Managed Transportation Services: What’s the Role of Innovative Technology?

March 5 / US
Managed Transportation Services: What’s the Role of Innovative Technology?

By: Steve Barber, Vice President, IT Customer Solutions, Transplace

There is no doubt that the technology landscape has evolved from what it was 10 or even five years ago – and the continued emergence of new innovations such as real-time visibility solutions, machine learning, blockchain and artificial intelligence has also impacted the managed transportation space. I recently had the opportunity to discuss this topic with Adrian Gonzalez on an episode of Talking Logistics. Below are some of the key insights shared during our conversation, including a rundown of current emerging tech transportation trends and what you can expect to see in 2019 and beyond.

The Convergence: Technology, Managed Services and Consulting

Driven by evolving customer demands, the “Amazon effect” and the growing expectations of “Blue Dot Consumers” continue to put pressure on supply chains to provide minute by minute updates on the location of packages and deliver these goods directly to the doorstep of a customer within days (or even hours). And just like consumers, companies are also demanding real time visibility – meaning that shippers now must have an optimal mix of technology, managed services and strategic consulting to address these needs. 

The Emergence of Real-Time Visibility Solutions

Forward-thinking companies are leveraging visibility technology to deliver real business value. While GPS technologies on trucks have been around for 30+ years, these solutions have matured and continue to evolve; and today’s shippers want a universal managed transportation platform that can locate a shipment in real time – but also, more importantly, make data actionable once the information is received.

Advancements in machine learning and AI are enabling companies to successfully receive data, track locations and then deploy an algorithm to extract value from the provided analytics. These capabilities are helping to improve customer service as shippers can be more proactive and alert their customers (and the end consumer) if a delivery will be late.

Machine Learning: Hype or Reality?

Many organizations are making effective use of machine learning across different industries. So what about within transportation? In 2017 and 2018, machine learning started to infiltrate our industry, and the ability to leverage supply chain data is now at an all-time high, which makes for a great opportunity to use analytics-based decision-making and behavior modeling.

However, while the tech is readily available, the true challenge in the supply chain and transportation industry is finding the right use case to deploy it. Furthermore, there are a number of barriers for successfully implementing the technology across the entire industry, including:

  • Data quality management – not having any data or having inaccurate data.
  • Logistics technology, such as a transportation management system (TMS), is still not fully adopted within the industry. Some organizations still use pen and paper instead of automating processes.
  • There is a diverse population of carriers, which creates varied, inaccurate or missing data – making truly automating and optimizing certain processes difficult.

 The Future of Blockchain for Transportation Management

Blockchain has been making waves in recent transportation headlines, and has great potential for enhancing visibility and gaining a better understanding of when freight changes hands, as well as tracking freight payment data and proof of delivery. But there isn’t a complete ecosystem or standard to support it – and there are too many shippers and carriers for the technology to be implemented successfully at this time.

So, while it does have tremendous promise, we’re still a couple of years away from a level of standardization, successful use cases and the right platform to support the technology for blockchain to become widely adopted within the industry.

 Technology and Transportation Management in 2019 and Beyond

What will the industry see in 2019 and into the future? There are a number of developments to look forward to, including:

  • Maturity: Companies that couldn’t get their business case to work will leave the marketplace, and we’ll see others who’ve honed in on their technology’s fundamentals rise to take their place at the top.
  • Density: Techniques such as load matching boards and capacity matching algorithms have struggled due to poor density. In 2019, companies with density will partner with other organizations that need the support.
  • Status Quo: While new tools will continue to emerge, day-to-day operations teams still need to book trucks and ship freight, and customers will still need to make purchases. At the end of the day, there should continue to be a strong focus on exceling at current industry fundamentals, rather than being distracted by what may come down the road.

Are you interested in learning more about the role of emerging technologies in managed transportation services? You can watch the full discussion with Adrian Gonzalez here.

What are emerging technologies are you following?

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