COVID-19 was a wake-up call for supply chain managers around the world. From the simplest supply chains to the most complex, there was no escape from the disruption of the pandemic. Now, as supply chain professionals look back at the disruption, many are looking ahead at ways to prevent a future situation from arising.

How do you recoup more than $1 trillion lost due to supply chain disruption? What can you do when your major trade partners close their borders due to a national emergency? How do you rebuild or fortify a supply chain that dissolves? These questions and more are top-of-mind, and supply chain experts haven’t wasted any time exploring solutions.

Paperless Technology

Supply chains have always doubled as paper trails. Every change of custody, every checkpoint, and every border crossed means another stamp, signature, and collated filing to tell the story of how freight got from point to point. These days, that story is being told digitally. And although paperless freight existed pre-pandemic, its importance has risen sharply.

Everything from bill of lading (BOL) to inspection paperwork is going digital, and as these essential documents become paperless, they’re further facilitating a cloud-based supply chain. The story behind paperless technology is the broad visibility of cloud-based supply chains. Shippers know exactly when receiving documents were signed or where the last inspection was logged, just by logging in and checking the shipment data through a transportation management system (TMS). Everything is attached to a freight number, with real-time, paperless insights all in one place.

Integration of Passenger and Freight

The World Economic Forum (WEF) published a critical thought piece on the integration of passenger and freight transport, and the infrastructure necessary to make this a reality. The focus of the piece is ecommerce growth, which is driving freight demands higher — particularly middle- and last-mile — which is clogging urban roadways. It encourages development of “urban freight plans,” to ensure harmony between passenger traffic and freight vehicles.

Although the integration of passenger and freight is a costly endeavor, it’s one that needs to happen, according to WEF. The pandemic has shown the difficulties of urban delivery in gridlocked and clogged motorways — hospitals unable to get supplies and widespread second-lane parking that attributes to congestion, for example. Proper integration will pave the way for the expansion of last-mile delivery, which is expected to grow by 78% in the coming decade.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Supply Chains

We’ve already seen the earliest versions of blockchain supply contracts and machine learning for route planning, and we can expect an explosion of smart technologies in the coming years. Specifically, freight brokerage will drive the widespread adoption of AI and machine learning.

As the cost of freight rises, demand for optimal rates will, too. Machine learning is the lynchpin that will pinch pennies and find the best rates by examining every possible variable of a shipment vs. contracts. Combined with artificial intelligence (AI), which can automatically search for, find, and secure the right freight partner, the power of these two technologies will usher in a new era of 3PL services.

Innovation Trumps Disruption

These technologies certainly existed pre-pandemic; however, they’re becoming dominant drivers for change in a post-pandemic world. With the initial disruption of COVID-19 behind us, these technologies are ensuring supply chains come back stronger, more flexible, and more reliable than before the pandemic.

Keeping up with the rapidly changing supply chain industry means making investments in relevant technologies. Investing in a platform like Impact TMS for nVision Global is one of the best ways to reap the benefits of evolving tech, while embracing a proven system that’s stable, reliable, and highly functional. To learn more about how Impact TMS is keeping pace with the evolving freight and logistics landscape, contact us.