Freight Shipping: Technology & Your Supply Chain

How innovative technologies being adopted in the freight shipping industry - and how they can impact your supply chain.
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It’s no surprise that technology has changed (and will continue to change) the way companies do business. Advances in technology have made a particularly large impact on the freight shipping industry, from the way we quote freight all the way to its final delivery.

As the shipping industry continues to adapt to an increasingly digital world, consumers and businesses alike can benefit from an increase in end-to-end supply chain visibility. Companies can now build and adapt solutions that best fit the specific needs of their business — and can do it faster than ever before.

The ever-changing, always-innovating world of supply chain management has likely already impacted how you do business, and will surely change how your business operates in the future. Read on to learn some of the ways technology has and will positively affect your supply chain.

Enhanced demand planning and tracking
Demand planning is a crucial and often complicated element of supply chain management. With enhanced machine learning technology, algorithms can now automatically optimize demand plans, adjusting stocking strategies and inventory as needed while eliminating the need for time-intensive manual planning. In fact, Procter & Gamble uses sophisticated digital planning tools for products like Tide detergent, allowing them to perform automated demand planning multiple times a day. Through demand planning algorithms, businesses can better optimize their supply chain for the inevitable fluctuations in product demand — saving time while also cutting labor costs.

Many companies have turned to GPS and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking devices to enhance inventory tracking while reducing operating costs. RFID tracking eliminates the need for hand-scanning, reducing manual errors and giving businesses greater visibility into their inventory. Since RFID tags can be attached to almost any item, numerous applications of these devices will surely continue to increase supply chain visibility in the future.

Improved warehousing efficiency
New technology has increased the productivity and adaptability of the final (and often most labor-intensive) step in the supply chain: warehousing operations. Innovative manufacturing technologies have started to make their way into the warehousing space, utilizing robotics and automation to increase efficiencies and lower costs. Robotic arms and automated guided vehicles work alongside human employees to increase picking speeds and support same- and next-day delivery. Automated systems also allow for more accurate warehousing data, opening the door for increased storage density. As these technologies become more common in the industry, your supply chain can benefit from faster and more cost-effective warehousing solutions.

Increased freight capacity
Due in part to increased driver restrictions, truck driver positions are becoming increasingly difficult to fill. In fact, the American Trucking Associations projects a shortage of 174,000 drivers by 2026. This scarcity of drivers puts a strain on freight capacity, leading to increased rates on your freight shipping. To fill this widening transportation gap — and ultimately reduce rising freight shipping rates — the shipping industry continues to work toward innovative technologies such as drone delivery, driverless vehicles and autonomous vessels.

While government regulations and legal concerns have slowed the progress of driverless vehicles, these capabilities are quickly changing from a distant goal to an upcoming reality. Industry experts expect driverless trucks to first appear on highways, with local drivers handling first and last mile pickups and deliveries. Self-driving trucks are an especially appealing innovation, considering they would not be subject to the ELD mandate that limits drivers to 11 hours at a time behind the wheel. Autonomous vessels are also on the horizon, with Rolls Royce working to have remote controlled, unmanned ocean-going ships by 2030 and fully-autonomous ocean-going ships by 2035. Freight shippers should keep an eye on these innovations, as they will likely bring huge changes to the industry in the near future.

While there are certainly challenges associated with adopting new technology for greater supply chain management, the rewards could be well-worth the risk. By staying up-to-speed on the latest developments in the freight shipping industry — and keeping an eye on competitor capabilities and consumer expectations — you can adapt to this changing landscape and avoid costly disruptions to your supply chain.

Ready to take the next step in assessing and optimizing your supply chain? Contact Unishippers today to schedule a free shipping assessment and review your freight shipping options with a dedicated team of experts.

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