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Adapting to shifting trade lanes: Strategies from UPS president

Adapting to shifting trade lanes: Strategies from UPS president
Adapting to shifting trade lanes: Strategies from UPS president

The supply chain is all about flexibility, says United Parcel Service’s supply chain solution president, Bill Seward. “From using artificial intelligence (AI) to evolving trade lanes, companies must remain agile and offer flexible solutions,” says Seward. 

He attended the premier supply chain conference MODEX in Atlanta a few days ago. Reflecting on the critical discussions, contributions, and solutions the experts discussed, Seward says it’s important to stay on top of this “quickly changing industry.”

According to Seward, four factors sum it up: digital solutions, technology and efficiency, diversification, and sustainability. 

More and more digital solutions are popping up, hoping to connect customers and businesses meaningfully. “Customers are looking for flexible, digital solutions to link every part of the supply chain,” says Seward. 

The ‘digital solution’ Seward refers to is a complex network of interconnected technologies and services. It’s all aimed at improving customer or user experiences. It also included a wide spectrum of tools and platforms. This could range from social media, to even mobile applications, including virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT).

America’s postal service, UPS, has a forwarding hub and a digital portal designed for freight shippers to move their air and ocean cargo with limited delays or interruptions. Using their digital platforms, customers can book a shipment anytime, possibly from any location (given an internet connection).

UPS also uses a cloud-based visibility platform, which the company says helps supply chains run smoothly. “It connects everything from inbound and warehousing to inventory management and returns,” explains Seward. 

Technology at the heart of operations

“We can’t talk about innovation today without mentioning AI. I’m excited about the integrated approach UPS is taking with this technology,” says the UPS president. 

Seward was named one of America’s top supply chain leaders last year. UPS operates in 120 countries and deals with over 400,000 employees, providing end-to-end supply chain solutions to entrepreneurs and business people. 

Efficiency is critical to keep customers happy and the service competitive. “Collaborative robots at the UPS Velocity facility work alongside our UPSers, improving efficiency, safety, and employee retention while reducing repetitive tasks,” says Seward.

Their automated warehouse can process more than 350,000 items per day. This is significantly more than a non-automated warehouse.

Trade lanes are shifting gear

UPS says supply chains are “diversifying.” Countries like Mexico, India, and Thailand are emerging as new options for giving China a run for their money on a global supply chain scale. 

“This diversification means customers’ needs are evolving. We’re responding with new capabilities and dedicated nearshoring/trade lane shift SMEs to support supply chains in these markets,” says UPS. 

“By combining global forwarding, ground freight, warehousing, brokerage, and last-mile delivery into an integrated solution, we’re providing seamless end-to-end service for shipments moving from Mexico to the US,” says Seward. 

Sustainability comes first 

Climate change, air quality, and socioeconomic challenges impact communities, and UPS says that’s why they’ve been focusing on sustainability. They check their carbon footprint and make conscious decisions. 

According to the sustainability data platform Brightest, supply chain sustainability is an untapped environmental, economic, and social opportunity. Research suggests only 46% of companies audit their suppliers, while only 25% actively engage their suppliers in sustainability improvement.

“As I look to the future, excellence at UPS, or any company, is about ensuring customers have the flexibility and tools needed to operate efficiently and address challenges as they arise,” says Seward. 

NOW READ: Exclusive: Supply chain expert warns of AI lag, risks being left behind

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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