Matthew Meeks | TRANSFLO
THROUGHOUT THE COVID-19 era, the global supply chain has come into sharp focus for many American consumers who have owned up to the fact that they previously didn’t give much thought to where their goods came from or how they arrived on their doorsteps or local retailers’ shelves. That’s according to a recent survey from Oracle, in which 41% of respondents said they “gave little to no thought” to the supply chain before the pandemic. Now, Oracle’s survey reveals that number has climbed to upward of 90%.
That means about 900 of the 1,000 people surveyed by Oracle said they now consider the supply chain when making purchases.
That’s an astounding thought and a massive shift compared to the public’s supply chain considerations circa 2019. These stats point to how real and pressing the supply chain disruptions have become for all of us.
It’s not a matter of driver shortage talk. Or a capacity crunch. Nor about high permile rates. Consumers aren’t worried about those particulars. Instead, they worry about a definite lack of availability of goods in stores and online, fears of ongoing goods shortages, and disruptions to life events like birthdays, weddings, and buying school supplies.
Those same survey respondents said they’re looking to companies within the supply chain for answers and guidance. That’s a high calling for all of us working in this sector and transportation right now.
So how do we as an industry work toward restoring the balance in the flow of goods that keep society functioning? Long-term, there’s no question the COVID pandemic revealed the need to institute large-scale, structural changes to the entire global economy, particularly global trade and freight transportation. Likewise, long-term, perhaps there’s an avenue to deploy high-level automation like robotics and autonomous vehicles.
But neither high-level automation nor large-scale structural changes will do anything for our current market environment or the ongoing imbalance that’s pinching shippers and brokers trying to procure transportation capacity, and in turn, squeezing consumers when they go to buy basic needs at their local big-box store or online.
Near-term, parties across the transportation supply chain need to look to a different automation and structural change. There are tools available right now that are changing the landscape of how brokers and carriers interact, and that can have immediate, tangible benefits in helping alleviate some of the stress on the domestic trucking network and the transportation system at large.
One essential tool helping create supply chain liquidity in today’s market is document automation and intelligence. That’s a fancy way of saying that the transportation supply chain is going digital. And in that process, shippers, brokers, and carriers are all being connected in new ways that make the execution of freight movement more efficient and fortify distribution networks in a way that creates more capacity.
For example, as more and more freight paperwork like bills of lading and proofs of delivery move away from hardcopies and into digital documents, we’re seeing greater interconnectivity between shippers, brokers and carriers. This enables functions like the use of geofencing to alert shippers when drivers enter a 50-mile radius of a yard, so there is a freight dock assigned and available when they arrive. In turn, that will reduce detention time, alleviate the frustration of drivers and motor carriers, increase efficiency, and open up significant transportation capacity.
Also, automating paperwork processes can help brokers run their operations more efficiently. Imagine receiving an electronic proof of delivery and other necessary load documents within hours of a carrier delivering a load, rather than days or weeks.
Now imagine those documents already being docu-typed, categorized, and indexed, with all the relevant information automatically extracted, relieving your accounting department of time-consuming tasks—allowing them to bill your shipper customers within days instead of weeks. Digital paperwork also reduces relationship friction between brokers and carriers since brokers relying on digital paperwork no longer need to make repeated check calls to carriers and drivers asking about required freight documents.
These are the types of automation that are benefitting the supply chain now. And with greater adoption and integration of these processes across transportation parties, these trends should only accelerate in 2022, likely creating a healthier, happier, and more functional supply chain.
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