The Human Benefits of Transportation Procurement Digital Transformation

Katherine Barrios

August 2, 2022

Keelvar’s note: We are pleased to welcome our partner Xeneta and their Chief Marketing Officer, Katherine Barrios, as our guest blog post author for this content. Xeneta will also be joining us as our market intelligence partner for our Human+Machine Contest, providing ocean freight rate data intelligence and analysis.

While technology is starting to play an important role in some shape or form in the logistics industry, it will be procurement digital transformation in freight procurement that separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to world-class performance and world-class operations.

The freight industry has been fairly static for quite some time, even at the risk of becoming stagnant. Digital procurement and digitalization in the industry are starting to change slowly but surely. In fact, it is the digital transformation that is increasing the speed of change. As companies gain access to more efficient practices, advanced tools, information and actionable data, the pace of technological evolution is accelerating as is the speed of adoption and adaptation to these new technologies. What once might have taken years to adopt and integrate can now be done in a matter of a few months, if not weeks or even days.

The latter means a lot in an industry where technology is not yet accepted by all, where a handshake and face-to-face interaction goes a very long way. The question then is where companies should spend their time: implementing digital solutions or using that time to be on the field and build human-human connections to foster business relationships. I say, “Why not both?” 

The output of all these technological innovations in our industry is readily available actionable data and which offer invaluable insights for companies looking to optimize their operations. The result is improved operational efficiency combined with reduced operating costs which can make a considerable difference for any business that is seeking to do more than simply break even. It’s a core value proposition at the heart of the Xeneta-Keelvar partnership.

Such gained operational efficiency gives companies the opportunity to use their workforce’s time in a more strategic manner, untap other areas for growth and focus on sectors that can make an even bigger impact. Implementing these technological breakthrough tools and platforms will give organizations more time to spend on building partnerships and embark on new business development initiatives, where humans and a handshake make it or break it. 

Access to data in real time means creating a predictive or “what-if” model which can be invaluable to risk mitigation and management. In these times, this makes more sense than ever. For example, what if a bottleneck in the supply chain would cause a massive delay and risk putting delivery times behind schedule? Knowing what could happen, can make the difference in actions taken if it does happen. Predictive modeling is just one of the many advantages to be gained by having access to more data in a timely manner.

Return of Investment represents a major consideration for most companies when it comes to implementing new technologies. The shorter the ROI, the faster companies can start making a profit on the new changes. Success in this rapidly changing market will be measured in how well companies can adapt to the technological evolution. It’s no longer simply a matter of getting a freight cargo rate from A to B, for example. Customers are hungry for more actionable data to feed their own processes and as a result, the supply chain needs to be more connected than ever.

Understanding this and implementing it will create the hallmark for success, while failure to do so will put companies at risk of being outmoded and outdated. Whether it be for procurement purposes or simply making your company’s supply chain more efficient, digitalization will be the key to the future. 

Indeed, as with any revolution, the digital revolution in this industry has led to the start of hundreds of new technology companies who are improving all nodes of the supply chain. Let us not kid ourselves, however, in believing that supply chain management is simple, meaning that disparate implementations of technology into all these nodes will solve all problems. 

What still needs to be solved is how all these different technologies can work together to create complementary solutions to the most common challenges in our industries. The power of technology is integration and the ability to create ecosystems where the industry benefits from all technology collectively. It is meant to unite, not divide. To simplify and effectuate our processes.

Lastly, we must be mindful of the training needed to make this a reality. The intent is not to have misplacement of workforce, but rather train the workforce to think differently by understanding how digital procurement practices can improve and optimize everyday work tasks. Technology, AI, machine learning and the rest of the innovative technologies are not going to alone run the logistics and supply chain management. Human interaction will be needed at different stages for quality control and other unforeseen actions. Therefore, the talk about digitalization, not only in our industry, but in all areas, must never leave behind the point about training and a smooth transition for all parts involved.

About Xeneta

The ocean and air freight markets are infamously volatile and have suffered from a lack of transparency into rate movements. The traditional and static way of procuring freight has made it very difficult for shippers and freight forwarders to monitor the market and understand if indeed they are paying the right freight rate to move a container from A to B. Xeneta delivers a neutral on-demand platform of over 200 million contracted ocean and air freight rates available in real time for over 160K+ port-port pairs. It gives the needed actionable rate data industry stakeholders need to strategically optimize and modernize how they procure freight.

Katherine Barrios is Chief Marketing Officer at Xeneta, leading the company's marketing and customer success teams. She comes to Xeneta with 20 years of B2B software product experience focusing on strategic product marketing and management, demand generation, enterprise sales, PR/communication for global hi-tech companies.

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