written by: Matt Collins, Director of Freight Forwarding
During our 24 years as a company operating in the freight forwarding industry, I have had the privilege of watching our team and business evolve alongside the expectations of the industry. The twists and turns that we have encountered have afforded us the experience necessary to be a leader within the freight forwarding and logistics industry and have allowed us to continue to deliver customized solutions for our customer’s distribution needs. As the world continues to evolve to current events, like the COVID-19 pandemic, so too does the freight forwarding industry. Here’s how the evolution of the industry thus far, has helped us to respond to the challenges COVID-19 has brought to our industry.
An Evolving Industry
Over the course of our time as a company, it is amazing to look back on the early days and think about how far the industry has come in such a short period of time. Technology has been a huge change driver, altering the way we communicate with each other and our customers. These advancements have also made our jobs and each aspect of the freight forwarding process immensely more efficient. I can remember, early in the beginning, only having one computer on property and having to get permission from the office manager to place weekly orders. In today’s business world, it’s extremely uncommon to not have access to a computer. When I first started working in freight forwarding, we would have to call the steamship companies and air lines to check availability and book shipments, in doing this it was pretty common to be on hold for long periods of time, up to two hours, just for one shipment. Once the shipment was booked, we would have to complete the paperwork and invoices on a typewriter in triplicate, using a fax machine to send copies to the necessary parties, and keeping all paperwork on our end. You can imagine how large our physical files were.
Communication has improved dramatically in the industry as well, to the point where not too long ago, you had to be in the office to get anything done, whereas today the world is your office. As long as you have an internet connection, you are able to work from anywhere, creating endless opportunities for remote offices. We are seeing this especially more today, than ever before, as the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we conduct business. We have seen all ‘non-essential’ workers transition to home office remote work as the need to ‘social distance’ to slow the spread has altered what our office environments are permitted to look like.
It’s hard to imagine a system before the advent of computers or the internet because they dominate so much of our society today. It’s even harder to imagine how inefficient the supply chain was back then, knowing what we know now. Today, the internet makes it easy for our team to electronically login to a carrier or freighter’s website to book and track shipments. With today’s technology, we are able to electronically send confirmations and invoices to our customers via email. Long gone are the days of triplicate copies and fax machines. Electronic scanners and email are the new normal in freight forwarding booking.
While the interaction with freighters has changed, the way that we communicate and build relationships with both existing and potential customers really hasn’t. Even though email communication is instantaneous and eliminates the need to fax or courier documents, it is still important to have interactions via phone calls or face to face meetings to continue to build and maintain these important relationships. At MD Logistics, we believe the key to a successful customer/vendor relationship is building a personal report between our team and our customer’s teams.
Looking to the Future
With all of the recent advancements in technology, it is hard to imagine what the future will look like for the freight forwarding industry. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also caused us to reconsider what the future of the freight forwarding industry looks like, even more. Where do we go from here? I think direct to consumer order fulfillment delivery windows will continue to shrink to the point where you can order something in the morning and expect delivery in the afternoon. We are already seeing this a little as both Walmart and Amazon have started to shorten ecommerce delivery windows and offer additional delivery options.
In terms of fulfillment, the industry has mastered regional fulfillment, so now I think that the natural next step is mastering global fulfillment. Global ecommerce, while in its infancy, will continue to evolve over the next 5-10 years to the point where instead of fulfilling an order locally, it will ship from abroad and be at your door in 5 days, something that even a few years ago would be inconceivable. This will probably signify the next big shift in logistics.
Finally, I see a change in the speed of interaction and communication with our customer and the end consumer. We aren’t to the point, yet, in the industry where you can login to a freighters website and see exactly where your container is, but I think the industry is close.
As the freight forwarding industry continues to evolve, so does our team in an effort to be the best industry resource for both our current customers and potential prospects whom we meet and interact with, daily. Our success as a company wouldn’t be possible had we not evolved to meet the new demands of the industry over the years.
As we move forward, we are stepping onto new ground and are committed to support your new ‘normal’. We know the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on the supply chain for years to come. Let us help you redesign your freight forwarding strategy around this new ‘normal’. We’re here to help you keep your supply chain moving forward during these challenging times.