Technology has always played a major role in freight forwarding. From marine transport and rail to aviation, technology has influenced how companies transport cargo. Now, the permeation of digital is transforming freight forwarding once again.
The introduction of digital technology has given freight forwarding companies new opportunities to provide a more efficient and streamlined service. Like many industries, shipping is going through a digitization phase.
Digital technology is influencing how freight forwarding and the shipping industry manage operations and processes. Indeed, technological innovations are contributing to a more positive future for the global shipping industry.
Below, we look at five emerging digital technologies impacting international freight forwarding at all levels, from manufacturing and logistics to administration.
Big data analytics
An undeniable game changer, big data analytics has transformed how freight forwarding services distill information.
Big data analysis has embedded itself across every touchpoint in freight forwarding. Route optimization, tracking goods, and inspection management are just some examples of how big data is positively affecting freight forwarding and shipping.
More data-based solutions have resulted in greater efficiency and improved safety throughout the industry.
Despite its fledgling state, automation is becoming an important trend in shipping. Automation technology has great potential. Not only will it serve to reduce human error during freight forwarding operations, but it will also enable greater “fit for purpose” shipping processes.
Recently, several maritime test bed areas such as the Jaakonmeri Test Area has been opened. This has allowed international freight forwarding companies to test out autonomous maritime operations in a safe and controlled environment.
Security has always been a concern for freight forwarders, particularly within the maritime environment.
The maritime industry has been plagued with many threats like smuggling, piracy, hijacking, and illegal migration. And with the introduction of digital technology, cyber attacks have become a real concern.
To counter these threats, efforts have been directed at proactive safeguards.
Maritime vessels that operate in high-risk areas have been given the approval to use private armed guards. On the technological front, adoption of a robotics safeguard mitigates safety concerns regarding potential hijacking and piracy.
Cyber threats are also being addressed.
Blockchain technology and stronger IT infrastructures, with the help of artificial intelligence, are enhancing cybersecurity. The use of such emerging technology is protecting supply chain logistics and the application of big data analysis.
Augmented and virtual reality
The maturation of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (AR) has increased the demand for these in the shipping industry. Their growing recognition throughout the shipping landscape is leading to the digitization of certain operations and processes.
Virtual reality is being adopted as a digital tool to enhance training. Likewise, augmented reality is following suit, being developed as an application to deliver crucial information to relevant personnel in real time, regardless of location.
This enables freight forwarding operations to be managed remotely in conjunction with autonomous vessels, increasing operational mobility and streamlining processes.
While drone technology is nothing new, its application in freight forwarding has yet to be fully realized. But as drone technology expands at a tremendous pace, expect to see its range of applications in shipping grow substantially.
The use of drones for shipping purposes also addresses several concerns within the shipping industry.
Traffic decongestion and improved accuracy of inventory management and stock taking are just two examples of how drone technology will revolutionize how shipments are managed.
Indeed, the freight forwarding industry expects drones to play a major role within both the maritime and aerial environments.
Shipping, the future of freight forwarding
Shipping is an important facet of the world economy. It provides an invaluable service, transporting cargo and goods to far-flung destinations. But like most, the shipping industry is not immune to change.
The rapid rise of digitization requires the industry to take heed of emerging technology. Blockchain, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual realities, and big data analytics are just some of the digital technologies that represent the future of shipping.
While the future may be difficult to predict, as these technological innovations mature, expect to see them play more prominent roles in how shipping operations are managed.
Toby Edwards is the CEO of Shipa Freight and is based in Dubai. Shipa Freight is a new online platform powered by Agility that makes it easy to get air and ocean freight quotes, book, pay and track shipments online. Shipa Freight empowers small and medium-size businesses, taking the complexity out of International Freight Forwarding, making it easy to manage legal, regulatory and compliance issues, and offering convenient ways to pay to move their goods.