing more complexity to their business processes. Simultaneously, many smaller companies are working diligently to break into the market with the next new widget.
The irony here is that both companies are, generally, working to try and answer this problem for their clients: "How do I get the visibility I need over my supply chain in order to make better business decisions and, ultimately, execute for my customers." While the challenge on the surface sounds fairly straightforward to the average person, anyone who has spent enough time in logistics understands no two shippers are the same. All the same, even with the incredible complexity of this business, providing clients with a complete view of their supply chain is not a pie-in-sky concept—it's something that is happening.
The "how" is fairly clear—translating raw customer data into actionable information. Many companies are already doing this, however, going a step or two further will be the real innovation. The good news is many logistics providers are extremely rich in client data. The bad news is nearly all freight forwarders struggle to turn the data into information that can drive meaningful decision-making. The largest providers amongst us often struggle since they are usually using dated, multiple, or disparate data sources and systems (a byproduct of growth through acquisition strategy that dominates the logistics industry).
These business realities result in an extremely difficult environment to deliver on global visibility. On the other side of the spectrum, many smaller technology companies are starting with a clean slate and a slick system. But most lack the basic knowledge of freight forwarding and don't have the scale to procure with the air and ocean carriers. They have sexy technology, but, in reality, it doesn't move a lot of freight.
Time and time again our Fortune 500 clients say what they need is both. Shippers need an enterprise with great technology and also logistics professionals who understand their extremely complex supply chains. While this industry is obviously ripe for innovation, it is crucial that we don't lose sight of the ageless craft that makes this business work.
Our belief at Crane Worldwide Logistics® is that those businesses that will truly lead this industry are the ones that bridge the gap between the craft of logistics and technological innovation. Having tools such as predictive analytics technology integrated with artificial intelligence, while still enthusiastically embracing the craft of logistics, will be how our industry truly innovates for our clients.
Visibility looks at yesterday, predictive analytics is looking around the corner and into the future. It is exciting, that's for sure, but one thing I am certain of is that you can never automate best-in-class customer service. And you never will.