There has been no lack attention focused on the importance of supply chain and logistics management since the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020. We’ve seen shortages, panic buying, cost increases, an explosion in demand for e-commerce, and an epically large vessel blocking a major supply chain artery that is still producing ripple effects across the global economy. If you didn’t care about supply chains before, you suddenly found yourself with a front row seat for something you never realized you took for granted.

But even before the global pandemic turned supply chain management into headline news, logistics professionals were seeing how external factors were having an outsized impact on operations.

Logistics isn’t just about the physical ships, planes, trucks, or trains we rely on to move freight around the world. The coordination required to transport shipments between manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and retailers requires a mind-boggling exchange of data from a large network of organizations who—more often than not—run their businesses on different systems, follow different processes, and communicate through different channels.

This inevitably means that even though organizations invest in robust technology and have access to real-time data feeds, operators still may have to default to the lowest common denominator to send information to external customers and carriers. To keep the business moving forward, they have to call, text, email, grab screenshots, copy-and-paste, or even use WhatsApp—delivering critical information through messy, unstructured data.

When capacity is tight and timelines are narrow, the only advantage you can gain is to have better information about supply and demand than your competition. Each carrier has different processes for confirming a booking or notifying LSPs and shippers about changes. When shipment data is exchanged in unorthodox ways, vital information doesn’t reach key systems of record, distorting the truth, and preventing quick and decisive action. As a result, operators don’t know when exceptions or changes have occurred, and are unable to proactively manage a disruption. This can lead to delayed shipments, lower workforce productivity, excessive labor costs, and decreased customer satisfaction.

These challenges call for a new way of managing logistics operations that transforms complex workflows and mass data capture into an intentional process that leverages the right mix of automation and systems-thinking to power human productivity and deliver better customer outcomes. Until LSPs and shippers tap into hidden potential of their people and data, they can never truly unlock the ability to orchestrate their logistics processes.

Logistics relies on complex workflows across multiple business parties in the supply chain. When everything goes smoothly, the correct parties can easily collaborate and receive the right information. The greater need comes when things go awry. The traditional systems available are falling short of this need and it is harder to manage the chaos. Now more than ever, shippers, LSPs and carriers need to work proactively to orchestrate the processes and information that flows between logistics partners and empower their workforce to better serve customer demand. To deliver on this next wave of process perfection, enterprises need to look for a new breed of partners to help them leverage the right mix of software, automation, and process management needed to get the job done.

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