Opinion: Transportation Tech’s Tipping Point
This Opinion piece appears in the Oct. 14 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
By Jim Bramlett
There’s no denying that technology is rapidly changing the shipping and logistics industry. These changes are making warehousing more efficient, dispatching faster, planning easier and communications smoother — and that’s just the tip of the technological iceberg.
Even so, as an old-school industry, it’s not uncommon to find that the shipping and logistics status quo is often preferred simply because those involved are too busy (or just unwilling) to realize change is afoot.
Meanwhile, “technology” has become an amorphous word tossed around in trade publications and during conferences, meetings and hallway discussions without much thought or a true understanding of its concrete meaning and day-to-day impact. Ask 10 people to define “technology,” and you’ll probably get 11 answers.
In talking about technology in the context of shipping and logistics, I’m specifically referring to true innovation that provides a fundamentally different way of going about things — not just technology for technology’s sake.
Much the way streaming media and mobile devices have fundamentally changed how we communicate and are entertained, true innovation has to bring greater efficiency, simplicity and convenience to life.
For example, if you’re a broker and still use phone, fax and e-mail for the majority of your communication, sales and coordination — and are convinced it always will be done this way — you need to take time to see the forest despite those trees in the way. Things are coming that will make your work and the process behind covering loads faster, smoother and more profitable.
Some already are here.
To avoid embarrassing any specific trucking firms still in business, I’ll point to a nontransportation company that lost sight of technology’s influence and wound up failing: Blockbuster. Its leaders chose to stick with what they knew, making the unfortunate assumption their leading market share could insulate them from their innovative competition — an upstart called Netflix.
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