New Articles
  November 2nd, 2020 | Written by


[shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="13106399"]


  • Outdated processes and a general lack of electronic communications are still creating bottlenecks.
  • “Technology solutions need to have open interfaces to translate different formats into readable data."
  • Blockchain could eventually be a technology that creates a standard, reducing manual work in the future.

As challenges continue to evolve, so does technology and its problem-solving capabilities. From communications to reducing inefficiencies, technology’s role in the global supply chain ultimately determines how well a variety of players can respond and recover from disruptions. As we saw throughout the first part of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a new set of disruptions and challenges impacting global markets at an unprecedented pace. More than ever before, the flexibility and scalability via technology solutions proved effective in restarting global supply chain operations. Beyond solutions, it is equally important to understand where technology can be improved and where it causes added disruption rather than resolving it.

“Technology is currently creating transparency, overall reduction of human error, and better data analytics–so better planning,” explains Guido Gries, managing director of Dachser’s Air and Sea Logistics Americas business unit. “Is it seamless? No, it is not. And there’s a lot of disruption because there is no global standard which allows feeding seamless technology that can provide online tracking connecting all partners on a global transport chain, throughout terminals, ports, container, and air transport transports, once they distribute transport or supply chain on a global scale.”

Gries continues, “Today there is a lot of disruption in a variety of forms. There is still a lot of manpower needed to work through processes and manage open interfaces. Blockchain could eventually be a technology that creates a standard, reducing manual work in the future. It is tested at the moment by various players in the market, but this will not be easy to be the future marketplace, as all transactions are taken in a closed system that does not allow changes. Especially in the maritime industry, however, it’s very traditional document exchange, contract of carriage, proof of entitlement date back more than 400 years, and certain procedures have evolved but not changed.”

With slower-adapting industries and unpredictable factors present in global trade, technology’s limitations on what can and cannot be solved are more easily recognized. There are, in fact, several challenges presented by choosing to utilize technology within the supply chain. These challenges can range from operations and integration to regulation and customer expectations and formalities.

“There are so many formats and different requests from customers on what you have to supply in terms of data with little to no standard on how to achieve it,” Gries notes. “Today, we have bits and pieces all over the place and that causes a lot of disruption in the process.”

So, how are global traders navigating this lack of standard amid current disruptions? For some, reinventing prediction analytics is the first of many steps in evaluating disruption solutions. For others, it is understanding how evergreen disruption at its core is. Disruption–as we saw with the current pandemic–takes form in a variety of challenges. The key here is utilizing what is already on-hand while developing an adaptation to the unimaginable.

“One of the main challenges is that there are so many different changes. What was possible before has been completely disrupted. For example, with air freight. Previously, we could ship air freight from every little airport to others throughout the world. But now, because they reduced their passenger flight schedule drastically, which means no passenger flights, there is no belly capacity for freight. This is a huge reduction of point-to-point capacity in the market. This means that players need to have a solid foundation in their continent while figuring out how they are going to distribute or bring the cargo to the airport.”

Beyond technology creating or solving challenges in the supply chain, it undoubtedly lacks support in domestic and international supply chains in some capacity. There will always be room for improvement, but the key to successful improvements is understanding where improvements are needed. This requires a holistic evaluation of where technology has failed or failed to create a solution. Many times, data is at the center of needed improvements. Outdated processes and a general lack of electronic communications are still creating bottlenecks within the supply chain to this very day.

“Technology solutions need to have open interfaces to translate different formats into readable data,” Gries says. “There are simply too many offerings available that do not integrate or line up with the other offerings coming from customers or partners. There is no standardization whatsoever while all this data must be supplied. That is an issue. We have bits and pieces, which is manageable, but then there are glitches in the middle because of the lack of standards.

“When you have a container arriving in a port, it’s a black box, so you don’t know where the container is. You do not know if it is standing there for three days, four days, five days, six days. This is usually relied on via an arrival notice, which is coming by email or by mail as seen 50 years ago. In some cases, there is no EDI tracker which is telling you how your container arrived and where it is positioned and when it is going to be moved. The process is not like that of Amazon. When you have a container traveling for 36 days on a vessel, there are little things you can do and track in terms of what is happening to the container such as heat, opening, etc., but it’s still limited. There are GPS tools available, but there are limitations there as well.”

It is important to note the plausibility of attaining a seamless flow of integrative data and operations. Many speculate whether it is realistic considering the variables weighing down technology advancements. If one industry is behind, how will this impact integration? Without each part of the supply chain on board to advance and integrate, it might be a while before industries are able to utilize a fully integrated system for a variety of outdated and complex challenges.

“For heavily industrialized trade links, yes, this is attainable. But if you go further, the underdeveloped countries–such as ones that can barely handle a cell phone signal–it is not as easy. This concept of global integration with tracking and the technology with a switch is a little bit of a funny idea when looked at that way. It is a nice idea but would take maybe another 10-15 years until these countries are there to address the infrastructure needed to support this type of technology. Unless you have your port providers who are investing heavily in these areas and providing the infrastructure needed, it will be some time.”


Guido Gries, Managing Director, Air & Sea Logistics Americas, Dachser

Guido Gries was born in Germany in 1965 and completed a degree in International Freight Forwarding and Logistics. He held several managerial and executive positions with global logistics companies and led the commercial activities for one of the top three global freight forwarders. After more than 30 years of logistics and management experience in Asia, Europe and the Americas, Gries brought a solid international perspective of the transportation industry to Dachser. As the Managing Director, Air & Sea Logistics Americas, Gries oversees the business development for the whole Americas region. As part of the company’s global 2020 Growth Strategy, he is tasked with ensuring Dachser’s representation in the most important economic