“Embrace digitization and disruption or get left behind”

Technology providers urged shippers and freight forwarders to embrace the wave of digitization and disruption currently affecting the logistics and supply chain industries, noting that the alternative could be “getting squashed”.

At the “Digital disruption – how logistics is changing and what you can do about it” panel on day one of Multimodal 2018 in Birmingham last month, Simon Clark, Vice President of Business Development for EMEA at WiseTech Global, claimed that about two thirds of UK warehouses do not operate a warehouse management system.

Mike Holdsworth, Sector Development Director – Transportation, for satellite communications company Inmarsat, said that “right now is the time to be looking to invest in things such as automation. We are right at the point where Internet of Things (IoT) is key and you should at least be researching these technologies just to survive.”

He predicted a future in freight which would be dominated by robotic operations: “I don’t personally believe we are too far away from the time when cars will roll off a factory production line and then drive themselves to a ferry port where they load themselves onto a ferry – which will probably also be unmanned – and then ultimately drive themselves to the end consumer”, he said.

Daniel MacGregor, Director of Marketing and Sales at industrial IoT company Nexiot said that freight forwarders were “the original innovators – it is what their business model is based on and there are still great opportunities for them and the industry to hugely improve service levels thanks to increased use of technology”.

He said that leading shipping lines got around 400,000 phone calls a month, mostly asking about incorrect documentation, shipment status, or vessel status. He said that all these queries could be done without humans having to talk to each other, which would free up a vast amount of employee time to concentrate on what humans are really good at, which is customer service and creating more value through innovation.