How the Pandemic Crisis Boosted Ocean Freight Digitalization

The pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis left the global maritime industry disarrayed for several months. It created a slowdown in maritime trade, reduced shipping demand, port traffic, and higher rates of container rollover. At the start of the global crisis there emerged the need for digitalization and the proof that it can be the way forward for shippers to navigate the barriers within their supply chain. 

The rising demand for contactless services further opened doors for digitalization initiatives. Digitalization trends have long been stressed upon as more and more industries turn towards technology and modernization as a means of improving their operations. Although, over the past couple of years we have seen significant innovations and the employment of advanced technologies across all fields. But the pandemic seems to have set the ball rolling for an overall transformation across the industry as a whole.

The Need for Ocean Freight Digitalization

Resilient supply chains are the need of the hour, and digitalization is a proven way of making supply chains more resilient and agile. The paradigm shift in adopting automation, advanced technologies, and digitalization at large is challenging for many businesses. Many enterprises may find it difficult to adapt to the changing environment, and since the beginning of the economic crisis, many such companies have perished, closing their doors for good having failed to rise to the challenge.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that inefficiency is hazardous to the health of the supply chain. We’ve seen it with material shortages in health care and sanitation, just as we’ve seen it with household items like toilet paper.

Unfortunately, the global shipping industry has long been governed by manual processes that significantly reduce efficiencies. Many operational processes rely on manual intervention, leaving room for increased errors, loops of back and forth communications, follow-ups, and tedious procurement and booking processes. Reduced efficiency and rising costs are a significant outcome of the traditional way of doing things. 

Apart from the benefits of reduced costs, better efficiencies, and enhanced transparency, more digitalized processes are also meant to support efforts related to reducing emissions and carbon neutrality for supply chains. 

Ocean Freight Visibility and Digitalization

Ocean freight visibility is the capability to answer precisely where your shipment is at any given point of time across the supply chain. 

When ocean freight visibility is talked about in the context of business intelligence, it translates to several benefits such as better analytics that support planning, critical insights that can significantly improve efficiency, facilitate a business’ response to impending disruption and reduction in costs such as detention and demurrage. Robust freight visibility capabilities augment a business’s reliability through improved delivery performance and throughput, which contribute to enhanced service levels and customer satisfaction. 

The amount of data generated in a supply chain is quite vast and critical. To leverage this data, it is essential to understand what data points can help gain an insight into business processes. In a recent Freightwaves podcast series on ocean freight visibility, Robin Jaacks, CCO, Ocean Insights, talked in-depth about the need for ocean freight visibility and how it can really impact a business’ competitive advantage. Having access to freight visibility data not only guarantees transparency of where your shipment is or provides predictive ETA alerts but also helps enterprises make strategic decisions. Enterprises can leverage critical ocean freight data to make smarter supply chain decisions about shipping network design, carrier contract negotiations, and inventory management. 

Relying solely on EDI feeds from carriers for visibility is not enough. Therefore, investing in a comprehensive track and trace solution is necessary. The capability to achieve end-to-end visibility in ocean freight alone is a competitive advantage. 

Ocean Insights’ ocean freight visibility solutions have helped numerous companies improve their efficiencies and reduce their freight spend effectively. Which can be seen in the case of Sysco and Hellman.

At the end of the day, creating more value and delivering an outstanding customer experience are the goals for any business. At uncertain times, rapid technology adoption and digitalization will help businesses build resilience into their supply chains and be better prepared for the future. In the coming months and years, uncertainty will remain, but the momentum acquired in the digitalization efforts of the industry is going to transform how supply chains function for good.