The freight tech revolution of the past decade has helped logistics companies deliver unprecedented levels of efficiency and speed of service. While the adoption of cutting-edge technology has rapidly grown over the years, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred an even greater push for logistics providers to adopt improved, high-tech solutions.
Chris McMillin, vice president of information systems at AIT Worldwide Logistics, argues that while it may be difficult to imagine a silver lining coming out of the pandemic, the industry has undoubtedly developed a greater tolerance for embracing new technology. He said that the rate at which next-generation technology is being adopted has surpassed the expectations of many within the industry.
“‘Strike while the iron’s hot’ is the call to action,” McMillin said. “Continue down the path and take advantage of this scenario in which massive change is more accepted.”
McMillin noted that cutting-edge artificial intelligence, natural language processing and robotic process automation technology have grown in prominence over the past three to five years. He credits these innovations with allowing workforces to focus on high-value tasks while letting computer programs perform what they do best — repetitive, low-value work at exceptionally high speeds.
“We use Siri every day to get the temperature and get a baseball score; we can use similar technology to help our customer service teams help customers receive shipment status or know where a shipment is at any step of the process,” McMillin said.
Smart tracking devices are being deployed by logistics companies at a rapid pace. McMillin noted that stakeholders were informed of shipment information by the previous generation of tracking devices only when the data became available after a delay — similar to reading today’s news in tomorrow’s newspaper. He explained that the age of instant information should be reflected in logistics as next-gen tracking provides customers with up-to-date alerts on arrival times, deviations from the planned route, and in-depth information on temperature, tilt, shock and more.
But how a company implements technology is equally important. McMillin suggests that great solutions involve a combination of people and processes in addition to technology.
“Those are the things that IT departments within logistics companies can sew together: cohesive solutions so that customers can use their services to the fullest extent,” McMillin said.