The digital age is upon us and many aspects of our everyday life are now sustained and driven by technology.

The logistics industry is no stranger to digital influence. Over the past few years, we have seen advances in technology change the face of shipping dramatically. There is no question that digitalizing the world of logistics will help to improve efficiency and automate certain repetitive functions. However, some in the shipping industry believe that there are still certain aspects of logistics that are better suited by the human touch.

More conventional minds within the shipping industry believe that sending a container from point A to point B requires some manpower.

That’s not to say that advancements in technology are not needed to help enhance shipping. Traditional-minded shippers will take advantage of technology offered to them, but they will still rely upon human contact for certain tasks. For example, traditional shipping companies may post important information about shipping policies and documentation needed in order to ship goods on their website. However, overall handling of the ocean freight process including placing orders is done by a person, not by computer. To these “old-school” minded companies, the human element is something that is now missing from newer companies that have completely immersed themselves in the digital world.

According to one traditional logistics guru, Alan Hewitt, Commercial Director of FSC Oceans, “Customers are looking for an extension of their business, not a service provider that will give them a price and no accountability. A lot of what we do is automated, but our customers still need another person at the other end of the phone.” In having an employee on the other end of a phone call, a company shows that they are invested in customers and their needs. Hewitt comes from a school of thought that suggests regardless of how much technology advances, there still must be a level of human interaction between the customer and company. Furthermore, in the world of shipping, some issues will arise that can only be resolved by people. There are decisions that must be made by supervisors when bad weather arises and throws your industry into turmoil.

The world of technology has opened up more visibility and transparency for customers.

Technology has made collecting data and distributing containers throughout the world more effective and seamless. However, the logistics world is not ready to fully rely on digitalization.

Some, like Hewitt, argue that the shipping industry should never reach the point where everything is digitalized. In the words of Dan Gardner, president of Trade Facilitators, Inc., “Whereas automation has a definite appeal, the moment something goes wrong with a shipment, technology goes out the window and people revert to that most analog of activities, speaking directly to a human.” We cannot become a people that are overly reliant upon digitalization and neither can the shipping industry. Thankfully, there are still many problems that can only be solved by the human mind.