© Dmytro Onopko

The digitisation of container supply chains is likely to happen far faster than many freight transport and logistics service providers realise.

One leading Asia-based supply chain head has argued that the next three years would be a significant turning point for the industry..

Tommy Liu, head of North Asia for healthcare supply chain specialist IDS Medical Systems, told delegates at the TOC Container Supply Chain event in Singapore last week that a rapid digital transformation was under way in the provision of healthcare services in China, which provided a template for how the logistics serving the industry was also likely to evolve.

Healthcare provision in China has been utterly transformed in the past couple of years, according to Mr Liu, as the government sought to overhaul a system on the verge of collapse.

To do this, it first digitised the previously heavily manual processes between patients and doctors, such as making appointments online, and then improving medical services themselves through greater use of technology such as robotics and AI.

“These things all happened in the past couple, of years, and if they can happen in such a way then why not also in the freight industry?” Mr Liu asked.

“In fact, it will,” he added, “digitisation’s tipping point is getting nearer, and it is being pushed by consolidation.”

He predicted the digitisation of container supply chains would take place over the next three years, and begin with the widespread adoption of online booking platforms, which would be made freely available and be characterised by user-friendly automated processes.

This would then allow freight rates to be more closely aligned with the realities of demand and supply – in today’s environment, demand and supply tend to be more based on perception than data.

“Prices will be optimised, and bids and orders will be based on real-time demand and supply data,” he said.“A new breed of powerful players will emerge, offering smart, integrated services, while AI will be much more in control of daily freight operations.

“This will further mean that shipload, truckload and warehouse flows will be much more highly optimised, with robots increasingly deployed to move shipments.

“And this will be to all our benefit – I think that container supply chain efficiency can be improved by at least 30%,” he said.

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