E-commerce was the logistics industry’s atomic advancement. It propelled the industry further into everyday homes and businesses, and now, the connected world is standard. Logistics have long fought to provide customers with a bigger, better mousetrap—a way to move more freight, keep costs under control, and avoid risks. Unfortunately, 2020 is already putting the system to its biggest test in ages due to the coronavirus or COVID-19, contributing to the disruption of 75% of the world’s supply chains, says Dion Rabouin of Axios. The virus has quickly garnered the attention of the masses and instilled panic. As customers look to stock up for the uncertainty, the logistics empires of the world are faced with a daunting challenge—they must enable a faster, more productive fulfillment cycle with little time to make great strides. So, given the sudden urge, let’s review the top 2020 freight technology integration trends that dominate the market through the remainder of the year.
Elastic 2020 freight technologies are adaptable and capable of handling rapid changes in shipping demand. According to Supply Chain 24/7:
“Elastic logistics refers to the ability to expand and retract shipping capabilities as demand shifts. You could think of it as the ability to roll up an unused road like a carpet, and then to roll it out again when the need arises. Elastic logistics are less than permanent shipping assets. Instead of building a steel warehouse, a company might rent a storage building, or use a mobile container truck as a temporary shipping base of operations. For these to work well, you need real-time data and powerful shipping management APIs.”
While APIs form a type of elastic logistics, APIs deserve a further explanation.
A common concern in the age of the internet is loss of proprietary information. APIs overcome this risk by connecting relevant information and allowing companies to still retain proprietary information. Unlike EDI, APIs can integrate with virtually any systems. They run automatically and avoid the need to go through complex integrations, while still providing top-line performance. APIs rely on a series of calls between systems that share, delete, and edit data, without sacrificing the original data.
APIs are unlike traditional forms of connectivity; they are diverse and can used to connect even the most disparate of systems. As the world grows more in-sync with supply chains, connectivity via APIs will become the gold standard. APIs exist for the simplest of processes, including personal calendar integrations, but they also have the power to unify the supply chain in innovative ways. APIs can connect legacy systems with cloud-based TMS platforms, connect with more carriers, avoid the disruptions caused by COVID-19, and improve inventory management.
Procurement has always had a special place in the e-commerce supply chain, but as companies look to limit in-store visitors, procurement will now move more toward a warehouse process. For instance, Texas grocer, HEB, is now working to encourage customers to order through its curbside service, leveraging inventory from arriving trucks to fill orders in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The only way to achieve such inventory management capabilities lies in integration and procuring more product around the clock. The coronavirus is the latest risk to trigger a rapid overhaul of inventory management strategies, and shippers need to look beyond the limits of a simple system. They must implement and integrate the inventory management system with the procurement platform, as well as the TMS for use in routing inbound and outbound freight throughout distribution networks.
Microservices are comparable to APIs, and they provide a temporary architecture for testing new systems and functionalities without opening the door to risks of disruption. Yes, testing in a live environment could cause significant problems in the global supply chain. A recent article, published by Ocean Insights, reviewed the costs of a single disruption on the global ocean freight stage. For example, if Electrolux closes a single plant for one day due an error in coding or testing, losses could swell into the millions of dollars per day.
Microservices allow for the rapid testing of new supply chain functions too. Since the coronavirus is already putting the strain on retailers, microservices will be a strong area of 2020 freight technology integration trends throughout the year. Furthermore, companies will look to test new fulfillment strategies, much like the HEB example, which may require reconfiguring of POS systems, inventory control systems, procurement, and outbound logistics planning.
Another integration trends will surround big data and its potential. Big data is valuable in its ability to gain insights into all aspects of the supply chain. Big data will help companies leverage collaborative robots, as explained by Supply Chain 24/7, and it will also go into the equation for the use of robotics process automation, says Steve Banker of Forbes, creating virtual, interactive experiences for customers.
The global supply chain is rapidly changing due to coronavirus, and collaboration is now the differentiator that helps companies stay competitive and please customers. Of course, collaboration in the massive supply chain of modernity needs integration, and organizations that align their corporate objectives to the top trends of 2020 freight technology integration capacity will see the greatest results.
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