Trade 4.0: How Digital Information Will Impact Supply Chain Logistics
Martin Pahulje - April 22, 2021
There is no question that technology is optimizing the way we do business, especially in supply chain operations. Through digitizing your supply chain, operations will be more efficient, more transparent, and more successful. This is the idea behind Trade 4.0, the new digital thread transforming global trade as it crosses borders. You are probably familiar with Industry 4.0, the ongoing industrial revolution of automating traditional manufacturing practices through technology. Now, the industry is going one step further. Companies are looking to digitize how they make, transport, and sell, and applying it to goods crossing international borders. While innovative, these changes are creating an increasingly complex trade ecosystem that introduces a new wave of challenges to the industry. All aspects of international trade are being upgraded to this wave of digital transformation. – from processing goods at ports of entry to security of supply chains to formulating trade agreements. For this reason, companies must keep up in order to adjust to the ever-shifting market dynamics. Implementing the advanced digital technologies of Industry and Trade 4.0, such as AI and IoT, will revolutionize how you make, transport, and sell goods.
Navigating Trade 4.0
As Trade 4.0 is a new concept, we will help you navigate the ins and outs of it so that you may implement these technologies into your own trade and supply chain operations. First, you should understand the three overarching roles played by government agencies in international trade; facilitator, enforcer, and negotiator. These roles must adapt just as the industry does to the increasingly digitized trade system. In doing so, these agencies will keep pace with the evolving international trade environment while taking advantage of opportunities and minimizing risks to profits.
- Facilitator: As a facilitator, the government evaluates, assigns, and collects trade tariffs and duties. As cross-border trade continues to grow, so will the government's role in facilitating trade. This plays a vital role in ensuring that trade is practiced in an orderly manner.
- Enforcer: One of the government's primary roles in international trade is to uphold laws and protect national and economic security. This serves to ensure that global supply chains are safe, secure, legitimate, and fair. Trade enforcement is an interagency effort, meaning it involves the collaboration between government agencies and these agencies and the organizations participating in trade.
- Negotiator: Government agencies often formulate trade agreements, resolve trade-related disputes, and represent the best interest of their economies in global trade forums.
Now that you understand the roles of government agencies within international trade, we can get into how these roles will change with the rise of Industry and Trade 4.0. Examples of Trade 4.0 are already visible in trade practices today. The use of additive manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, and e-commerce are all examples of digitization in trade. All of these solutions greatly aid the process of making, transporting, and selling goods – automating the process while easing communications. But, while some of these advancements are already in play, many still question the government's ability to keep pace with Trade 4.0, specifically regarding trade negotiation and implementation. Historically, the establishment of international norms and agreements related to the digitization of trade has been put off. While true, there are some governments leading the way in digitization. In 2020, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was the first significant international trade agreement with a chapter on digital trade. So while these changes may not be coming tomorrow, they are being discussed and in the works. The most promising potential of Trade 4.0 is the meeting of maximum digitization and efficient partnerships, which cannot be met until there is global implementation. This potential would require government agencies to strategically invest, partner, and hire talent to optimize international trade as a whole. Understanding how international trade impacts consumers is crucial, and the key to achieving this is through collaboration between international agencies. This public-private collaboration will leverage trade for the collective good, providing consumers with a cleaner, safer, and modern global economy. Transitioning to Trade 4.0 will bring risks, but it will bring even more possibilities. To achieve a more connected and collaborative global trade system, agencies must digitize.
Digitizing your supply chain and the trade industry as a whole comes with countless benefits. From real-time communication to optimized data analysis, you will achieve more efficient supply chain logistics. Implementing Industry 4.0 technology is crucial to keep up with the evolving industry of trade and manufacturing, but you must consider which technology is the best fit for you. First, let’s discuss what you should achieve through digitization. Your goal should be to integrate your planning and production solutions, creating a more cohesive and transparent supply chain network. This will translate into your trade environment, easing communications between your organization and government agencies or trading partners. With simplified communication and data sharing, you can monitor the exact location of goods from departure to arrival. This transparency will help you break down cross-organizational silos and collaboration barriers, ensuring that goods are where they need to be and paving the way for future trade deals. Furthermore, a digitized supply chain will optimize your internal operations so that you can ensure the timely production and transport of goods, reducing delays and satisfying your partners and customers.
Now that you understand what digitization should accomplish, we can discuss the various technologies you should consider implementing to achieve maximum supply chain optimization. A great tool to integrate is the Internet of things (IoT), which connects supply chain systems and solutions in a holistic view. IoT creates a network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors or software and connects them to exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet. This merges all data collecting and evaluating methods to create more accurate data sharing and forecasting, thus easing the transfer of data between several parties. Additionally, it seamlessly allows you to integrate the cloud into your operations to allow for more efficient data storage. If you’re interested in keeping up with Trade 4.0, this technology is a must-have. Another great tool is artificial intelligence (AI). AI is a broad concept, but it essentially helps you automate your supply chain solutions. From decision support to decision automation, AI-enabled technology can sense and respond to specific features within its environment, making for faster and more efficient supply chain operations. In trade, you must continuously monitor goods and communicate with interested parties. AI will alleviate some of that work from your team, providing intelligent and timely responses.
The international trade system is complex, and so is Trade 4.0, but they are necessary to keep up with our evolving economy. By implementing technical solutions such as AI, IoT, and the cloud, you can optimize your supply chain and prepare it to handle the changes that Trade 4.0 will bring. With these solutions, you will see faster communication and more efficient operations. Avoiding delays and disruptions is only the surface of the benefits that digitization has to offer, and it’s time to take it one step further. Trade is all about collaboration, and equipping yourself with the tools to optimize this collaboration is the key to success. As trade becomes more and more digitized, so should your organization.
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