May 21, 2018 - 5:15pm

21st Century Supply Chains Need State-of-the-Art Infrastructure

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Norfolk Southern freight trains in Danville, KY.
Norfolk Southern freight trains in Danville, KY.

Technology has radically changed 21st century life, and immediacy has crept into our expectations of many of our daily interactions. This is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in online shopping and delivery, according to a 2017 BRP study, 51% of retailers offered same day delivery. But many of us never question how these items arrive at our doorstep, the answer, in part, is innovative supply chains.

Supply chains are the sequence of processes involved in the production of and distribution of a commodity and are both business to business facing and business to consumer facing. Today our nation’s supply chains are facing a pressing impediment to meeting our modern demands – aging infrastructure.

In Washington, we are winding down the annual celebration of “Infrastructure Week,” but this all important issue shouldn’t be confined to one week of focused discussion. The infrastructure needs of supply chain businesses will persist long after these discussions have ended. So we asked a couple of industry top thinkers to answer a simple question:

What is one thing you would change about U.S. infrastructure to better enable supply chains of the future?

A key theme ran throughout their answers – they would improve our infrastructure to enable today’s technological innovations. Technology has the potential to improve efficiencies in supply chains, but if our outdated infrastructure does not allow for utilization of new technologies – US companies will fall behind. Put differently, US infrastructure must enable our supply chains to adopt new technologies – not inhibit them. For a deeper dive our thought leaders weigh in:

Bernhard Kindelbacher, Lufthansa Cargo, Head of the Americas

Our infrastructure should enable projects at airports to facilitate a collaborative and seamless process from when the truck approaches the airport to the departure of the airplane - using data and digitization will help enable this process saving time, money and emission.

Darrell Wilson, Assistant Vice President Government Relations, Norfolk Southern

For companies to maintain a competitive advantage in the 21st Century supply chain, a shift in our transportation mindset is necessary – shippers, manufacturers and consumers alike require increased speed, on-time performance and delivery.

We must stop viewing infrastructure as just roads, bridges, terminals, and rail. Planners must expand their use of public-private partnerships that encourage modal cooperation and increased reliance on new technologies, and service innovations that broaden supply chain capabilities.

So what’s next? Our supply chains are already helping to perform the modern marvel of next day delivery, but they can and want to do more for consumers and business, the only thing stopping them is improving our infrastructure.

Join us tomorrow for our Global Supply Chain Summit to hear more about industry challenges and opportunities from the experts.

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