Transportation Management – Resilience, Automation, and People
The world was on a reset due to the pandemic that is still going on BUT it’s not stopping logistics – not at all. The disruption may have caused some pauses or setbacks but it’s not going to derail transportation and delivery forever – not when you work with Zip Logistics, that’s for sure.
Five years ago, it was possible in logistics to prepare for the future. But when COVID hit, the world was blindsided by a new normal that was anything but. Change was no longer an abstract concept or trendy buzzword used to refer to a comfortable, somewhat distant point down the road.
And it was not something that any logistics leadership team had built into the neat prediction charts of their 5-year business plans.
It was sudden, it was urgent, and it was here to stay. Disruption from COVID forced the logistics sector to adapt to a radically new and constantly changing market – and somehow continue shipping things from A to B even if ports and countries were closed. It was acceleration at scale.
Resilience Over Uncertainty
Decades ago, transportation management was about cost-efficiency. In recent years, it’s become more about meeting customer expectations.
Today, it’s about building resilience in your transportation flows while handling unknown factors. The biggest deal today is not just about solving the problem anymore but dealing with risks. And then the rest is happening automatically.
Meanwhile, the customer still wants to receive them, as much as possible, without delay. Transparency is crucial because deliveries no longer arrive like clockwork. The ETA is at best an estimated guess. This has led to companies shifting from problem-solving to risk management. It isn’t so much as learning from their internal mistakes as it is learning to deal with permanent external uncertainty.
Flexibility is, of course, key in building resilience. So, too, is building a solid network, developing standards, and becoming an expert in not just point-to-point connections, but across the entire network of the supply chain.
Logistics and Digitization
The upside to all this is that logistics is having its heyday. Suddenly, CEOs are lending an ear to transportation planners to find out how to improve their ways of working through tech.
Not only because logistics teams are busier than they’ve ever been, but because there’s been a shift in perspective both internally and in the public space about how transportation management should operate and evolve.
Automation is on everyone’s minds, especially in terms of how it can be used to close the gaps in managing the outbound supply chain:
- integrating siloed information and sharing data
- creating a common set of terms and codes that everyone can agree on
- seamlessly piecing all the different transportation flows together through greater visibility, even if there are parts of the supply chain that are still using tribal knowledge to operate their business.
It’s All About People
For those wary that automation will be the death knell of transportation planners’ jobs in the future, it won’t. Rather than see it like the ATM that eliminated bank jobs, think of it as the shift from the typewriter to the computer. It led to the creation of more jobs, not slash-and-burn downsizing.
Transportation management is still fundamentally a human endeavor that is powered by people who will be instrumental in determining how the role of a transportation professional evolves and how the tools need to be designed to suit the changing market. It’s simply about changing skill sets.
What’s needed now is a change in mindset. One of the most overlooked sources of value in solving human problems, de-stressing the operation, and using the real skills of employees. The new paradigm should be about expertise and only solving exceptions, seeing automation as something to replace tasks that are no longer adding any value.
Put another way: put the typewriters away and start thinking about the endless functionalities of a computer. Digitization is not replacing people, it’s something that people need to get behind and to get leadership empowering their employees to learn these tools.
A More Predictable Logistics
Visibility for visibility’s sake offers nothing. It’s what you do with it that counts. Visibility needs to be tied to the transportation management process in order to transform it into something of actual value, such as shifting from problem-solving to prevention.
Simply speaking, if visibility is not driving decision-making and the data is not being shared, then it’s useless. Because really, the whole purpose is to get to the point of predictability, to use visibility as an enabler to know what you need to do. Just a few years ago, the majority of people believed that visibility was purely a monitoring activity, not to be used to act upon.
Now, the question is how visibility technology should be applied and how value should be built around it.
Meet and Exceed Customer Expectations
Currently, there is a big difference in the automotive sector between inbound and outbound supply chain management. Inbound is a well-oiled machine, a tightly run ship, a smooth operator, partly because if a part isn’t on the assembly line on time, there’s an immediate impact.
The outbound supply chain is a whole other kettle of fish. Customers want to know where the vehicle is, but many automotive companies aren’t at the point, technologically speaking, where they can provide the precise delivery information.
Added to this pressure is the fact that it’s possible to order customized vehicles online. And guess what: the expectations for delivery stay the same like right now even if from a manufacturing and logistics perspective it becomes much more complicated to deliver right away.
Creating and Sharing Value
To end on a Shangri-la note, creating trust around data sharing in the transportation process is only possible through creating value for everyone involved. The technology should serve as a basis of trust so that everyone feels comfortable sharing.
To do this, all players need to align and this is still a ways off. With data being such an asset in today’s world, not everyone wants to simply give data to an outside party. The conversation needs to move not just towards comparing data but on what your data can contribute to mine.