March 3, 2023

Future-proof supply chain operations against extreme weather events

The freight industry is a vital part of the Australian economy, yet industry participants face systemic challenges, including driver shortages, rising operational costs and capacity constraints.

Future-proof supply chain operations against extreme weather even

This is amid global, national and local challenges like trade restrictions, bottlenecks, widespread labour shortage, changing consumer buying behaviour, soaring inflation and natural disasters.

No matter the type of weather disaster, their severity impacts our supply chain operations. We have seen this recently when WA issued east-west road train permit measures due to the record rainfall and flooding in NSW and weather-related rail derailment in Victoria. While these are temporary, this disruption has a knock-on effect for the local trucking industry as it tries to enable the golden retail quarter.

There has never been a stronger case for improving supply chain resiliency. So, how can technology help operators respond to the challenges presented by severe weather events?

The modern supply chain

A key lesson from the pandemic is that those that can change gears quickly are rewarded. The ability to adjust to unexpected turns is now a serious business discussion, and investment is being made in improving the visibility of the end-to-end supply chain. The pandemic made it clear that there was a need for new solutions.

Australia is uniquely positioned to benefit from logistics technology due to the vast distance between the nation’s main cities and the country’s dependence on trucking. Every item on Australian shelves is transported via truck multiple times before it arrives in store due to the lack of reliable rail infrastructure. As a result, an investment in different technologies is imperative to driving change.

Optimising technology for demand prediction and planning is essential to ensure trucks are full. Transport operators can collect insights across the supply chain and feed them to their planning team to create actionable insights that reduce and remove inefficiencies. This digitisation also allows operators to change how their employees work for the first time in decades. Instead of needing to all be in an office together, on the phone trying to lock in contracts, employees can now work remotely while still driving strong business results.

This process is only just getting started as operators work to implement key building blocks for modern supply chain control. These include supply chain partner data, supply and demand planning, and perhaps most importantly, a master data management layer that can collect and feed all the data to the planning team.

The benefits of data-driven digitalisation

Until recently, the tracking of shipments and drivers has been analogue—meaning it was not easily accessed or used for planning because it was written in paper log books. But a lot of activity can be predicted in the industry by examining this kind of data. Connecting this data to a broader market of operators and planning truck movements to ensure that trucks are not running empty is essential to adapt to both predictable and unpredictable weather challenges.

Technology further enables the freight industry to digitalise essential support services, including invoicing and financial management, insurance, and fuel loyalty systems. By shifting towards a more agile digital approach to logistics planning, operators can manage last-minute changes at pace and adapt to climate challenges more smoothly. For instance, a digital brokerage enables operators and shippers to connect in real time to pick up loads that would otherwise be stranded. Together, it allows operators and shippers to plan ahead so that when weather events occur, they can quickly adapt to navigate the delivery of goods around the country.

The benefits of technology, such as real-time updates on staff and vehicle availability, data-driven analysis of staff and vehicle effectiveness, and a control tower view of all shipments at any one time, are clear. This is where technology provides meaningful assistance. It helps increase route efficiency, manage fatigue, reduce distractions, and keep drivers safe on the road.

Let’s get the wheels rolling

Australia has built a robust supply chain network; however, the methods that have driven success in the past are no longer viable. Technology can help to respond to weather related supply chain problems, as well as improve the response time to resolve disruptions along the way.

Our logistics industry has changed over the last two years but is once again poised for growth. The technology is ready, and operating analogue systems in an increasingly digitally oriented supply chain has reached its limitations. It is time for logistics to catch up with the technological wave that has swept through so many industries and reclaim its role in driving the Australian economy forward.

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