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Surviving the Digital Race: What to Watch for in 2018

As we enter into a brand-new year, it’s time to start looking ahead to what 2018 will hold. The past few years have been considerable, in terms of both changes and technological advancements, with the freight industry seeing some of the most drastic changes. Mergers and acquisitions have challenged the playing field by taking smaller players off the board and strengthening the position of others. As for technology, the freight industry has undergone a veritable renaissance. Data analysis and predictive modeling are just the beginning of the industry’s new bag of tricks.

In 2018, it’s going to come down to the 3PLs and freight forwarders to help bridge the gap in supply chains – for both shippers and carriers.

That being said, shippers and carriers will still need help making it through. While 2017 was certainly better than 2016, it’s still going to be a slog to get back to the post-recession era. In 2018, it’s going to come down to the 3PLs and freight forwarders to help bridge the gap in supply chains – for both shippers and carriers. This change won’t take place overnight of course, but the gradual change will build up to a complete revision of the industry. “The next few years will see an evolution of the sector rather than a big-bang revolution. Undoubtedly, there will be change and those companies who cannot adjust to the new environment will drop out of the market. However, for most of the largest providers at least, the new technologies offer another way of differentiating their products and services; of driving down costs and of creating efficiencies in their networks,” according to Transportation Intelligence.   

It’s the technology that will pave the way for the future, and if 3PLs want to stay viable, they’ll have to adapt. They’ll need to be able to provide higher levels of service such as big data analysis and real-time visibility, all at competitive prices.

As we move forward we’ll eventually see a shift, not just in the way companies perform logistics, but in how they think about logistics as well. Real-time shipping quotes are something of a bonus right now, a feature that shippers appreciate but aren’t demanding just yet. Within the next decade however, real-time quotes and total visibility will become the norm. The next generation of logistics planners will see these ‘smart-contracts’ as part of the everyday operations. It’s the technology that will pave the way for the future, and if 3PLs want to stay viable, they’ll have to adapt. They’ll need to be able to provide higher levels of service such as big data analysis and real-time visibility, all at competitive prices.

What to Watch for 

Big technology trends that started up in 2017 are expected to continue as the new year progresses, as they’ve given visibility to some of the long overdue changes within the industry. As it stands, technology is going to be the lynchpin for 3PLs and forwarders, leaving its mark on the industry as a whole.

Here are the biggest trends to keep an eye on as 2018 gets underway.

Visibility, in particular, is going to be essential for supply chain management in the future.

Digitization- The digitization of the supply chain is a significant move as it completely overhauls the way the industry has been run for the past several decades. Not only is it more efficient, but the amount of accessible information allows more insightful decisions at every step of the supply chain. With the increase in focus on digitization throughout 2018, many companies will realize that in order to survive they’ll have to join the digital ranks. Digitization incorporates many different strategies ranging from a focus on hiring to technology investment strategies. Visibility, in particular, is going to be essential for supply chain management in the future.

Adaptive Organizations and Capabilities– A strong supply chain relies on its flexibility above all else. It’s the ability to adapt and react to any changes or potential obstacles in the environment. “In terms of organizational structure, the largest difference between more and less mature supply chain organizations is typically a broader span of control that includes strong relationships with functions such as customer service and product development, in addition to traditional planning, sourcing, manufacturing and logistics. More significant differences emerge in the scope of responsibility for functional owners and how they partner internally and externally to manage end-to-end (E2E) business process flows such as design-to-launch, requisition-to-settlement, and order-to-cash,” says Supply Chain Management Review.

Automation- Drones and robotics are just the beginning of automation, but they will undoubtedly play a big role in the future. Warehousing and order selection is slowly being automated, but so are last mile deliveries, as drones and automated delivery robots are allowing packages to be delivered quickly in urban settings. Warehousing will see some of the biggest investments in robotics over the course of 2018. As pick-and-pack order selection tends to be the most time and labor-intensive process, a robotic workforce could provide a considerable ROI over time. A culmination of EFT’s 2017 Research and Reports data, as well as the 2018 Third Party Logistics Study report, says that roughly 70 percent of supply chain executives have plans to automate their warehouses.

Electronic transmission of data gives companies more insight to work with, and the amount of raw data that is generated by blockchain will certainly give companies plenty to work with in terms of increasing visibility and reliability

Blockchain Technology- Blockchain has slowly gained traction over 2017 and it’s expected that it will only continue to gain ground. Electronic transmission of data gives companies more insight to work with, and the amount of raw data that is generated by blockchain will certainly give companies plenty to work with in terms of increasing visibility and reliability. As it stands, many in the industry still don’t know enough about blockchain to make much of a comment, but that will change as time progresses and more companies begin to adopt and adapt to the new technology.

Supply Chain Management 

Ultimately, controlling the supply chain and managing it properly will be one of the most crucial service offerings for 3PLs. Management solutions in today’s marketplace will require forwarders to offer shippers access to a myriad of different carriers, routes and modes of transport, and instant pricing. Strong management will be heavily reliant on big data; data gathered via the IoT, blockchain and any other technology will need to be broken down into actionable data and analyzed into something that can be used, whether in predictive modeling or direct decision making.

For 3PLs that want to stay in the game and do better than just survive, it’ll be a matter of harnessing the power of digitalization and information technology. That information will need to be applied in the best possible way to suit the needs and desires of their customers.  

As the old adage goes, knowledge is power, and in today’s marketplace that certainly holds true. For 3PLs that want to stay in the game and do better than just survive, it’ll be a matter of harnessing the power of digitalization and information technology. That information will need to be applied in the best possible way to suit the needs and desires of their customers.  

How BlueGrace Can Help in 2018

When companies want superior supply chain management services and best-in-class technology, they turn to BlueGrace. Our proprietary technology is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. BlueGrace Logistics offers complete, customized transportation management solutions that provide clients with the bandwidth to create transparency, operate efficiently, and drive direct cost reductions. For more information on how we can help you analyze your current freight issues, feel free to contact us using the form below: