In our latest expert Q&A, utilising the great logistics minds we have at Twill and our supercharged partners at Maersk, we spoke to Alexa Rios, Regional Product Expert for TradeLens at Maersk about digital logistics and the road ahead for SMEs:
Hey Alexa, thanks for speaking to us! Could you describe what it is you do in your role at Maersk?
Of course, at TradeLens we work with customers who are looking for solutions to improve the collaboration and efficiency of their supply chain. This is sometimes driven by specific needs, but sometimes a business just wants to improve things to achieve their business goals.
There’s a lot of people involved in supply chains and logistics is such a historic industry that a lot of information and data is still stored in various different formats – and even on paper! At TradeLens we are building towards a future where real-time data is accessible to multiple parties and documents/information can be easily and safely shared; all with the aim of improving visibility and collaboration.
That must mean you work with a lot of data! What trends have you seen in recent years?
The big trend we see happening is around digital transformation at a company level – so companies going on digital journeys to introduce integration with online platforms, simpler and more efficient processes etc.
We have gotten used to that efficiency in our daily lives – with disruptive and innovative technologies like Uber or Airbnb – so businesses are reflecting it in their own ways. All this makes digital more important than ever – and if companies aren’t thinking digital, they risk being left behind.
COVID-19 is on a lot of businesses’ minds at the minute. What have your initial thoughts been on the situation?
I think we have seen that those businesses who have adopted digital solutions or processes – whether doing their logistics digitally through a platform like Twill or being able to work/operate remotely – have coped better with the situation. But this isn’t the case for many customers, especially SMEs who might be more vulnerable – and that’s where the support of logistics providers like Twill and Maersk is so important.
The impact of COVID-19 also isn’t enough to say for sure whether a certain business strategy – i.e. not having an e-commerce strategy – is wrong. What I think it has shown us instead, is the importance of strong business relationships.
There are situations that are harder to predict than others, but the importance of building trusted and valuable relationships will always be an advantage.
That brings us nicely to our next question! How important will communication and customer service be as technology develops in the logistics industry to make things smoother, more seamless and result in less need for interaction?
It will be extremely important as we move to a new era where new technologies and trends dominate the industry. Twill is a great example of digital innovation powered by real people.
While technology will support businesses, in freeing up resources that were once spent on transactional tasks, and enhancing productivity and efficiency, customer-facing activities will be even more crucial than before.
That is because businesses need support in navigating this transition – and experienced logistics providers can help, as well as spot new opportunities for growth and innovation.
Continuing this look ahead, what one key issue, development, or innovation/technology do you think will define the next 3-5 years of trade?
A big barrier for SMEs – and almost any business – in scaling-up and expanding is the collection and processing of up-to-date data, as well as trade document exchange; both of which currently require manual checks and frequent follow-ups, resulting in errors, delays and high compliance costs.
With that in mind, we see the demand for digital documents and processes just around the corner. Thankfully you guys at Twill are ahead of the curve on that!
We expect the pace of development and adoption, as well as the variety of uses in different industries, to be accelerated in the short/mid-term; as customer and market needs are evolving faster than ever and digitalisation is key for businesses to progress in a successful and sustainable way.
It’s been so great to hear from you Alexa. Before you go, can we ask you to leave us with a unique or interesting piece of advice for our SME customers?
First, I would say that if they don’t have loads of logistics experience, then don’t worry, they don’t need to be experts! They can rely on their providers and suppliers, like us, without feeling they are behind of the curve. The key balance is between outsourcing operations and control to the right partners, which allows them to focus their resources and efforts on their own business and keep innovating!
And why is innovation so important? Well, 88% of the Fortune 500 firms that existed in 1955 are gone. Some have gone bankrupt, merged, or have fallen from the top 500. You don’t need to be on that list to be successful, but to be successful you need to innovate and be future-proof!