Global Shipping at the Technology Tipping Point

More companies will benefit from data processed with predictive analytics and shared over open technology platforms

Erik Gaston
Erik Gaston

Will 2015 become a technology tipping point for the shipping industry and those who interact with it? Several signals point to that distinct possibility. Though cloud-based solutions, social media and mobile technologies are now the norm among many shippers, freight forwarders and some carriers, there are still a number of risk-averse players that are lagging behind. Tech advances that once seemed risky are now becoming trusted, mainstream capabilities that can help companies transform their business and improve their bottom line.

One proof point for the shift in attitude: A recent INTTRA survey shows that nearly half of the shippers and ocean carriers now characterize the need to invest in technology as “very urgent.” Their technology roadmaps now include new tools based on open standards and interfaces, which can help them collaborate across enterprise systems to engage in faster, more efficient ways of conducting business and improving customer satisfaction.

As carriers and companies that are engaged in logistics execution make their tech decisions, the time to adopt new technology is now. In 2015, watch for three key technology trends to accelerate:

  1. Mobility Will Disrupt Office-Based Systems

According to industry analysts at Gartner, mobile tablet sales are expected to hit $320 million by the end of 2015—outstripping personal computer (PC) sales. What’s more, our always connected population is armed with 2.4 billion mobile phones. Employees relying on these devices at home are now insisting on the same convenient tools in the workplace for real-time information access.

Asia is leading the way in making a mobility-enabled supply chain a reality, with tablets as the workplace tool of choice. Expect more companies in global shipping to follow suit, and invest in mobile devices, applications, and system capabilities like alerts and analytics that are better suited to their business needs. Once freed from desktop constraints, employees will be able to work more flexibly and manage all aspects of their workday more effectively from any location.

  1. Data Analytics and Predictive Insights Will Drive Better Contingency Planning

Information is power and that’s especially true in shipping. Rather than simply reacting as circumstances unfold, reliable information gives both shippers and carriers the ability to predict and plan for optimal results, regardless of the barriers they encounter.

In 2015, look for more companies to benefit from real-time and machine-generated data collected by high-tech sensors, processed with predictive analytics and shared over open technology platforms. Historical trend analyses and current status information will become a powerful resource for tracking, responding and forecasting future impacts to a shipment—from potential weather events to labor strikes that may cause costly supply chain disruptions. Expect the industry to become quicker and nimbler as technology enables companies to use the data they collect to make better-informed decisions and contingency plans. Winners in this space will be able to anticipate change, while those on the losing end will continue to be reactive.

  1. Cloud-Based Solutions Will Enable Faster, Easier Integration of New Tools

Finally, expect 2015 to push the shipping industry deeper into the post-enterprise resource planning (ERP) era, with fewer companies relying on all-encompassing suites of on-site ERP business management software. Open, cloud-based software capabilities will displace costly and complex, premises-based solutions, and simplify the way companies build and add new applications.

Using industry-standard connectors and open application protocol interfaces (APIs), integration becomes far simpler and cost effective. Rather than complicated, months-long rollouts, companies can easily transform their critical business functions by incorporating powerful plug-and-play capabilities—including scheduling, booking tools and e-invoicing—all hosted online. With this far more efficient approach, they won’t need to adopt large platforms using more horsepower than required.

When planning 2015 investments, it’s critical to consider these technologies as part of your game plan. Those who lag behind could risk losing their competitive advantage, along with the measurable benefits that mobility innovations, predictive insights, and industry-standard tools and processes can deliver to a company’s customers and bottom line.

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