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Logistics expert says workers should not fear supply chain digitalization

The digitalization of global logistics and supply chain operations should not make workers fearful their jobs will be jeopardized, says a leading consultant

Dr. Harry Broadman (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The digitalization of global logistics and supply chain operations should not automatically make workers fearful their jobs will be jeopardized, a leading consultant said Wednesday.

Harry G. Broadman, a partner at the global consultancy Berkeley Research Group LLC, told the audience at FreightWaves’ F3: Future of Freight Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that there “can be harmony between logistics technology and job creation.” Jobs will be available in a digital-driven logistics world, but it “may not be the exact same job” that the worker was accustomed to.

About one-third of Broadman’s practice focuses on logistics. Broadman, who was the lead U.S. negotiator for the General Agreement on Trade and Services from 1990 to 1993, also serves as an expert witness in international trade disputes.

Broadman said it will fall to governments to invest in retraining workers for roles in the increasingly digital supply chain.

Digitalization applications will become increasingly mainstream in supply chain management, Broadman said. However, the scenario of a fully fluid and frictionless supply chain spanning thousands of miles and touching dozens of stakeholders is still far off in the future.

“We’re a long way” from being fully interconnected, Broadman said in a phone interview after his Wednesday morning remarks.

Greater visibility through digitalization will improve scheduling and align delivery pricing more optimally with scheduling, he said. 

Broadman said there needs to be a rethink of the delivery relationship between customer expectations and the prices charged for those services. He said there’s no reason a company like Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) can’t offer product discounts to customers in return for a delivery in a week after ordering rather than delivery in one to two days. 

While customers should pay a premium for expedited delivery, they should also have the choice to trade delivery speed for product cost reductions, he said.

“Today’s environment is riper than ever” for these types of pricing models, Broadman said in the phone interview. However, he does not know of many companies who widely practice differential pricing based on speed of delivery.

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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.