Ti London 2016: Transparency the name of the game in the era of disruptive technology

On Tuesday 7 June 2016, Ti ran the first day of its The Future of Logistics conference in London. During the first panel discussion of the conference, ‘The Power of Disruptive Technology’, a broad consensus emerged: An open, collaborative approach is needed to overcome the challenges facing the logistics industry, and an uninterrupted flow of data from start to finish is critical to making that happen.

Moreover, those who grasp this reality the quickest are the ones that will be able to leap ahead of the competition, and in many ways it is the new market entrants, with fresh ideas, that are throwing down the gauntlet. In the case of freight forwarding, the obvious examples of companies breaking into the industry are Alibaba and Amazon, the e-commerce giants of East and West respectively, which each place a fundamental significance upon data.

Whilst Amazon uses its control over the information supply chain to optimise its vast fulfilment centre networks, Alibaba has taken the concept a step further – focussing solely on supply chain data through subsidiary Cainiao, and relying on partners to provide distribution centres, in addition to transportation assets.

At a time when prominent industry leaders have struggled to implement organisation-unifying IT architecture, it is clear that software must be placed at the very heart of the logistics enterprise in order to succeed going forward. Speaking as part of a panel discussion on disruptive innovation, Nicolas Leroux, the Co-owner and Managing Partner of IT consulting firm Lunatech, stated that “the one who can control information from the start to the end of the chain will win”.

However, getting access to data is often a challenge in itself. Noting the low penetration rates of electronic Air Waybills (eAWB) in the air freight industry, Anne Marie MacCarthy, the head of Cargo Industry Management for IATA, stated that “nine times out of ten, cargo delays are due to a data transaction delay”. This is a fundamental issue, but the problems can run far deeper. As the CEO of Freightex, Tim Phillips, noted, in many cases, “getting carriers to share data is very difficult”.

A shift to data transparency is therefore as much a change of mind-set as it is a change of technology, and making the change is not going to be easy. Summarising his key takeaway from the discussion, Ti CEO John Manners-Bell warned that “3PLs need to look long and hard at how they service shippers”, and coming away from the discussion, it certainly seems that many should have some food for thought.

For more information on The Future of Logistics Conference please visit the Ti Conferences webpage here.

Source: Transport Intelligence, June 8, 2016