Startups scramble to reform shipping industry

Several industries are long overdue for a complete overhaul. Shipping ranks high among them. The way humans have been getting products from one place to another hasn’t changed much in more than a century. In fact, take away the changing nature of transportation and shipping doesn’t go anywhere both literally and figuratively. The advent of the Internet Age, however, is priming to change that or lack thereof. It’s just up to business leaders to take the lead and revolutionise the shipping industry for the 21st century.

Admittedly this is a lofty goal—but that shouldn’t stop startups from making it their business to try and achieve it. The pieces are mostly already there—small businesses just need to put them together:

User-Friendly Calculation

Navigating the world of shipping costs is a notorious hassle. Most carriers attempt to help with their own quotes and calculators but often fall short. The interface is outdated, the variables don’t include factors associated with the product being shipped, and final tallies are repeatedly invalidated by warnings of it being “just an estimate” over and over.

Read more: Fastvan wants to change SA logistics with its all-in-one app

Companies such as ShipX specialising in LTL freight are already seeing the demands for reliable online quotes and service and stepping in to help shippers get reasonable and secure rates from carriers. Startups can take a cue and help standard shipping customers get similar results.

Oversight of Autonomy

There’s no question that transportation and consequently shipping are headed toward a place where humans are taken out of the equation almost completely. Self-driving trucks, trains, and airplanes are almost certainly set to to arrive within 10 years and shipping will be the first sector to benefit on a massive scale due to safety concerns. It may be too late to try and head an autonomous vehicle project, but one thing most businesses aren’t factoring is the one thing they’re trying to replace: the human element.

Read more: Ugandan logistics solution claims top regional prize at Seedstars World

The public will most certainly mandate human oversight of massive self-driving shipping systems. Small businesses looking to gain an edge in the shipping industry may consider settling into the executive niche of the spectrum: developing systems and protocol aimed at helping humans better connect and communicate to the machines they’re watching over.

Packaging 2.0

The race is on for somebody to find a replacement for the classic cardboard box sealed with tape. It comes down to reducing the time spent taping up shipments. Add it up, and this could be millions of man hours preserved over a decade. Needless to say many attempts at improving the traditional cardboard box have been taken with few success stories. Lockable tabs tend to pop open in transit and alternative materials such as plastic are frowned upon for not being cost-effective or environmentally responsible. The company which can change the way we package products will become a household name overnight.

Read more: African online sellers to get logistics upgrade, more jobs

The way we get products from one place to another is an expired model of doing things. New technologies have led to new opportunities to provide innovation to the world of shipping. As with most industries the established players are slow to adapt. Small businesses can swiftly fill the void before it’s too late by going after the most vulnerable points of the status quo shipping systems currently in place. Just keep in mind that unlike expedited packages, revolution doesn’t arrive overnight.

Image by Emma Jane Hogbin Westby via Flickr

Tilly Jayne


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