The supply chain is becoming a mainstay of public concern as a result of COVID-19, but industry leaders know that supply chain health is historically fragile under natural and market forces: hurricanes, tariffs, wildfires, labor regulations, and carbon-reduction mandates. The rising demands of e-commerce amid increasing consumer expectations for fast and free shipping have only added more stress to the system.
The combination of these forces has pushed the supply chain into the spotlight, highlighting the challenges of the ever-shifting landscape, the impact on workers up and down supply chains and various levels of the economy, and the growing need for innovative technologies and strategic partnerships to tackle these issues.
Today, most shippers must rely on an interconnected network of technology, logistics and service providers to keep goods moving — transporting them across the world and across the country through various warehouses and distribution centers before they hit retail shelves or your front door.
This complex behind-the-scenes coordination involves multiple companies and technology platforms — reliant on a backbone of communication largely done manually through emails and phone calls.
At its recent conference, FWD21, global logistics platform Flexport featured a conversation between its chief technology officer, James Chen, and Ziad Ismail, the chief product officer at digital freight network Convoy. In June, the two organizations announced a strategic long-term partnership and shared commitment to create full end-to-end supply chain visibility — from international production to the final store delivery. In addition to discussing the impacts of the partnership, Ziad and James also unpacked the industry’s sticky communication issues.
According to Chen, large volumes of information come through disparate channels, like phone, email and chat because we’re dealing with the physical world. Chen states that while “a large carrier or logistics service provider hopefully has a great process they’re augmenting to automatically send and communicate, in reality, when an exception happens, you want to get information out,” and that urgency creates fragmentation around how we communicate.