COVID-19 has presented a range of challenges to the cargo and shipping industries, but an opportunity and trend has emerged from the crisis – faster adoption of digital technology and services.

The pandemic has accelerated digitization across all industries, businesses and every aspect of society.

Technology is being utilized as robots simultaneously disinfect cities and deliver packages, smart devices are monitoring patients’ health and tracking cargo shipments, Human-AI collaboration is helping scientists studying the virus and collaboration tools have made the move to work from home much easier.

Ongoing technological change has forged ahead at an unprecedented rate across all business sectors and is helping organisations navigate widespread operational challenges.

COVID-19 has fuelled the digital revolution further, and in April during the height of the pandemic’s outbreak, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella said the organisation had ‘seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.

Businesses must act fast

Businesses must act faster than ever on digitization and it is critical for leaders to understand digital on the path to “The Next Normal’, according to this article by management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.

McKinsey Digital senior partner, Kate Smaje explained how COVID-19 has been the greatest impetus for behavioural change in our lifetime.

“It’s really hard to join any company board meeting right now and not talk about how important technology is – as both an opportunity and a threat – in reshaping their business system,” she said.

“The impact of COVID-19 has only made this more relevant as companies have surged in serving their customers (whether B2B or B2C) through digital channels.”

Kate also talked about the importance of good, accessible data and how for businesses to come out stronger from this crisis – digital, technology, and data are going to become even more critical.

“COVID-19 has only made digital more relevant as companies…have undergone their own massive, overnight experiment in agile, and remote ways of working,” Kate added.

Why is digitization so important to our industry?

Digital transformation is vital to the future success of the international freight supply chain, across all modes of transport, to meet the widespread challenges that exist.

Air cargo, maritime, trucking and rail modes of moving cargo, all have to some extent been slow to invest until now and there has been a certain resistance to embrace new technology, as some have favoured sticking with traditional processes and ways of working, but this trend is changing as the supply chain sees the benefits of investments in latest cutting-edge technologies.

The cargo and shipping industries have been edging towards digital transformation, but still have a long way to go, and the pandemic it seems is driving investment in digital services, and this journey must continue in order for them to stay competitive.

Businesses must digitise and automate manual processes to boost efficiency, transparency, customer service and cost effectiveness, which in turn makes them more agile and able to withstand downturns caused by global recessions and pandemics.

Real-time data gives full transparency to customers and also enables the competitive edge that is needed to make proactive business decisions.

By digitizing manual processes, the cargo and shipping industries can reduce paper documentation, manual labour and errors, while operational processes where possible, need to be automated to ensure maximum efficiency, allowing resources to be upskilled and refocused on new value-add areas of the business.

Digital technology from booking process tools, IoT (Internet of Things), sensors for track and trace of shipments, RFID tags to replace existing paper documentation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and online freight payment platforms such as PayCargo’s, are helping the international freight supply chain to work more efficiently and seamlessly.

If supply chain processes are simplified through digitalization, it makes it easier for carriers to utilise their empty capacity better and expedite the seamless flow of cargo in global markets.

Technological revolution

The global freight supply chain is currently facing the challenge of not only navigating their way through this global crisis, but also repositioning themselves for a new world and the future, where technology will be driving trade, commerce and society.

COVID-19 has compelled businesses to test what technology works and what doesn’t, and given many the chance to finally move away from legacy systems or services to new tech, which delivers more benefits.

PayCargo’s digital payment platform is a great example of this, and we have seen strong demand from across the supply chain during the pandemic, as stakeholders experience how a high-tech digital freight payment platform can help their businesses in a number of ways, both during COVID-19 and after.

Our platform helps eliminate human errors, removes needless paper transactions, facilitates data flows, improves transparency throughout the value chain, thereby enabling shipments to move faster, as the world moves towards a contactless and cashless society.

The COVID-19 pandemic it seems has triggered a rethink by many businesses as to the strategic role and value of technology as part of their critical infrastructure, and the digital transformation that is so needed across the industry is gathering pace.

PayCargo’s strategy is to be at the heart of this digital transformation and we will continue to collaborate with industry partners to grow a robust global digital eco-system across the international freight supply chain that provides companies with easy access to latest technologies and best practices, thereby helping to ease their transition into this new digital age.