By Daniel Tok, Group CEO, CWT Globelink Group
There are many moving parts when it comes to the supply chain and logistics industry. From freight forwarders to manufacturers and importers or exporters, the supply chain industry is an ecosystem that operates in both synchroneity and in relation to one another.
That, however, makes it highly sensitive to all forms of disruption. Changes in consumer shopping habits can drastically impact operations. For instance, with Southeast Asia seeing a 63% increase in e-commerce gross merchandise value from 2019, there were major adjustments required to cater to this demand for the industry to adapt and evolve accordingly.
On top of that, 2020 itself saw a whole new operating field for the industry due to the pandemic. Medicine, agriculture and manufacturing are just some of the goods essential in helping the world stand on its feet throughout this period. One major challenge lies in ensuring goods are where they needed to be even as everything was in disarray; a challenge that required a deeper look at the state of the supply chain industry overall.
The Golden Hour
Supply chain has long been a high-volume business on almost all fronts. Increased activity in the eCommerce ecosystem, however, has rapidly accelerated purchase patterns and the mode of delivery. This has permanently altered the way goods are being transported and supplied between online marketplaces.
Last year has highlighted the gaps within supply chains, but it has also brought with it the adoption of new solutions. Higher volume demand coupled with the restriction of working environments proved that services needed to function even as personnel were working remotely. We also witnessed how legacy systems made way for cloud-based systems capable of automating processes, counteracting the reduction of manpower, despite the increase in volume and transactions occurring in part due to the acceleration of eCommerce.
There is no doubt that there has been a reduction in demand for certain services, but those who were already on a path to digital transformation before the pandemic were able to reap the rewards of business resilience better than others. Embracing emerging technologies including AI, Machine Learning, Bot and Analytics have allowed teams to identify new opportunities and stay lean using a data-driven approach. This further ingrained the need to adopt a future-facing approach that is capable of not just planning for the now but also remaining steadfast in the face of the unexpected.
Casting the Right Sails
Technology has always been the wind behind the sails of success, and we foresee emerging technologies continue to integrate within both the up and downstream. Now, having a business digitally ahead of the curve sends a clear message on the resilience of the supply chain – a highly attractive prospect in this “new” economy.
A majority of our customers are mainly freight forwarders themselves, and we ourselves are a Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) operating in the Less than a Container Load (LCL) segment. As such, for our forwarder customers who operate on a global scale, they require partners who are collaborative to understand their needs and vision. Achieving this involves CWT Globelink’s services with our customers and partners through business processes using API/EDI/gateway technologies. This reduces the need for manual processes and creates cohesion among all those who are involved, making it easier to pursue common objectives and serve our customers with the combined efficacy of the digital tools at our disposal.
One example of our digitisation effort is the deployment of bots with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) capabilities to process and analyse big data, removing the need to perform menial tasks such as invoice data entry. These features perform most optimally when operating out of the same operation resource, reducing manual processes for us, our collaborators and ultimately, for the customers.
Nowadays with industry players having to manage a breadth of moving parts, having multiple touchpoints for the benefits of customers has also become just as important in driving new value across the supply chain. This ranges from online portals, messenger platforms as well as mobile applications. Providing customers with an array of options to better communicate with agents and partners into our network then further greases the efficiency of data transformation and business processes along the whole chain.
CWT Globelink has achieved this with the help of Low Code application development technology. We utilize Oracle Application Express (APEX) to accelerate enterprise application development that runs on Oracle Database, both on-premise and also on cloud. This allows us to stay abreast of developments across our supply chain when the pandemic hit. This served as a key component in fulfilling customer demands in highly fluid operating circumstances.
The takeaway for the Journey Ahead
As a global player for LCL segment in the Supply Chain and Logistics industry, a majority of our business comes from small freight forwarder players. Adding on the changing landscape of the industry, it was important for our growth and scaling as a global player to adapt to changes, while providing the means and tools for other players to continue operations by leveraging our expertise and capabilities.
The foundation of all business processes and operations should be constantly monitored and upgraded, just like the hull of a ship. With a solid foundation, we can look at expanding our services not only to our benefit but for the benefit of our customers to create a more efficient ecosystem for everyone to thrive on.
Moving forward the digital waves will continue to come storming in, and even the biggest ships that do not stay ahead of the curve will face rough tides. Opportunity comes to those who are ready, and we must prepare ourselves so that when the opportunity presents itself, we can capitalise on it effectively.
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About the writer
Daniel Tok is the Group CEO of CWT Globelink, where he oversees the overall development of the freight logistics business and implements the strategic directions of CWT Globelink network. Mr. Tok held the position of Deputy CEO, Freight Logistics from 2012 to 2015. He joined CWT Globelink as its Chief Operating Officer in 2008. Mr. Tok has been working in the freight industry since 1982.