Covid-19: Five Trends Changing Freight Transportation for the Long Haul

May 22, 2020
Innovation

Over the last 8 weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to speak with some great minds within our industry, including CEOs and decision-makers from carriers and shippers across Europe. As one can imagine, we largely spoke about the Covid-19 crisis. I noticed five key topics, or trends, that surfaced during these discussions. They summarize some of the main ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic will leave its mark on the world’s freight transportation industry, for good, as well as the opportunity this presents.

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1) Remote working will become the new norm for many companies, increasing the need for collaborative tools

Many CEOs and decision-makers I spoke with agree that working remotely will become the new norm. It’s important to note that remote work doesn’t mean less interaction, but it does require teams to interact differently and find smarter ways to collaborate. Smarter collaboration is often aided by smarter digital tools and platforms. For ensuring alignment, continued productivity and agile operations, collaborative visibility platforms offering full transparency across operations are fundamental to enabling robust collaboration between both internal and external stakeholders.

2) We’ll have to reinvent the way the whole value chain interacts thanks to paperless transportation

For many years, printing, signing, and piling paper has been the norm in the transportation industry, especially when it comes to proof of delivery. As is the case in all industries, the desire to go paperless has slowly been gaining momentum over the years. However, now, thanks to Covid-19, there’s been an increased focus on reducing unnecessary hygiene risks in the workplace, raising health concerns about the use of paper. This rapid evolution in ‘best practice’ protocols is requiring organizations to adapt quickly. At Shippeo we think that paperless transportation will become the new norm. We’re committed to bringing the electronic bill of lading to the market and our automated processes and notifications, benefiting from our market-leading algorithm developed in-house, already replaces much of the paperwork traditionally used in supply chain operations.

3) Supply chain leaders will need to be in top shape to adapt well to the unpredictable

Gone are the days where forecasting and planning took place once a year. The current pandemic has shown us all that long-term plans and forecasts can be rendered irrelevant in the space of one week. It has greatly opened our minds and imaginations to the scale of a ‘what if’ scenario and will reset expectations around contingency plans for generations. Of course, there is no best ‘plan’ for the unknown, but rather a best ‘state’ to be in when presented with an unpredictable disruption event. When a crisis occurs, having a clear and consistent view across your full supply chain, particularly of your transportation activities, is key. This means real-time access to accurate ETAs, enabling preventative actions to mitigate costs and the conversion of unforeseen opportunity into additional revenue.

4) The boundary between B2B and B2C service expectations has vanished completely

Lockdowns have prompted a surge in online commerce, including the delivery practices that accompany it. This will no doubt have created an enduring shift in consumer behavior that will outlive the crisis itself. Along with the shift in consumer behavior comes shifts in expectations. Customers expect transparency of the delivery experience, from buying to unboxing, to know where their package is and when it will arrive. Whether the customer is a consumer waiting on the couch or a logistics professional waiting in a warehouse, people are coming to expect the exact same service and customer experience. They want full visibility across the delivery, excellent service, automated notifications and, if required, quick and easy communication with their carrier.

5) Most new I.T. investments will favor OPEX against CAPEX

With so much uncertainty month-to-month, even week-to-week, it makes a lot of sense to be able to switch on and scale up the services and capabilities that businesses need, as and when they’re needed. This need favors operating expenditure over capital expenditure, with flexible and scalable subscriptions and licenses enabling greater agility than investing in new infrastructure with an uncertain breakeven period. Supply chain professionals will likely favor projects that enhance organizational agility while also offering a very quick return on investment. Our cloud-based visibility platform helps customers avoid capex for IT infrastructure. The platform exchanges real-time information with all relevant systems used by a shipper and their carriers. Using APIs (Application Programming Interface) as connectors, any existing shipper and carrier systems (ERP, TMS, WMS) are integrated with truck telematics systems, IoT devices or smartphone apps, creating a Multimodal Visibility Network, collecting real-time data from all modes of transportation across the supply chain. The Shippeo platform is already connected to over 140,000 carriers in 62 countries and our onboarding team adds many more each week. In addition, the nature of our solution itself (increasing visibility of operations) can enable existing transport infrastructure to be better utilized, potentially avoiding further capex.

These five trends affecting the freight transportation industry are already set in motion and there is no better time than the present to prepare the groundwork for staying ahead of the curve. The need for a real-time transportation visibility solution is the common denominator across all of these trends. At Shippeo, we’re accelerating our own developments to help our customers build more resilient supply chains and leverage much greater value from them. Our philosophy has always been to earn the respect of our customers and become a true visibility partner over the long-term, evolving with our customers to best match their needs, and to this day we’re humbled to have maintained a long-lasting and stable relationship with all of our customers. While we cannot predict what may come in the next few months, we can certainly help organizations regain some control and better prepare for whatever may be ahead.

Lucien Besse
Lucien Besse
COO and Co-founder
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Shippeo
With a Master's degree in Finance and Strategy from Sciences Po, Lucien worked in Private Equity at Vermeer Capital, before co-founding Shippeo in 2014, where he is Chief Operating Officer. Shippeo enables market-leading companies to instantly access predictive, real-time information on each delivery, and has become the European leader in supply chain visibility with more than 5 million tracked flows per year in over 60 countries.
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