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Shipping industry faces considerable disruption

Digital processes expected to bring disruption and new players into container shipping

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In a keynote address at Toc Europe 2018, Wolfgang Lehmacher, head of supply chain and transport industries at the World Economic Forum, stressed that the 4th Industrial revolution (IR) would lead to significant changes existing supply chain practices.

 

“The question is not am I going to be disrupted, but when and in what way,” he said. “Then, it’s about understanding the impacts and how one can benefit from using the new technologies and digital processes associated with the 4th IR.”

 

Lehmacher stressed that automation does not necessarily bring economic benefits, but it definitely changes operations and tends to make those operations more predictable and safer.

 

He argued that the world was becoming a more integrated and connected place and that traditional relationships and activities of companies were becoming increasingly blurred as new technologies were embraced.

 

“Amazon is already an airline and there is nothing to stop it becoming a shipping line or a port operating company,” Lehmacher told delegates. “This is because Amazon can do things better and there are other companies that can do this too. This is where traditional companies will see more pressure coming from in the future.”

 

He added: “There are many new platforms aimed at digitalising the freight business and creating intelligent supply chains. Their goal is to eliminate ‘paper and remove ‘pain points’ in the system. With the help of technologies and concepts like OCR, advanced analytics and the block chain, letters of credit, for instance, can be transformed into smart contracts and processed in two hours rather than two weeks. This will be the impact of the 4th IR.”

 

He sees data management as becoming critical for the freight transport industry, arguing that ocean carriers, logistics service providers and other stakeholders in the supply chain would fall by the wayside if they did respond and build competency on this front.”

 

“Embracing new technologies and digitalisation requires a change in one’s mindset, but legacy systems need replacing as they are full of risk and inefficiencies ,” he concluded Then it’s about investing in partnerships and designing a next stage business model.”

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