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A central source of truth

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With turbulent trade lane conditions having a huge impact on the global supply chain throughout 2020, C.H. Robinson’s has developed a new tool that provides up to date market changes in one single information source.

Last year saw many industries and organisations face the biggest challenges to the global supply chains they had ever faced. “The impact of COVID-19 on ocean and air freight was a massive shock to the supply chain, I would say that it is one of the biggest global challenge we have ever faced,” Andrew Coldrey, Vice President, Oceania at C.H. Robinson says.

While supply chain is often impacted by customs systems, geopolitical issues and weather events, this was the first situation that impacted supply chains throughout the world simultaneously. “A lot of people learn from this kind of experience. People are now realising they need alternate supply sources and multiple carriers. COVID-19 has made many realise they need a much more agile supply chain than they had before,” Andrew says.

In 2020, passenger-miles across air were down 85 per cent year on year leading to a massive hit to air freight capacity and the impact of this filtered down into ocean freight, Andrew says.

All of these shocks and complexities highlighted the need to have one central source of truth. So the C.H. Robinson team create a tool that delivers real-time accurate data on market changes that impact air and ocean capacity in order to navigate the global shipping industry.

“We had been working on this kind of tool anyway, but COVID really emphasised the need to have a one-stop-shop for all the data needed to make flexible and agile decisions across the supply chain,” Andrew says.

Andrew Coldrey, Vice President Oceania at C.H Robinson.

Launched in late 2020, C.H. Robinson’s Global Forwarding Insights tool has been designed in a user-friendly way so customers can very quickly and easily see an overview of any issues they may face and adapt quickly.

Previously, many of C.H. Robinson’s customers would look to a variety of sources to understand the market they were operating in. The goal of the new Global Forwarding Insights tool is to provide all of this data in one place.

“We’ve put all of the info they need in one programme. We’ve made it really simple to read, with red, yellow and green status market indicators. It’s intuitive. It’s easy to navigate and it’s completely customisable depending on what markets or trade lanes you need to be across,” Andrew says.

This is the first time the supply chain has access to one centralised place for up-to-date information on carrier capacity. “Previously we might provide our customers with market guidance on rates or local trends but we’ve never before had a global capacity tool like this,” Andrew says.

With the unpredictable behaviour and market trends of 2020, accurate real-time data has never been more important in being able to adapt accordingly. “People would usually forecast by adding a percentage on previous years, but with COVID-19 bucking any trends we’ve seen before this tool gives accurate up-to-date data so our customers can forecast accordingly,” Andrew says.

If ocean and air markets are performing lower than optimal levels or there are bottlenecks, customers have full visibility of this and can forecast and adapt accordingly.

“Supply chain can be a long beast with lots of interconnected pieces and it doesn’t move very easily so the earlier you can react the better position you are in,” Andrew says.

In late 2019, C.H. Robinson’s CEO Bob Biesterfeld announced the company’s largest investment in innovation and technology, with a commitment to invest US$1 billion in technology over the next five years.

This tool is part of that investment and commitment and has been built entirely in house. “All of our software is developed in house. It’s developed by supply chain, for supply chain. We had representatives from our carrier teams, procurement, IT, account management – it’s a team effort,” Andrew says.

The tool is not only developed collaboratively within C.H. Robinson, but also with the organisation’s customer base.

“It’s a collaborative effort. We pull different people from different parts of the business and we also talk to customers and find out what they want and how we can get them the highest quality info as quickly and simply as possible,” Andrew says.

As a global market leader, C.H. Robinson’s breadth and wealth of experience helps establish a unique point of view to analyse not only global trade markets but local markets.

“Our local experts allow us to understand what is happening at a local level and by having a global outlook, it improves the information we can provide to our customers. We can take the raw data and apply our local expertise and insights to it to truly understand what it means,” Andrew says.

While the tool was only realised a few months ago, the feedback so far has been great, and Andrew sees this as the very beginning of the journey.

“We record millions of transactions a day. By leveraging that data our predictions and insights become easier and much more powerful when we can share this with our customers,” he says.

Whether it’s getting product to a supermarket, hospital or factory, the same principles apply, agility and flexibility.

C.H. Robinson’s new Global Forwarding Insights tool has been designed to provide its customers with the data they need to make good business decisions that reduce risk, increase efficiencies and allow them to adapt to the changing conditions of the market accordingly.

“There are so many factors that can impact the supply chain. The more you know the better you can plan. Things will go wrong, but it’s how you adapt and minimise risk that puts you in a good position. With this in mind, we have designed the Global Forwarding Insights tool to better equip our customers to cope with the ever-changing world of global shipping,” Andrew concludes.

 

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