"The time is now to invest in technology, and if we continue to work together, we’ll create efficiencies that will have a lasting impact on the supply chain," Daniel Lilley says. -...

"The time is now to invest in technology, and if we continue to work together, we’ll create efficiencies that will have a lasting impact on the supply chain," Daniel Lilley says.

Photo: Werner Enterprises

Within the past five years, a shift has occurred in the transportation industry. Prior to that time, many companies in the space did not see an urgent need to modernize or digitize processes that had worked for decades. But now, the transportation and logistics industry has experienced a fundamental change in new technology adoption, which is driving efficiencies across all facets of the supply chain.

The legacy players have awakened to the need to innovate and invest continuously to stay competitive, inspiring a massive shift to explore, develop and implement new technologies. Since the supply chain is extremely complex, with its numerous entities, people, processes and resources, it isn’t surprising that has taken time for digitization to take place. However, the results of this technology implementation across the supply chain are undeniable.

One technology that is beginning to touch all aspects of the supply chain, including partners and vendors, is the cloud. Technology stored and deployed in the cloud increases interoperability between platforms, improves security, and increases innovation. At the carrier level, this means advanced telematics devices streaming real-time internet of things data that can be used to optimize routes, prevent downtime, increase safety, and enable the fleet to perform more effectively. In addition, cloud-supported and API-connected self-service marketplaces allow for carriers and shippers to optimize freight, book/submit loads, view tracking information and more through one single platform.

With the implementation of cloud technology comes other benefits to the supply chain, including improved speed of information. The ability to view the real-time status, estimated arrival times, and updates of freight is key to delivering a positive experience for customers. This accessibility of information allows stakeholders to dispatch and receive a shipment without any human intervention, a significant improvement from a queue-based process, which created inefficiencies as items were held at each point in the process until they could be manually advanced.

Using a modern tech stack is vital. As logistics companies seek to optimize operations and improve experiences for their organizations, customers and employees, they should meet the customers where they are. Each audience may have slightly different needs. For example, a small to midsize customer may prefer a portal to access shipment details and tracking. A large shipper might prefer API-driven technology that sends the data directly and automatically. Understand your customer and their needs and build tech that satisfies those needs. Though it is a significant undertaking, now is the time to invest in the cloud, as it gives you the flexibility to build technology to meet those customer needs — no matter what they are.

Not every trucking or logistics company will be an expert in all areas. They don’t need to be. Strategic technology partnerships with innovators are essential to creating technology that will deliver on the needs of your customers. Leveraging existing technology and implementing those solutions into your tech stack is important. And this is easier than ever. By working toward the same universal goal of bettering the industry through tech, we’re seeing a secondary shift in how data is connected.

In the past, if one company was working toward a new solution, they may have been siloed by their own data, niche or expertise. With the wealth of data-driven technology available to market today, we’re seeing an increase in the availability of data across partners and more of a willingness to work together to maximize that knowledge.

The future of the supply chain is bright. We anticipate seeing the continued digitization of the supply chain, especially regarding existing paper-first and manual process that need to be automated. The time is now to invest in technology, and if we continue to work together, we’ll create efficiencies that will have a lasting impact on the supply chain.

Daniel Lilley, a 2020 HDT Truck Fleet Innovator, joined Werner Enterprises in 2018 and is currently vice president of product and engineering. He led the company’s launch of Werner Edge, which advances the performance and safety of drivers, shippers and carriers with the latest technology-rich solutions. Prior to joining Werner, Lilley worked at Swift Transportation for over 11 years. This article was authored and edited according to HDT editorial standards and style to provide useful information to our readers. Opinions expressed may not reflect those of HDT.