Logistics technology is moving forward at breakneck speed; in what aspects of logistics operations and sales do you believe technology will have the most impact over the next five years? What impact?
Amol Patel, Chief Digital Officer of AllCargo Logistics: As supply chains get digitized, and we will start seeing seamless real-time network integration across the ecosystem players. Predictive analytics will become a key driver leading to profound impact on operational efficiency, real-time and automated optimization of the transport network, delivery routes, capacity sourcing, and dynamic pricing.
Eric Martin-Neuville, Chief Operating Officer, Geodis: As a Freight Forwarding organization and from an operational standpoint, digitization will be the most impacting change of the next five years . Although we remain an highly manual , paper ridden industry, the clock is ticking and if the industry’s ecosystem does not evolve quickly , it will very soon be rendered obsolete by both new fully digitized players or digital specialist requiring a far more efficient and agile solution and creating it themselves . On the sales side , being able to create a fully digital customer experience covering the entire price to pay process will become quickly a major differentiator.
Phil Coughlin, Chief Strategy Officer, Expeditors: Machine learning combined with affordable sensor/gps tagging will have an immense impact towards creating immediate and precise shipment data. This foundational precision will open up tremendous capacity in operational productivity, visibility, and routing optimization.
Troels Stovring, CEO, Twill Logistics: If you look five years out into the future, then I truly believe that most of the industry has changed. Looking specifically at FFW I see a few trends that I believe will prevail.
Online sales of freight services: it literally doesn’t exist today. We have online booking and sometimes mistakes that for selling but it is not. In the next five years I see a huge drive in the industry to move towards a much higher degree of online sales, learning from industries around us that have successfully made this transition.
Increased openness in the industry creating much better visibility to our customers: Ports will start connecting and sharing, Containers will start getting tracking devices, truckers (or trucking platforms) will have a standard to share real-time tracking features.
Key capability needed as a freight forwarder will be exception management. Today all too much of the time FFWs spend on handling shipments are spent on tasks that can be automated and this automation trend will be pursued to reduce cost and reduce errors. As a result, we need systems to enable us to predict (or notify in case of) disruptive events and people with strong capabilities to ensure world class exception management including minimizing impact on our customers and always informing our customer on status and next steps. In five years, companies who will have the label world class on exception management will win. The red thread thru all is that this development is going to make it significantly better for the user to be working with international trade – which is something we really need.
Leading transformation processes within enterprise organizations can be challenging. What are your tips for maximizing efficiency?
Patel: It starts with setting a culture of innovation and customer orientation. After I joined as Chief Digital Officer, I organized an immersion week in Silicon Valley for select high potential employees from our global offices to learn best practices from leading tech companies and become change agents within our broader organization. It is also useful to have a cross functional core team that sets the requisite prioritization across the various tracks of enterprise transformation.
Martin-Neuville: As a Freight Forwarding organization and from an operational standpoint, digitization will be the most impacting change of the next five years. Although we remain an highly manual , paper ridden industry , the clock is ticking and if the industry’s ecosystem does not evolve quickly, it will very soon be rendered obsolete by both new fully digitized players or digital specialist requiring a far more efficient and agile solution and creating it themselves. On the sales side , being able to create a fully digital customer experience covering the entire price to pay process will become quickly a major differentiator.
Coughlin: As counter intuitive as this sounds I feel constraining or frugal innovation is the best way to advance. It’s really hard to kill off good ideas, so that the great ideas can thrive – but doing so ensures alignment and proper usage of your finite resources.
Stovring: I can speak from our experience: You need to set the rules and maximize flexibility around the transformation. For us, that transformation is called Twill and to ensure flexibility we run Twill as a separate company to Damco, but to ensure the synergies (the winning formula for us) we have set up a Venture Board with strong representation from the Global Leadership team in Damco and Maersk. So the framework is important. Another important aspect is working Agile. It has become quite a buzzword, however truly embracing it is not to be underestimated. It means it all of a sudden becomes ok to fail (we have a nomination session every week to celebrate failure of the week and discuss the learnings), it means the customers takes pole-position in all decisions we make, it means we can work in shorter focused sprints, it means we can deploy changes to our platform at any time, it means we cannot make a fixed project plan – this is very new to many large organizations, but has really been taken in in Damco and Twill. Lastly, it is about people. As Einstein said, insanity is doing something over again and expecting a different result – that is true to both points made above, but certainly also to the people that is driving the transformation.
As a large organization you have to think: “If we want to do something completely different we also have to bring new ideas, new ways of working, new capabilities” – and that means that you have to look at people. With Twill we are bringing in new ways of thinking by hiring externally – but also including ways of thinking from Damco by bringing in Damco resources.
What are the most important skills for someone tasked with leading digital transformation processes? Technical capabilities? Analytics? Strategic vision?
Patel: I believe all of these skills are important, but above all, customer obsession is key. One has to think outside in from a customer point of view to guide the objectives of the digital transformation processes.
Martin-Neuville: Most certainly strategic vision and certainly not technical capabilities, the technical side of things being solely an enabler. Being able to identify requirements and opportunities and design a fast tracked path to an efficient solution is key.
Coughlin: Vision. A relentless pursuit of excellence and efficiency rather than a reckless pursuit of more. Technical skills, analytics, tools, etc. are important but they are enablers of the vision.
Stovring: It is strategic vision, an inherent believe that you can change this industry and passion to carry it out and lead the way. For all other skills you have to set the right team around you, which is what we are doing in Twill right now.
Read more Freightos insights on digital logistics transformation here.