Will Technology Take Over The Shipping Industry and Replace the Human Element in the Near Future?

The container shipping industry is being reshaped by technology.

Technology helps to improve efficiency, service quality, and streamline process. Technology is a very essential element for all supply chains. Many shippers rely on company resource planning, storage and warehousing management, fleet management and transportation management software to keep up with day-to-day operations and receive analytics to make critical decisions for their business.

Technology is also used to manage inventory, booking and scheduling shipment dates with ocean or air carriers, make reservations, and obtain fast and up-to-date freight quotations. Shippers are able to use real-time data to better keep the process under control and will eventually be able to better receive costs and estimates of delivery times for multiple routes and carriers to avoid wasting time. Nearly half of large shippers reported, the balance of managing inventory is already done through technology, while about 40 percent said technology handles freight quotes, booking, and scheduling. Less than 20 percent of large shippers rely exclusively on humans for these tasks. These are the key reasons why the technology in the container shipping industry will pay dividends. For those who use technology in their supply chains, the next task is to figure out how to maximize it.

Shippers who don’t accept technology and adopt changes in their trade network will most likely fall behind the rest of the shipping industry, but current researches report that humans remain a critical element for the proper functioning of supply chain.

Where should the human element be maintained? Can technology take over most of everything that humans are doing?

Communication and relationship development were the first two tasks shippers identified as critical components of a supply chain that cannot be automated and replaced by technology.

Monitoring shipments, or tracking and tracing, can now be done by computers, but shippers still want a human involved in the process.

Approximately one-half of large shippers (more than $800 million in freight spend) and more than 60 percent of medium-sized shippers ($200 million to $799 million) said humans were most valuable to communicate with third-party logistics providers, carriers, customers, or other vendors. It looks like there are things that humans do well that technology is far from challenging. These things include creativity, emotional intelligence, problem solving, and building customer relationships.