The global supply chain is sick. Problems are beginning to amount to major disruptions, and the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus is the latest indicator that when things go wrong, and as they often do, traditional processes and standards for mitigating disruptions and eliminating risk may swell. E-commerce is the Coronavirus of the early 1990s when e-commerce was just beginning, major supply chains were starting to think about its potential. It wasn’t until Amazon grew to become the biggest player on the planet that its nearest competitor, Walmart, began to take notice and evolve its own operations. That is what the omnichannel supply chain is all about, transcending the barriers to advancement and working to sort through the chaos to find the most rewarding, functional solution. Now, it is important to note that the most functional solution is not always the most affordable, speaking in terms of sustainability or actual cost. With that in mind, shippers need to understand how the omnichannel and multi-modal shipping trends for 2020 must reflect the state of the every-channel shipper, capable of looking beyond what is and considering the possibilities of what could be. In a sense, it goes back to resilience, and increasingly technologies represent the latest way supply chain leaders can tap the value of advanced functions and multi-modal shipping trends to embrace a better solution. Consider this. According to the most recent IDC set of supply chain predictions, reports Jeff Berman via Supply Chain Management Review:
“By the end of 2021, half of all manufacturing supply chains will have invested in supply chain resilience and artificial intelligence, resulting in productivity improvements of 15%.”
The only way forward is to start investing in cross-functional capabilities that transcend all channels.
Multi-modal shipping trends include the added pressure to consolidate and deconsolidate shipments wherever possible to reap the greatest rewards. Obviously, full truckload is the most affordable solution for any shipment per hundredweight, and every shipper would use full truckloads for all shipments if possible. Unfortunately, the circular supply chain is not equipped to rely solely on utilizing the full truckload mode. So, the burden moves to less than truckload (LTL) shipping and parcel shipping as facilitators of change. To give customers more, reduce costs on everyone, speed fulfillment without sacrificing integrity and sustainability, and promote business continuity, shippers must merge all omnichannel and multi-modal shipping trends throughout 2020.
Going back to the circular versus linear supply chain, it is easy to see why omnichannel and multi-modal shipping are the natural progenitors of advancement in e-commerce. Omnichannel provides a way for users to look beyond a given channel, tapping the value of brick-and-mortar stores, storefronts as distribution centers, dark warehouses, and every other facility within the supply chain to meet the order details. A continuous cycle of visibility, growth, and profitability resides within omnichannel capabilities. The same applies to multi-modal shipping, so multi-modal shipping will become more circular in 2020 to meet these requirements.
As explained by Rob O’Byrne via Logistics Bureau:
“The circular supply chain is a model in which the supply chain does not terminate with products in the hands of end-customers. Instead, it continues, to include the entire lifecycle of a product, from sourcing of raw materials, to the return and recycling of the product, and reintroduction of recycled materials into the manufacturing or production process. In short, the supply chain is no longer linear, but circular.”
The opportunities for advancement through omnichannel shipping are easy to understand. Omnichannel capabilities are attracted to consumers and business-to-business partners alike. Thus, omnichannel, multi-modal capabilities will naturally lend themselves to increasing the customer base and opening the doors to new relationships with manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers, service parts providers, freight brokers, freight forwarders, third-party logistics providers, and much more.
Automated shipping systems, reflecting the increased use of robotics within warehouses, automated labeling systems, self-scheduling shipping systems, and even the notion of self-driving trucks, will play a role in empowering shippers with more data and capabilities to meet demands. Now, let’s face the facts. Self-driving trucks are not coming in 2020 or by 2023. It sounds harsh, but it is better to plan for a realistic reality than a fantasy, and the state of the autonomous trucking industry is still in its “testing” phase. Regardless, automated shipping systems will become more entrenched within the global supply chain and transform multi-modal shipping, as well as omni-modal shipping, from its intense complex processes into a turnkey activity that anyone can manage with prowess.
Advancements within supply chain systems will give way to dynamic capabilities and customized workflows that will allow for seamless flexibility in supply chain management. Software vendors have grown accustomed to the reputation for limited functionality or advanced functionality with high costs. However, major players in the industry have taken note of this fact and worked to give shippers more control over system functions. This level of dynamic and configurable capabilities will differentiate the top-of-the-line software vendors and allow for the ongoing use of omnichannel, multi-modal functions.
Advancements of software and the introduction of artificial intelligence will also require an infusion of machine learning in today’s systems. Machine learning relies on historical data to make informed decisions, can provide a pathway to self-optimizing rule sets and more information that shippers can tap into to make informed decisions. This ability will promote continuous automation and refinement of operations. Such functions will be essential as global trade continues to undergo major changes and shifts, particularly those affecting the US-China trade route, Brexit, changing regulations for sustainability and carbon dioxide emissions, and more.
As the state of the global shipping market evolves, shippers and supply chain leaders must find a way to differentiate their organizations and reduce costs. While barriers to the implementation of new technologies still exist, the rising power of omnichannel and multi-modal shipping will give rise to a new type of shipper, a new breed of shipper, a shipper that is capable of tapping into every channel any time and without delay. Recognize the potential of omnichannel and multi-modal shipping trends and how they can benefit your organization. Remember, the best shipping strategies today are a combination of advancement and a willingness to think outside of the box and find solutions when all others disappear. The outcome is evident; shippers need to leverage omnichannel capabilities and multi-modal shipping trends, particularly parcel, and LTL shipping consolidation/deconsolidation to stay successful and achieve growth throughout 2020.
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