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Technology innovations in freight forwarding industry

Do people hate or love technology more?

So, It is a typical Tuesday workday in the office. I wrote an email to give the clients freight availability updates. In the email content, I insert a link to him so he self -check the status at this container freight station by putting the container number. My colleague, also copied in the email comes to talk to me. " I don't recommend you do this. If the client knows how to use the relevant tool we use every day, they would like to know more and more. And they would be on top of us to give us more instructions that what we are supposed to do." So I say " it is better to remain sort of shielded business that happens behind the scenes ?" My colleague says " yes."

I understand that technology has double sides. We like how it changes our world in a better way but we also hate it in many ways. My colleague is afraid to put a mirror in front of the importers/ shippers. She said “ as long as we deliver the result, why bother to inform the customer how we make that happen? The more they know, the more they will criticize you." I don't think so. Data transparency will be demand more and more by the importers/shippers. This would be a trend. Importers/ shippers want to collect data to evaluate their forwarders' performance rather than rely on forwarders to provide data reports around their own performance. And I don't think importers/ shippers will treat forwarders badly because they know more of what you doing. People also hate technology because many jobs are gradually replaced by artificial intelligence or machine learning technology but it will come to us no matter you or me agree or not. Telemarketers do not want to be laid off but now they are. You already receive robocalls on behalf of various products and services now. Unlike other sales roles, telemarketers don't require a high level of social, or emotional, intelligence to be successful. Think about it -- are you likely to purchase from a telemarketer? Conversion rates for direct telephone sales are typically less than 10% making this role a ripe opportunity to be automated.

So I will say, let us embrace the technology. Let us be open-minded. Let us really really looking forward to using technology to shake up the freight forwarding industry.

Crux System by Flexport

Freight startup Flexport hits 3.2 billion valuation after 1 billion investment by SoftBank( Softbank is the investor for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba). I personally really like this company and I think it would be one of the industry leaders.

Crux System developed by Flexport is designed to track shipment real-time location and status information. Save containers to your dashboard and their status will automatically be updated. You’ll never again have to use multiple websites, send emails, or make phone calls to try to track down your containers. You can even set up the notifications goes to customer email so they are also being alert of the container movement. Easy, efficient and time-saving.

Crux System also provides many data-analyzing tools to help forwarders get comprehensive understanding of the importing volume, shipping line, customs hold trend, etc.

Crown Connect Freight Status Tracking

Crown connect is another cloud-based portal to increase data reading availability. You are able to track the shipment POD (Proof of delivery ) as shipment POD is updated by the driver via the handheld mobile device. Your billing invoice will also be updated very quickly to the web portal with detailed cost break down and exception notes. If you have the portal login, you don't need to wait your trucker to send you the bill and status updates.

Blockchain Solution - 300 Cubits

Blockchain is an often misunderstood technology, but logistics is one of the few areas in which it is actually being adopted and is already making an impact.

It promises to solve the problem of cargo no-shows at ports and the overbooking of capacity practiced by carriers as a countermeasure. The system involves the shipper and the carrier each depositing cryptocurrency tokens into an escrow account as part of the freight booking transaction. If the shipper’s freight arrives at the port as agreed, and the shipper loads and dispatches the freight as scheduled, both parties get their tokens back. If not, either the carrier or the shipper can receive all the tokens.

Autonomous driving

Autonomous driving is the 2020 CES main topic.

So will we see an autonomous driving truck on the highway one day? Maybe not quite far.

In Sony's booth

Final Thoughts

I just name a very few technology innovations I can think of now but can feel the technology wave is trying to disrupt the logistics industry. The logistics industry has been slow to capitalize on new technology, but wide-scale digitization and automation are now beginning to play an important role in it. I am excited.

And that also means the way we hire freight forwarding talents needs to be changed. 25 years ago, we will look at a person's logistics experience as the primary focus. Now we still need that, but we need to pair with the person's capability to understand the data analytics and be able to learn new things quickly. I remember the operation manager of UTC overseas once shared her opinions on a panel discussion said," we don't really care about your prior experience. We care how you handle things and how fast you can adopt new things. "

And that also means the nature of the business we define " Freight Forwarder” needs to be changed in the near future. For quite a long time, this concept that freight forwarders are the travel agents of cargo stays in people's minds. I believe soon technology will replace a lot of repetitive and low skill job responsibilities. Freight forwarder talents are more towards to focus on people skills as core competencies.

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