In an age where mobile devices are ubiquitous in our personal and professional lives, it’s easy to take for granted the convenience and capabilities they offer. From paying bills to shopping online or managing our finances, smartphones and tablets have seamlessly integrated into our daily routines. However, one sector that has been relatively slow to fully embrace the potential of mobile technology is the supply chain industry. This is about to change as the supply chain stands on the brink of a mobile technology disruption.
Traditionally, many tasks within the supply chain have required individuals to be tethered to their computers. But now, a transformation is underway, empowering shippers and carriers to operate more efficiently through fully mobile transportation management systems. These systems are poised to enable the remote workforce to perform their duties from anywhere, revolutionizing the industry.
On the carrier side of the supply chain, truckers are already adopting mobile technology at an impressive rate. They use mobile tech not only for communication but also for bidding on and securing freight hauls. As technology continues to evolve, it’s becoming the norm for professionals responsible for securing carrier capacity and overseeing freight scheduling to utilize mobile technology. Key to this evolution are mobile private networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the promise of 5G and 6G networks.
Mobile applications have already played a significant role in supplementing traditional workflows, offering greater flexibility and improved communication. Furthermore, many mobile devices function as IoT sensors, eliminating the need for specialized hardware. These sensors, including cameras and GPS, facilitate real-time tracking and the seamless uploading of delivery data to the cloud, reducing paperwork.
The impact of mobile technology in the trucking industry is evident in the success stories of companies like Trucker Path, XPO Logistics, Truckstop.com, and Motive (formerly KeepTruckin). These companies harnessed mobile technology to enhance their supply chain management experiences, exploiting a significant market opportunity in the sector.
Now, the spotlight is shifting to shippers, representing the next logical step in the evolution of mobile technology in the supply chain. With mobile technology, various functions within a company can perform and manage their workflows and responsibilities. Shipping managers, warehouse technicians, sales and account executives, and more can log into their Transportation Management System (TMS) platforms, respond to customer inquiries, track shipments in real-time, and address issues from virtually anywhere, eliminating the need to be tied to a desk.
Mobile technology will empower users to perform tasks such as booking shipments, viewing shipment statuses, managing paperwork, and collaborating across the supply chain. It will enhance visibility, offering features like messaging, location ratings, check-ins and check-outs at various locations, and rapid shipment creation and distribution to warehouse workers. On-the-go logistics planners will be equipped with real-time data to efficiently manage shipments, even making last-minute changes right from their mobile devices.
As we anticipate the rollout of 5G networks and the eventual arrival of 6G networks by 2030, mobile technology’s potential will only expand. 5G will connect people, machines, objects, and devices in ways previously deemed impossible. Its ultra-low latency will benefit supply chain professionals, enabling them to leverage mobile technology more effectively.
Moreover, the development of 6G networks, offering speeds 100 times faster than 5G and significantly greater IoT device connectivity, will further amplify the impact of mobile technology in the supply chain. These networks will support edge computing, facilitating real-time data processing at or near data production sources, rather than relying on centralized data centers. Edge computing will drive innovation in dockyards, gatehouses, and on-the-go workflows, making the supply chain more efficient.
Once mobile technology is fully integrated into supply chain management, companies will experience transformative benefits. Paperwork will be significantly reduced, and most information will become digital or cloud-based. Logistics operations, including trucking, shipping, port, and warehouse activities, will become more streamlined. Staff members whose roles intersect with the supply chain will be able to improve communication, process data faster, optimize pricing and routing, and enhance other workflows, all remotely.
The future of mobile technology in supply chain management holds the promise of real-time machine learning, proactive supply chain disruption detection, and seamless collaboration among shippers, carriers, and brokers. As we witness this imminent mobile revolution, we’ll soon wonder how we ever managed without it.
Greg Price, CEO and co-founder of Shipwell, an Austin-based cloud-based shipping and logistics company, reflects on the transformative potential of mobile technology in supply chain management. With an extensive background in engineering and business, Price brings valuable insights into the evolving landscape of the logistics industry.