Digital Transformation of Supply Chain

digital transformationMuch of the conversation these days about supply chain centers around the “digital disruption” of the business. The very definition of “disruption” implies a major disturbance; that it’s all changing too rapidly and upending the accepted way of doing things. But in reality, we have been living within the digital transformation of supply chain for quite some time. Consider this, right now at C.H. Robinson, almost 70 percent of our interactions are completely digital. We are processing hundreds of millions of digital transactions every year.

We wanted to know how technological changes are impacting our customers and how we can harness our technology and scale to give them an information advantage. To dig deeper, we conducted a comprehensive customer survey. We asked specific questions about their needs and priorities, if and how those have changed, and what they think the future looks like. We gathered some valuable insights from more than 3,000 shippers and more than 5,000 carriers.

The findings reveal that both shippers and carriers are embracing the digital transformation with a top priority being to actively look for ways to better leverage data and technology to move goods faster, smarter and more cost effectively.

Here are some of our key findings:

  • 98 percent of supply chain technology decision-makers are looking for improvements in their logistics technology stack. Furthermore, all shippers are under real pressure to continually increase efficiency and they are looking at technology as a means to achieve this.
  • 88 percent of shippers believe technology is a core part of the answer — more than ever before. They want technology to improve transparency and reliability.
  • 88 percent of the shippers who contract to purchase freight say technology is extremely or very important when choosing a logistics provider. In fact, 65 percent say they either have or are planning to implement real time visibility and insight tools in the next two years.
  • 83 percent of carriers want a dedicated representative who understands their needs. They want someone who they can call who deeply understands their business and to know it will be the same person every time not just an anonymous voice in a call center. Bottom line: Carriers also want people who know how things work.
  • 83 percent of shippers say having a logistics partner with local and global expertise is essential, and that means having a global network, staffed by people with local expertise (on regulations, culture, and language).

These findings weren’t surprising to us. While advanced technology is crucial to success in today’s fiercely competitive business of global supply chain, people are still a key competitive advantage. The findings say loud and clear that even though our industry is undergoing a digital transformation, it’s important to invest in both people and technology to deliver the best supply chain solutions.

As our research reveals, digital disruption is the norm, and the drive to continually innovate to move things faster and cheaper and meet customers where and how they live will separate the winners from the losers. We are now in a tech business. But make no mistake, people will drive the tech and not the other way around.

Chris O’Brien is the Chief Commercial Officer for C.H. Robinson. His mission is to ensure C.H. Robinson puts customers at the center of everything the company does, solving customers’ logistics challenges and supporting their success. He works to accelerate the pace of innovation to continuously improve the way customers manage their supply chains, and knows customers are counting on C.H. Robinson to provide the experience, expertise and technology needed to win. Throughout his 25+ years at C.H. Robinson, Chris has served as manager of Raleigh, N.C. operations, and Senior Vice President and President of C.H. Robinson’s European division.

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