How transport can be reinvented in the digital age?

Digital technologies are revolutionizing the world with unthinkable impacts in all industries. Containerized cargo transport is no exception and “half a century after the creation of the container, it is time to rethink the future of the business with the incorporation of digital technology, big data and the Internet,” according to an analysis of the consulting firm McKinsey, which proposes a long-term vision with the integration of the advances of the future.

Ship will be more secure and will need less crew members.

Ship will be more secure and will need less crew members.

According to the consultant’s projections, based on current technological advances, shipping companies will have to develop three foci with a view to the future: investment in digital technologies, incorporation of innovations at all levels of the value chain and, thirdly, be bold and alert to new technologies without fear of adopting them.

Futuristic containers

In 50 years, McKinsey sees the industry dominated by automated ships that will sail the seas accompanied by floating containers, such as drones, which will transport a volume of between two to five times that at present.

The scenario described focuses on the large magnitudes generated by the digital range. Short-distance traffic integration will increase as revenues, automation and robotics spread the manufacturing footprint.

Container flows into the Far East will continue to be large, while the second largest route will have some connection with the African region, but always with connection to South Asia.

Digital offer and transport

The future will also be marked by a painful history of oversupply-low demand cycles, which will result in only three or four large shipping companies/alliances, which will rely on the added value of digital technology.

Containers could be moved using drons.

Containers could be moved using drons.

Focusing on the customer will be the key in terms of business innovation, along with the permanent integration of digital knowledge with offline experience.

McKinsey predicts the disappearance of the freight forwarding business as such, becoming a link in the digital logistics chain, which will increasingly reduce the need for intermediaries. All the commercial experience will be digital, along with the transport chain that will incorporate services of stowage, storage and navigation realized by a combination of automated trucks and drones.

There will be a premium offer of container logistics services with supply chains that integrate into the customer’s business, while others will continue to seek the cheapest transportation. However, customers will want both transparency and reliability in the service, regardless of the final price.

Undoubtedly, these are long-term challenges, but the difficulty or ease of adaptation will only depend on how soon the supplier gets on the wheel of digital modernity.

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