Digitization In Logistics

When logistics is “digitized” it means that there are no stops added un-necessarily. It also means that human effort is eliminated for steps that involve simply duplicating information that is already associated with the shipment.

When you get a home delivery of food, the process seems easy enough. You simply give information on what you want, from where it will be cooked, and where you want it delivered. This whole process in the Internet connected world can all be paperless.

This is not the same for making B2B purchases – especially if it is an international shipment. In a time where so much is paperless – the industry and the laws managing the industry struggles to advance. At times it seems there is no advancement whatsoever.

Government regulations that demand physical signatures from Shippers on the export side or require government officials to add their own signatures and stamps still exist. These ideally all need to be automated.

When dealing with food or other commodities the same details of the shipments are repeated because more than one government department wants a record (or some oversight). The data could have been stored in the same place, but due to independent development of individual departments over the years  - it often means they don’t share the same database (if they even have a database) so things need to be retyped into different places.

The most inspired development I’ve seen in regards to using one data entry for multiple departments has been in Singapore. They have developed the Networked Trade Platform (NTP) initiative to digitize not only the transport and regulatory documentation of the shipments, but also added in features to support the financial transactions that trade requires. It allows an Exporter to put in all the data once and then documentation for various needs can be generated using those details. The data is also automatically shared to various departments that need it.

Connecting countries is next. Singapore can automate all it wants, but without trade partner countries also automating – the NTP will have limited benefits. China has stepped up to some degree by linking their customs to the NTP – but their needs to be many more links.

Please encourage other governments to get on board. If you work with senior customs officials, then encourage them to sign on. It would ultimately be ideal if the NTP could be adopted as an international platform with some trusted third party oversight, but regional integration is more likely to happen first. So, you people in Asia – please let your customs contact knows what the future can look like.

Digitization is not just a means to reduce paper and the delays that papers (or lack of) can incur. It also adds much needed transparency in a system that is now very much hidden into multiple silos of information. So LET’S ALL WORK TO DIGITIZE LOGISTICS! 

Tags: Logistics
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