Here’s how progressive customs clearance is

While the other verticals of the logistics sector are mostly in the news, the customs clearance is the least talked about vertical. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the vertical is stagnant. There is a lot happening in the arena. Let’s take a close look at each factor contributing to the vertical’s progression.

Technology boost – Emerging technologies have been dominating the space and are expected to bring a radical shift in the way customs clearance generally works. Due to the incorporation of the latest technology in the operations, the customs clearance process has become faster. For instance, if a process used to take 12 hours earlier, will now take only 12 minutes. This looks achievable due to process automation. Automated facilities have the potential to slash the time it usually takes for customs clearance at Indian ports. If we consider the scenario in Mumbai, India, the government has started acknowledging the role of blockchain, machine learning, and artificial intelligence in reducing the clearance time. The implementation of these state-of-the-art technological advancements will also eliminate physical documentation.

IT integration – Efficient management of customs clearance operations largely depends on IT integration between customs brokers and customers. This would not only accelerate the customs processes but also largely cut down on the risks of liability of importers and exporters for errors made by their service providers. IT integration would also increase the possibility of identifying and analyzing discrepancies, if any.

Leveraging regulations – Different countries have different regulations. As making through the global trade market comes with its associated risks, therefore, to seize maximum opportunities, it’s wise to leverage regulations. Talking about futuristic reform, customs clearance would be seen leveraging the potential of country-wise regulations to make the most out of the opportunities.

Personalizing public services – In order to make life of the trading community, customs staff, and border agencies easier, it’s important for the customs agents to personalize the services and offer more engaging user experience. Eventually, the customs agents have recognized the importance of personalized public services and are striving to re-design, measure, analyze, and automate the trading experience around the end user.

Incorporation of smarter hardware – Low cost hardware with greater processing power such as smart seals or trafficking sensors can be of great help for customs agencies. They will be able to detect if a seal on a cargo item is tampered with and locate the container well before it reaches the customs official. Customs clearance has actually taken a cautious step forward due to this trend.

Just like the other areas of logistics and supply chain, customs clearance has a huge room for improvement. Logistics and supply chain experts are constantly on the lookout for new trends and emerging technologies that can enhance the customs clearance processes.

Here’s how the future of D2D logistics looks like

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Global logistics market is expected to flourish exponentially in the coming years. According to the 2018 data of the Economic Survey, logistics industry of India is pegged to grow at 10% per annum. It has also been envisioned by the experts that the future growth of the industry will be focused on India’s tier 2 and 3 markets which talk a lot about the emerging opportunities for door to door logistics service providers.

In order to understand how door to door logistics will play an indispensable role in the economic growth and how the future of door to door logistics looks like from the current angle, let’s delve further into some of the speculations.

If the current economic condition of India is taken into consideration, the nation needs to buck up in terms of exports in order to accomplish the mission of joining the USD 5 trillion club by 2025. If the exports are to be increased, logistics will play a crucial role in moving raw materials to the manufacturing plants. With the increase in manufacturing of products, the need of production plants is also likely to increase. With that happening, a lot of movement of goods is expected.

Another likelihood is the rapid urbanization in India in the coming years which implies that more frequent movement of goods will take place to the newly turned cities. This will act as a primary contributor to the growth of the door-to-door logistics sector. While we are still considering the aspects namely growth in the manufacturing sector, infrastructure, urbanization, etc for the future of D2D logistics in India, technologically advanced countries are devising ways to improve last mile logistics.   

Last mile logistics is being eyed as the area of emphasis in the D2D logistics arena. Countries across the globe are trying to improve the last mile delivery services and make them more efficient, streamlined, and simplified. With changing customer expectations, it has become important for the D2D logistics sector to work on the delivery time. Earlier, customers who wanted faster delivery were ready to pay extra but with time, the dynamics have changed. They want faster delivery without paying anything extra. There are customers who expect delivery in no time and that is exactly where express D2D logistics services come into the picture. It is pretty much evident that the future of D2D logistics will comprise of express deliveries. 

Customers have already started seeking complete transparency in terms of shipping. They prefer to be informed of the shipping status of their goods and wish to have complete control over their shipment. With such demands in place, D2D logistics services with efficient tracking ability look promising to stand the test of time. Due to a drastic shift to e-commerce sector, the D2D logistics sector has already observed a substantial growth. With time, the e-commerce sector growth statistics are likely to increase, thus giving a push to the D2D logistics growth. 

Considering the futuristic approaches being adopted by the logistics companies, robotics will certainly dominate this arena. Unmanned deliveries with the help of robots and drones will be more common scenario. As operational excellence is necessary in the door-to-door supply chain, robotisation will help in meeting the requisite. Moreover, robotisation will combat resource shortage and change in the labour market conditions which will directly impact the delivery time.

With the introduction of ultra-low emission zones or clean air zones, D2D logistics sector will be forced to use zero emission vehicles with no pollution and no noise. The future of D2D logistics looks quite greener, not adhering to which will cost heavy penalty. 

Currently, a lot of effort is being put into new transport planning and more efficient scheduling systems. Big data is being implemented to attain a radical change in the way scheduling systems work at the moment. Big data will help in the forecast of delivery routes which will in turn help in tactical planning. On the basis of real time traffic information and the availability of unloading zones, operational planning and scheduling will be done. Smart planning and IoT will ensure that the planning process is brought down to seconds from minutes. 

Uberfication is something that cannot go unnoticed when it comes to last mile logistics. It is a widespread phenomenon that is expected to improve the urban freight process. Data sharing capabilities with several private and public partners in the supply chain will certainly be a seamless process due to uberfication. D2D logistics is a domain that can be largely benefitted by uberfication.

Another futuristic trend largely envisioned by the D2D logistics experts is the building or taking advantage of urban warehouse space. In this manner, slow, large scale mobility can be coupled with personalised, small scale mobility. This will help in the strengthening of public-private partnerships. 

Strong safety measures can also be expected to do rounds in the D2D logistics arena in the future. As D2D logistics is all about heavy vehicles and cargo vans, improving the safety standards will undoubtedly play a crucial role in operational enhancements. 

With all the trends and speculations discussed, the future of D2D logistics looks transformed for the better. In India, the developments might not look as pronounced as they would in the technologically advanced countries, nevertheless, the sector is expected to grow substantially.


The Changing Face of Pick And Pack

Pick and pack, being one of the core features of warehouse operations is largely getting impacted due to the consistent march of technology. It is widely anticipated by the experts that technology will disrupt the existing model of the pick and pack fulfillment. Considering all the innovations in this space, the following are the primary disrupting technologies that have the potential to change the face of pick and pack to a great extent.

i) Robotics

ii) Process automation

iii) Software and sensors

iv) Augmented reality 

Let’s take a dive into each of these key developments in technology:

Robotics – In the pick and pack operations, a lot of human motion is involved. Therefore, a lot of energy as well as time are wasted while moving between stock location and the packing location. With the help of “follow me” robots, it is possible to do away with unnecessary human motion and thus cut down on wastage of time and energy. The movements between stock and packing locations are handled by different robots from time to time. Robotic solutions offer several opportunities for the tedious tasks to be taken care of by the robots while workers can focus on more important responsibilities. At the same time, industry experts are of the opinion that it is not yet time for robotic solutions to replace humans in the warehouse completely. Moreover, robotic solutions replacing humans is a widely debated topic. 

Process Automation – Automation of pick and pack operations acts like a boon when there is a labor shortage or lack of efficient people in the warehouse. Due to the rapid growth of the e-commerce sector, it has become more than common an affair to have labor shortage. Hence, pick and pack has attracted an automation boom. High-density automated storage, automated shuttle systems, automated pouch sorters, put walls, and automated packaging systems are some advanced automation techniques that are ideal for handling items and can be incorporated in the pick and pack operations. Automated lift trucks, drones taking inventory in the warehouse are the latest innovations that are not in wide use yet.

Software and Sensors – While warehouse automation is mostly about accelerating the operational processes, there is a requirement for systems that are even smarter. The pick and pack demands a system that can orchestrate activities in the facility in such a way that items picked from different locations arrive at the same time at the packing station so that the order can be closed, a system that can foretell if the motor is about to fail so that the issue can be addressed before the process gets interrupted. With the help of smart sensors, it is possible to solve such problems as sensors monitor collect data and software optimizes operations. Thus, today’s pick and pack facilities are mostly software-centric.

Augmented Reality – This is an innovation that has not been accepted widely yet. Whenever that happens, you would be able to see people wearing smart glasses in the next generation warehouses. This will present a clear picture to them as to what should be picked up, which direction to follow in order to get there, and present a comparison with actual pictures giving an opportunity to ensure that the right item has been picked up. Augmented reality plays a pivotal role in enhancing the user’s experience by presenting graphics and text to the real environment which can add value to the pick and pack workers as they can have all the valuable data at one point of time. Eventually, pick and pack scenario is most likely to adopt augmented reality along with other innovations.

The changed face of pick and pack will substantially depend on the adoption of the technologies discussed above.

Future of Project Cargo in India

Moving project cargo is a sensitive and responsible assignment due to the risks associated with the unique nature of the goods. With the increase in the demand for project cargo space, challenges on this front have also surfaced drastically. Conversely, massive developments in the technological front at a global scale have not left the project cargo space unimpacted. People belonging to project cargo niche have recognized the significance of technology and are eventually incorporating it into their operations to curb the challenges. While technology is just one of the factors, bulk cargo or heavy-lift shipments require excellent infrastructure, high-end equipment, and experienced professionals.

Streamlining of process is essential when the demand of project cargo is high. In order to do so, there arises an increased need for efficiency, comprehensiveness, and digital solutions. Meeting the steadily growing demands skilfully seem possible if the project cargo industry develops new ways and keeps up with the technological advancements rationalizing project cargo logistics.

Future of project cargo logistics largely depends on how soon the challenges of the industry are overcome. Before we move on to discussing the possible solutions, let’s delve into the current challenges that the industry faces.

  1. Cost of fuel – High fuel costs lead to increase in transportation costs for shippers. Therefore, the issue that the project cargo industry faces revolves around cutting down on transportation costs. 
  2. Regulations – Heightened compliances and regulations imposed by federal, state, and local authorities create pressure on the project cargo industry from time to time. 
  3. Economy – Surcharged fuel costs not only lead to a huge credit crisis but also increase inflation within economies. 
  4. Customer Service – Due to technological developments, customer expectations have risen multifold. They want complete transparency at all times in terms of their shipment delivery. Meeting customer expectations has become a challenge for the project cargo industry because it requires expedited shipping method coupled with high-end tracking software.
  5. Implementation of new technology and strategies – Onboarding new technologies is an expensive affair for logistics companies. Therefore, despite supporting the benefits new technologies have to offer, they are on the look-out for more cost-effective ways.

Potential Solutions  
Considering the current scenario of India, the nation is soon going to experience a major upsurge in industrial and manufacturing activity. With the boom in the investment in infrastructure, there will be a drastic increase in the activity of project cargo movement. Hence, making provisions for both equipment and personnel experienced in handling cargo is the need of the hour. 

Gradual adoption of radical technologies also seems to be a priority as the future of project logistics will be faster, better, and self-driven. Logistics companies in India must brace themselves up for a digital transformation. 

With some amendments in government policies, it is expected that there will be a substantial growth in this segment. 

Moreover, packaging has an indispensable role to play in project logistics. Details collected in the initial stages of communication right from the time of query is important in determining the prices, hence there should be absolute transparency with the end client. It not only makes the process seamless but also helps in determining the right packaging options at par with the dimensions and weight of the shipment. 

Coming up with several cost-effective strategies will be more beneficial than cutting down on random expenses. 

Industry leaders have largely anticipated that the project cargo industry in India will develop by leaps and bounds. To reap the benefits of the surged demands, the industry needs to be vigilant and work on devising new strategies.  

Top 7 Challenges in Sea Freight Forwarding

Despite the world’s 90% goods being transported by sea, the sea freight forwarding industry has not been sailing smoothly in recent times. With a global economic slowdown, this industry has also been hit hard. Several mergers, buyouts, alliances, and bankruptcy have been observed dominating the space. So, in a way, financial struggles and losses are seemingly evident in the sea freight forwarding industry.

Let’s delve into the challenges bothering the sea freight forwarding industry currently. Eventually, we shall discuss the commonly faced challenges.

  1. IMO Cleaner Fuel Mandate  With IMO’s cleaner fuel mandate, the sulfur level in fuel has been advised to be cut down to 0.5% by 2020. The current limit being 3.5%, the transition of culminating to cleaner fuel levels is certainly going to be an expensive affair for the carriers. This will not only be a blow for the carriers but also for the sea freight forwarders, the consequence of which will be an increase in rates. According to industry experts, never before did the sea freight industry experience such a regulatory mandate with potentially disruptive impact. Hence, this mandate has added on to the worries of carriers and sea freight forwarders.
  2. Trade War — The escalating tariff war between the US and China which is at a ceasefire has increased uncertainty in the sea freight forwarding industry. If a deal is not reached by the deadline, i.e. March 1st, 2020, the US will increase tariffs on approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10% to 25%. This will lead to a decreased freight volume. On the other hand, if the tariff war escalates again, the volume of freight will definitely be adversely affected. With challenges like this, the rates of sea freight industry are surely going to shoot up. Keeping the macro-economic trends aside, let’s take a look at the crucial challenges faced by sea freight forwarders.
  • Competition — Competition is extremely intense in the sea freight forwarding industry and with the passage of time, it’s simply growing. There are several logistics companies that were not into forwarding or NVOCC type services earlier. However, of late, they have become a part of this game. If sources are to be believed, giants like Amazon are also pondering over getting into the game which if happens, will increase the competition by multiple times.
  • Volatility — There’s a lot of instability associated with the sea freight forwarding industry. Due to complicated rates and contracts, this industry cannot be understood by everyone but experts. Understanding the volatile cost structure due to the random nature of surcharges and GRI’s is a complicated process. Therefore, sometimes it becomes challenging for the sea freight forwarders to provide reliable and accurate rates to customers. Although process simplification tops the priority list at the moment yet it’s not going to bring a sign of relief for the freight forwarders anytime soon.
  • Commoditization — For a lot of shippers, transportation is a commodity and the primary focus is getting the shipments delivered. They don’t pay much heed to their service or price. At times, their price is so low that it gets difficult for freight forwarders to beat them at their price despite knowing the fact that they can offer better service and new technology improving the customer experience. Some freight forwarders are trying to combat the challenge by devising ways to compete with conventional service providers.
  • Rate of Change — The number of changes happening in the sea freight forwarding industry is posing new challenges every day. Ocean carriers forming alliances in large numbers is one of the recent trends that is impacting the rates, contracts of forwarders with the carriers, and services. Change in technological advances affect the way freight forwarding businesses are managed and services are provided. There has been a noticeable change in this front too.
  • Management of Tender — Responding to complex tenders is a challenging work for most of the sea freight forwarders. Due to the large volume of the bids and complexity in their nature, resources are drained big time. Therefore, some freight forwarders have made it a point that they work on the improvement of the tender management process in order to emerge successful at accurate and faster bidding.

Thus, it is important for freight forwarders to do smart work. Only then would they survive the intense competition and make themselves distinguishable in terms of services, rates, technology, and customer experiences.

Here’s the Next in Air Freight Forwarding

Air freight forwarding has been experiencing radical changes due to the changes in these two aspects; technology and regulation. These two areas largely impact the industry and its potential profitability. When we talk about the future of air freight forwarding, we must closely delve into these two aspects as these have the capability to pose several wrenches in the operations of air freight forwarding as well as improve cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

Technology has taken the world by storm and air freight shipping is not left behind either. Most of the air freight forwarders have adapted to technology as a broad spectrum of innovation covering digitization to automation. The conventional freight forwarders who didn’t evolve in tandem with the latest technology were left behind in the race and were overtaken by tech-savvy air freight forwarders. In order to keep up with the technological advances, regulations must as well evolve.

Technology in air freight shipping — Air freight shipping has embraced technology in a way that the industry has transformed multi-folds in terms of the incorporation of robotics, automated systems, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), drones and the use of big data. Although most of the air freight forwarders lack complete information regarding leveraging the maximum potential of these latest innovations yet a few could reap benefits from them making their air freight forwarding processes comparatively cheaper, easier, and safer.

Technology has the potential to disrupt the entire way the air freight forwarding industry functions. Therefore, if air freight forwarders don’t adapt to emerging technology, they are quite likely to be left out.

Let’s discuss some common uses of technology in air freight forwarding.

  1. Process automation — Air freight forwarding has seen the use of driverless cars and drone technology in recent times. These have opened new possibilities for the industry. Another huge innovation is underway for which early-stage testing has been successfully conducted. Boeing conducted the testing for unmanned cargo aerial vehicles in early 2018 for a future launch of autonomous flight. This and Amazon’s plans to have drone deliveries are the most exciting developments for the air freight forwarding domain.
  2. Digitization — Just like several other industries, air freight forwarding has also moved to digital. The IATA has a goal to turn the process into completely paperless and get into “smart data sharing.” While some freight forwarders have reduced the usage of paper and printed materials, some have already transformed themselves by making use of niche-specific apps and software that take care of everything, right from invoicing to freight tracking. Going paperless has multiple benefits. Doing paperwork is not only arduous but also has a scope of error. Embracing digitization saves both cost and time and ensures that the error percentage is reduced to a great extent. Moreover, a digital approach presents a more attractive image of the air freight forwarder to the clients and customers. Therefore, an air freight forwarder embracing a digital transformation can be assured of cost-effectiveness, environment-friendliness, efficiency, and competitive advantage.

Regulation in air freight shipping

With the change in the nature of air freight forwarding, the nature of regulations must as well adapt. Due to a drastic shift in the expectation of air freight forwarders and clients in terms of speed, efficiency, transparency, traceability, and simplicity, the IATA expects the regulations to increase and evolve to be more balanced, smart, and data-driven.

There is one aspect that tops the priority list of the IATA, no matter what and that is safety. The IATA wants to ensure that the evolution of regulations should not compromise with safety. Especially when development in air freight forwarding is vigorous, safety becomes paramount. Conversely, increased regulations might contribute to greater security costs for the air freight forwarders.

However, regulations must be adhered to alongside the embracement of digitization, hence, air freight forwarders need to make strategic choices so that they can make the most of technological advances while being compliant with regulations.