As we count down the days until the end of 2013, it’s time to take a look back at the technology that defined the freight industry. Some of the technology or trends here have been around for a while and others are newcomers…but they are all playing a huge role in influencing how freight forwarders, freight vendors, carriers and shippers navigate the supply chain.

1. Paperless Shipping

Photo from Flickr

No need to invest in a new printer; paperless shipping is on the rise. Panalpina now operates 8 paperless port-to-port services but it’s a slow process. They are hoping to eradicate 80% of their paper pouches by 2015. Read all about eFreight and what it’s doing to the industry.

2. iPads in the Cockpit

Photo from Flickr

FedEx, meet Angry Birds. The courier and freight powerhouse is eradicating paper navigation charts and other flight documents used by pilots and replacing them with…iPads. I just hope they have a charger on the plane.

3. 3D Printing

Picture from Flickr.

It’s not clear exactly what impact on-demand, 3D printing may have on customized components on location.  Benefits may include reducing the carbon footprint of shipping and improved customization…but it introduces a slew of legal concerns.

4. Real-Time Cargo Tracking

Photo from Flickr

Easier tracking. Lufthansa just announced that it now enables shippers to track their packages in real-time with GMS cards. Cellphone apps are making it easier for every level of the supply chain to track freight movement too.

5. Standardized Data Transfers

Photo from Flickr

There’s nothing new about EDI and data interchangeability…besides the steadily rising adoption rates. Which is understandable, given that easy data exchange drops operating costs.

6. Robots and drones, oh my.

From Flickr

Here come the robots. Robots play a critical role in manufacturing (which explains the $10.5 billion dollar investment Apple just made)…but between Google’s automated car, Amazon’s drones, Amazon’s automated forklifts (noticing a pattern?), things are getting automated fast.

7. Social Media

Screenshot of the Maersk Liner Facebook Page

Photo from Facebook

Social media isn’t just for start-ups. Maersk shows the rest of the freight world how social media is done, gaining over 800K Facebook followers, 40K Twitter followers and 22K Instagram followers, while investing only $100,000 in the effort (although that’s still about $8.5 dollars per user).

8. Big Data and the Cloud

Photo from Flickr

The one-two punch of Big Data and the Cloud. Big Data may not be the answer to everything (with big brains still far more important) but it can certainly herald in some heavy processing that would assist tremendously in forecasting, route optimization and a myriad of other IT tasks. Computing in the cloud will make that task every more manageable.

9. Same Day Delivery


There’s nothing like getting that green frying wok five hours after you order it, just in time to whip up some stir-fry chicken for Aunt Jean. Amazon, Wal-Mart, Google, Target, Walgreen, eBay and others are all engaged in a brutal battle to make the last mile the fastest mile.

10. Online Collaboration

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Networking. It’s almost 2014. You shouldn’t be working with your customers or agents by fax, phone or even email. Networking will help you connect faster and more accurately, increase visibility and optimize your operations. Check out how Freightos is connecting freight vendors, carriers and shippers around the world.