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Digitalization Innovation

Smart Logistics and Digital Supply Chains in Shipping

How Smart Logistics and Digital Supply Chain in the shipping industry can revolutionize your day-to-day work.

When talking about smart logistics, most of the time the digitalization of the entire logistics industry is meant. Conventional processes involve manual procedures and a lot of paperwork and make a global industry like logistics inefficient, slow, and prone to errors. With the shift to Smart Logistics, companies are striving to optimize these processes by using digital technologies and connecting them with suppliers, manufacturers, service providers and customers. At Hapag-Lloyd we strive for example to include as many digital tools and solutions into the shipping process as possible and reduce the manual processes. This can help save costs, improve service, enhance the efficiency of logistics chains, and achieve growth through new business models. See all of our digital tools and solutions in our Online Business Suite. 


Digitalization as the main driver for smart logistics 

To enable a “smart” industry, the main aspect is the digitalization of the industry and its core aspects. Core elements of Smart Logistics are, for example, transparent real-time data, dynamic processes, comprehensive data analysis and so-called CPS systems: cyber-physical systems. These are objects or structures such as products, devices, buildings, forms of transportation, production facilities and logistics components that contain embedded systems and are thus capable of communicating (with each other). As a result, intelligent and lean and digital supply chains as well as smart logistics systems and means of transportation are created. Tangible examples include automated warehouses due to the use of robots or autonomous vehicles, as well as real-time monitoring of freight shipments. 


What is a digital supply chain? 

In 2020, 85 percent of the companies surveyed in a McKinsey study admitted that they experienced difficulty digitizing their supply chains. As a result, massive supply bottlenecks have been observed all over the globe for years – so it is time to finally dedicate ourselves to the digitization of supply chains.  

A supply chain describes all stakeholders involved in the value creation of a product or service and thus includes everything from material procurement, production and onward transport to delivery to the end customer.


As a contrast, a digital supply chain refers to the digitization of all these processes – or rather, their detection. At every step along the supply chain, data on the status can be transmitted in real time, so that all stakeholders are always up to date and can immediately communicate digitally with each other in the event of problems. 

For example, the fuel consumption of the company's own fleet and the location data of individual vehicles can be transmitted. Compared to the traditional supply chain, this means less paperwork as well as more efficient and faster work, which streamlines processes and reduces the number of errors. 

For the entire supply chain to be digitized, it is necessary to use different technologies: In addition to cloud solutions, which are essential, this includes GPS, smart labels and barcodes. 


What is the difference between digital supply chain and digital supply chain management? 

While the digital supply chain refers to digitizing the supply chain in such a way that data collection is possible in real time, supply chain management stands for the successful implementation of this process in one's own company. This means creating an infrastructure that enables smooth data transmission in the first place and, above all, with which all employees are familiar. No one benefits from a digital supply chain if a company is not able to successfully implement and organize it. The two areas are therefore closely connected. 



Throughout history, supply chains have changed dramatically. Several thousand years ago, there were trade routes that are comparable to today's supply chains. However, the first global supply network started with the invention of the steamship around 1813 and the possibility of importing and exporting cotton. With the development of a large-scale railway network in 1860, the development of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the Panama Canal in 1914, the supply chain continued to gain momentum. Thanks to the rapid technological developments in the 21st century, the supply chain has also arrived in Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution. 

Big shipping companies like us at Hapag-Lloyd are already offering various digital tools and solutions to enable our customers to digitize their supply chain. For example, we reduce the manual effort and time to get a quotation with our digital solution Quick Quotes. To see how our digital solutions along the supply chains work and what they can do for you in your day-to-day work, check our Online Business Suite.


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