Practitioners in the freight forwarding industry more or less work in such an environment, and the harsh “di—” signal from the fax machine, in a hurry, we found a signed note to write down the transaction we just called. This way of working makes us doubt that in the country where China’s four new inventions – high-speed rail, shared bicycles, mobile payment, and online shopping – were born, in the second year of our 5G commercial use, the freight forwarding industry still sticks to the conservative and traditional .
If you can complete one transaction after another in any scenario anytime, anywhere. It’s like, I order a takeaway at my desk, it’s delicious and fast! It would be great!
The original logistics system was born along with the war. In the classics of the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods in China, we can see words that are still familiar to logistics people, such as “soldiers and horses are not moved, food and grass go first”, “bring out the old and bring forth the new, advance and then go out”. Aren’t the well-known phrases such as “winning a thousand miles” just like the most ideal state in the international trade we are engaged in today?
Freight forwarding is an associated industry of international trade. International trade involves the national interests of trading countries, and the trade policies of various countries are affected by political, economic, legal, and cultural factors at home and abroad. In the many transaction links involved in the entire trade, different administrative units, agency units, and transport units have added uncertain factors to the freight forwarder. To sum up, in the entire supply chain of freight forwarding, professional teams and personnel are more needed to work hard. For this reason, the freight forwarding industry has been more conservative in accepting and applying technology in the past century.
But this kind of conservatism does not equate to insensitivity. Therefore, with the increasing popularity of global digitalization, facing these pressures, practitioners will feel more and more the pressure brought by this kind of innovation, and the difficulty of promoting change in the industry, and feel deeply uneasy and anxious.
But these are all appearances. Under the unease, some low-end companies have already advanced secretly. In this battle based on the latest technology and innovative markets, no one is willing to be left behind. Many e-commerce companies are already at the forefront. They have launched a series of new digital services aimed at reducing supply chain costs and improving operational convenience. There are freight leaders such as Flexport that focus on software development, and e-commerce giants such as Amazon, JD.com, and Alibaba that we are familiar with, all trying to reshape the retail model and define new retail models very early. And now, by building their own digital platforms and logistics lines, they are trying to achieve the magnitude of e-commerce growth.
Shipping and freight forwarding companies that have made self-breakthroughs with brand-new digital platforms have also joined the competition in the new-generation freight forwarding market, and are trying to reshape themselves into supply chain service providers that integrate multiple functions.
There should be no doubt that digitization can more effectively meet the future needs of global cross-border trade than traditional models that rely on extensive paperwork and manual transactions. I believe that there are not a few people of insight who can see this. A 2018 technology survey by consulting firm KPMG showed that while logistics companies lagged behind companies in other sectors in their digital capabilities, they were effective in using digital tools to improve the overall customer experience.
The digitalization of freight forwarding is no longer a problem to be considered. It is already the responsibility entrusted to logistics people by this era.