The way shippers manage their supply chains is rapidly changing. As new technology enters the market, it shapes how logistics professionals approach their jobs.
In the study, both shippers and carriers agreed the optimal balance between technology and human expertise across supply chain tasks was 60% handled by tech and 40% handled by people.
Many shippers have just started transforming their supply chains to meet the demands of today’s customer — whether in the B2C or B2B space — but some are ahead of the game.
If you feel that you are already operating at the optimal balance of technology and humanity, congratulations! But, with the rate of change in the industry, you can’t afford to be complacent. We pulled insights from our research to create concrete next steps to help advanced shippers sustain and increase their competitive edge.
Step 1: Track technology performance.
New technology solutions are not cheap, and if you can’t evaluate how effectively they're working for you, it’s hard to justify the expense to leadership.
The ability to measure what your tools are doing — whether they are improving efficiency, cost savings, or both — is essential, but many shippers still struggle with it. In fact, a majority ranked identifying return on investment as a top supply chain technology challenge.
This list of top technology challenges provides a useful resource when evaluating new solutions:
- Do I know my core KPIs, and will this tool allow me to track them? Is it easy to monitor performance and quantify savings and efficiency gains?
- Will this tool sync with my existing systems? Can I establish API connectivity?
- Do I have people in my organization responsible for integrating this tool? Will someone “own” and administer this product?
- Do I have people dedicated to analyzing the data this technology will create? Do I have a system in place to leverage that insight?
If you can’t confidently answer these questions, you likely need to revisit processes before making an investment.
Step 2: Invest in your people.
Technology is important, but it isn’t everything. No matter how many digital solutions enter the market, shippers will still need smart people to execute their supply chain strategies. As manual tasks are automated, responsibilities will continue to change.
To keep your business competitive, you will need to invest in tech-savvy people with strategic thinking, communication, and analytical skills.
This is true for shippers of all sizes:
"Technology can handle many mundane tasks and notifications. It can keep a close eye on routes and inventory. Humans need to be thinking about the bigger picture and using what's going on outside of the business to plan."
-Director/Manager of Transportation, <$199M shipper with a 50:50 tech-to-human ratio
"Easy tasks, such as inventory [management] are where technology should take the lead. Dealing with clients, working on solutions, and using what technology is telling us should be where humans run the show."
-Director/Manager of Procurement, $200M - $799M shipper with a 40:60 tech-to-human ratio
"Technology raised our ROI in almost all phases of the supply chain. But not all tasks can be performed by technology, especially where critical thinking is involved."
-Director/Manager, $800M+ shipper with a 70:30 tech-to-human ratio
When asked where they could use more help from experts, shippers’ answers varied — there was no clear winner. This shows a need for people across multiple areas of the business.
If you feel like you’re in a good place with your technology stack, consider these as potential areas to add human expertise. As you improve efficiency through automation, dedicate your people to focus on these challenges or bring in new talent where necessary.
Step 3: Keep pushing your limits.
Even if you've found your optimal balance of technology and human expertise, the industry changes quickly, so you will need to refine your balance over time. New solutions constantly enter the market, creating opportunities and competitive threats.
To remain a leading shipper, you need to regularly reevaluate your strategy.
We asked leaders to identify areas they are looking into for the next wave of supply chain digitization. As you look to experiment with new solutions to stay on the cutting edge, research these tools and look for opportunities to integrate them into your supply chain.
The logistics industry is evolving, and whether you’re just starting out or have already modernized your supply chain, you’ll have to continue to evolve with it.
In summary, here are three takeaways from our original research that you can use to guide your strategy as you look to keep your supply chain operations on the cutting edge.
1. Track technology performance.
2. Invest in your people.
3. Keep pushing your limits.
Want to learn more about balancing technology and humanity in your supply chain?
Read and download the research report to see the full results.