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Commentary: Forwarders need to be technology providers and tour guides

http://www.porttalbotwheelers.co.uk/?kisko=trading-60-second-binary-options&4be=f6 noWelcome to Lets Lose .com Women with polycystic ovary syndrome lose more weight when they take two drugs buy sleeping pills online xanax overdose Welcome to Lets Lose .com 5 Best Antihistamines For Sleepno opzioni digitali repubblica http://uplaf.org/?p=80/köpa Beware of forwarding and logistics providers that downplay the impact of new technology in the industry, but also don’t bet on established forwarders going quietly into the night.


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There’s a bit of irony that the folks waging a battle to introduce a new age of technology to logistics and freight transportation seem to be doing it in a very digital way.
The most eloquent arguments for more modern usage of technology are largely confined to places like LinkedIn and Twitter. But are those messages getting through?
The act of forwarding still largely occurs the way it always has – only with incrementally better technology periodically replacing older systems. The word disruption is commonly thrown around regarding a new breed of technology-oriented startups. But what we’re talking about is not really disruption, it’s disintermediation.
That means technology replacing the role of someone in the chain. Forwarders are often referred to as middlemen – taking margin from carriers with none of the risk of asset ownership. But what they’ve really done is leverage a poorly-understood industry. A good forwarder is more like an indigenous guide in a dangerous tourist destination than a sleazy used car salesman.
Can technology replace that? In some cases, yes, but the better question is whether that tour guide would be better off armed with technology than just merely decades of experience. And that’s really the crux of the issue. Technology is agnostic, unemotional and apolitical, for better or worse.
In cases where a shipper has straightforward, occasional and uncomplicated shipments, it makes sense to leverage new technologies that strip away both the murky unknown of international freight movement and the murky unknown of how a forwarder benefits from that mystery.
But shippers with large volumes, complicated networks and dangerous sourcing points or destinations need technology and the tour guide. Painting a picture where shippers don’t need both in 2016 is disingenuous.
In that regard, we’ve seen interesting developments in recent years. Forwarders that hitherto relied solely (or at least mostly) on proprietary technology turning to off the shelf software vendors, and even start-up, marketplace-based platforms.
The largest forwarders in the world know there is a threat of disintermediation, but the sense is that the threat is not world-changing. And maybe that’s true, not because new technology-based models won’t eventually take hold, but because the forwarding industry is just so fragmented.
If you’re looking for international logistics services, you could literally go in 1,000 different directions. From an Asia-based non-vessel-operating common carrier that will purely help you book space on transpacific sailings, to a full-service global forwarder that handles everything from customs clearance to final-mile delivery, and everything in between.
Assuming there will be some universal shift from the current structure of the forwarding and logistics industry to a single technology-based platform seems far-fetched. That assumes most shippers have the same size, characteristics and concerns when looking to outsource. They don’t.
What the established forwarding industry needs to grapple with is the extent to which they will change over existing processes into more progressive, technology-oriented ones. It’s a delicate balance. First of all, there’s the perception that the more systems-oriented a service is, the less personal it is. Secondly, there’s the threat that forwarders will simply dumb down their services to try to mimic pricing marketplaces, precipitating full-scale commoditization.
The bigger dilemma is whether forwarders focus on automating their back-end systems or their customer-facing systems, or both. We’ve seen large internal back-end systems overhauls fail at some of the world’s biggest forwarders. On the other hand, merely plastering a slick user interface over poorly constructed back-end systems accomplishes little – it eliminates the personal touch points with customers and doesn’t provide those customers more value. The other option is a total tear-down, something that startups are starting to play upon – with no legacy systems, they have nothing to tie them down technology-wise.
For shippers, the way to think about this is to organize your partners in different buckets. Think about your existing partnerships and try to scorecard their present technology state and their roadmap forward. Ask tough questions about whether their legacy systems are weighing them down, and what they’re doing to compete with start-up technology aimed at making forwarding more transparent and simple. An inability to answer those questions should be a red flag. So should an answer like “We aren’t worried about those startups.”
Think about which bucket your current providers fall in. And think of those providers as you would an investment portfolio. Invest some in providers (established or startup) that have progressive technology plans. Invest some in your current relationships that are working even if the technology roadmap doesn’t blow you away (understanding that these allocations may have to change if they continue to lag).
The long and the short of it is that new technology will play a role in the forwarding industry – try to see through the hype on both sides. Established forwarders won’t vanish overnight, nor does every startup have the key to excellence. But beware of companies that aren’t wary of the impact of new technology – those are the ones likely to be left behind.