Over the last decade, or so, we have seen some inventions and technologies that convenience a generation like no other.  Smartphones, cloud-based services and many more ways of connecting the world have gifted this peer group with almost a dearth of patience
– which, in some ways, isn’t so bad…

The lack of desire to wait around and the hunger for quicker results have meant that the freight forwarding industry has had to stay one step ahead of the ever-changing landscape of the Internet-trawling youth.  Innovation has never been more at the front of big companies’ minds.

What does all this mean for freight forwarders?  Realistically, it can only mean more revenue and growth for everyone in the industry.  Logistics has always been a complicated matter and, with the demand for speedy courier services, this has raised the demand for specialist courier and forwarding services across the globe.

Revenue is expected to rise by 1.1 per cent in the current year to reach £20.1 billion, which seemed like a distant dream after a hard-hitting recession left disposable income scarce.  Take into account that employment in the courier sector is on the rise from its current state of 242,457 employees in the UK alone, and for every £1 spent on depreciable assets, an estimated £9.03 is spent on labour.  This indicates a low level of capital intensity, which is a great thing for freight forwarding companies looking to expand their enterprise.

But how are freight forwarding companies meant to compete with what now seems like a market saturated with new courier services delivering far and wide?  The ability to quickly adopt new technology and use it to innovate your services is a huge factor in this.  Development of new products, along with feedback, is key to keeping up with the youth, who will push courier services to their limits.  Accessibility to consumers and working with new businesses to increase your shipping itinerary is a must, and with the growing trends in the market, there are plenty out there for you to start working with.

Some companies are investing heavily in tech in a bid to keep up with customer expectations – and to create some extra value that they can charge retailers for, which is to be expected in a world where forwarders must keep up with the demand.  In reality we have all been through the dreaded ‘calling card’ scenario.  You order a parcel, happen to nip to the shop on delivery day and upon your return home there is a card telling you to go to your local   post office at an inconvenient time, in a place you can’t easily get to, to retrieve your urgent package.

DPD is a great example of my previous points and overcoming these annoyances.  Their drivers arrange their charges in the order they will be delivered, and scan them.  Customers receive an automatic text message alerting them to the one-hour window in which they can expect the parcel to arrive, or pick it up from a local shop.  Soon shoppers will be given the chance to pick their own slot.  This cuts out the dreaded ‘we just missed you’ by a significant amount.

The next step for courier services has to be automated delivery.  Amazon is at the forefront of this but before freight forwarders get excited at this thought there are still significant limitations that drone delivery and other techniques hold.  Economically speaking, whilst you don’t have to pay a drone for its labour, and admittedly the cost of building them is sure to come down in the future, they can’t carry remotely as much as a Transit van.  Yes, your iPhone can be delivered pretty quickly, but your sofa?
We are a long way off that.

Add in all the complications with other air traffic and the fact that, at the end of the day, sometimes people (or their neighbours) simply may not be in and you can see that this is an emergent practice that has some way to go.  Perhaps using a tracking service, much like DPD, and some standard drop-off points and this will be the courier service of the future…

Matt Dailly, Editor, FORWARDER magazine