Education Workshop: Digital Transformation
Authored by SMC³ on November 9, 2021
Unleashing the Power of LTL Data and Analytics
How to Kickstart Your Transportation Digital Transformation
The pace of innovation is increasing across industries, including LTL. It’s spurred by consumer trends like final mile logistics, an increasing reliance on automation, and many other factors – but the driving force at the heart of all that change is data.
A recent SMC³ educational workshop covered the inherent value of data and how transportation companies can harness it to drive their digital transformation. Panelists included Scott Friesen, SVP – Strategic Analytics at Echo Global Logistics; Ben Deaton, Chief Data Scientist at Shiplify; and Jason Ardell, Director of Engineering at Shiplify.
“For many years,” Friesen said, “much work was simply done over the phone. As more data is flowing between trucks, drivers, carriers, shippers and third-party logistics, we can now use that data to create clearer visibility, better lines of communication and automation to improve efficiency.”
Why data is so important to the transportation industry
Despite the myriad challenges brought on by COVID-19, businesses across the world spent $1.3 trillion USD on digital transformation in 2020. That’s expected to increase to $2.4 trillion by the end of 2024, and companies are reporting their number-one objective in the wake of the pandemic is increasing operational efficiency.
Ardell said that digital transformation in any company starts with “having access to great data and being able to make great predictions from that.” In shipping and logistics, Friesen said, “It’s about ‘how many loads per day, per person we can handle and maintain a high service level. How much can one person effectively manage?’”
Of course, the real benefit of all that data is that as machines and data help automate tasks, humans will have more time to spend on the things they can’t. “There are tasks humans are so good at,” Friesen said, like building rapport and trust with partners, that can’t be replaced by machines. In that sense, automation represents more than just quicker work: “I think it’s a shift in moving labor away from a bunch of routine stuff,” like vehicles and financials, and toward things that let logistics pros create real value for their companies.”
“We see that sort of like augmenting human capabilities,” Ardell said. “It’s like giving humans superpowers.”
How to get started using data to add value to your business
After all, it’s already here: a survey by Harvard Business Review found that 84% of executives say they see new business emerging as they go through digital transformation. All three panelists agreed that in order for data to be valuable to shippers, carriers, 3PLs and technology companies, humans have to be at the helm. Freight pros who own that role they help their companies prepare for the data-driven digital future. (After all, it’s already here: experts estimate digital transformation sped up by about six years during the pandemic.)
Whether they think they’re too small or they just don’t know where to start, some freight companies are intimidated by the effort or resources it takes to get started. So, we asked our panelists for their advice for professionals who want to understand their data, find opportunities for evolution and move their company closer to the digital future.
- Develop technical skills. Get comfortable in digital environments like Excel, SQL, Tableau, Python and R. They’ll help you find and collect relevant data, identify patterns and come away with actionable insights, fixable problems and opportunities to increase efficiency – all proving to be a benefit your company’s bottom line.
- Work on your soft skills. After you have the data in hand, can you review and organize it in a way that makes sense to upper-level management? Can you present your findings in a way that makes it clear you’ve created something that’s valuable?
All three panelists said critical thinking underpins the entire process. Knowing how to break down problems, being clear and precise and knowing what your stakeholders want should guide your discovery as you digest the data. Friesen said, “I’ve told my teams for years that ‘being right is the beginning, not the end’ … When you come up with the right answer, then you’ve got to convince people of it.”
As technical as it all sounds, digital transformation ultimately comes down to human decision-making and trust. “We put our lives in the hands of technological things all the time,” Friesen said. “We get in our car, and we drive down the road … We’ve implied a massive amount of trust in the engineers that design the car. And so, we have lots of practice doing that in the physical world. Now, you pivot to the information age and to the realm of decision-making, and things get really convoluted really fast.”
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As part of this cutting-edge hybrid learning curriculum, students will have an opportunity to hear weekly from industry experts and work through a self-paced curriculum of emerging industry topics. You can learn more about this course and other courses on the schedule here.