Will the supply chain finally abandon paper documents?

Logistics companies traditionally work with paper documents, and have seen their uses evolve since the health crisis.

By the force of circumstances, professionals in this sector have turned to digital technology; This trend, which saved the market ten years in a very short time, brings new challenges to the fore and prompts in-depth thinking by all international organizations.

The impact of the epidemic in the service of digitization

During the first reservation, international trade specialists had to deal with other matters, among which was the ban on postal services. Professionals were forced to move towards other solutions so that containers were handled with their administrative documents and although there were no regulations in this area, professionals preferred documents in PDF format rather than physical format. In one year, companies in this sector leaped forward ten years. Once the pandemic ended, many went back to paper but with an appetite for the internet, they are now accustomed to that use.

The World Customs Organization and nearly all international trade bodies have become aware of the value of going digital. They have made it their hobby for 2022. A new way of working makes exchanges more flexible, makes companies more competitive and makes these processes more environmentally friendly. Some countries are more advanced than others in many aspects, especially in terms of mentality, such as Singapore or the United Kingdom. However, countries focused on international trade have so far used this epidemiological experience only to initiate policy debates without actually taking action, with the exception of England, which just voted on a law to recognize these electronic documents.

booming sector

Whether it is sea, land or air trade, all the actors in the supply chain are thinking in depth to digitize as many phases of the chain as possible. In addition to adopting solutions, these new practices must be publicly acknowledged and accepted in order to simplify the processing of documents related to the carriage of goods. For example, on some short trips, containers arrive before administrative documents. Inventory of goods that cannot be returned without the necessary documents inflates costs and increases customs duties. More automated processing avoids this very common situation.

Digital in the service of standardization?

Despite awareness of the interest in digital technology, the sector is becoming more complex and faces an explosion in transportation costs, an increase in new regulations, and an increasingly constrained workforce. The rise of e-commerce has resulted in a fragmented management, with countless orders scattered and where there is no interoperability between different countries. Digital today is struggling to keep up, the US carrier will not want to rely on a Russian standard, when a Chinese rejects a European or American model. So far, the only solution offered to international trading companies has been to send documents, as there is no universal standard or generally accepted technology. At the same time, major international organizations such as the World Trade Organization or the International Chamber of Commerce are working on many topics related to digital transformation or a legislative unit to lobby for widespread adoption of digital solutions.

In the context of this unprecedented thinking, it is important to realize that documents will not disappear tomorrow, and that it is almost impossible to ask the millions of companies involved in global trade to adopt a single solution. By having this height of visibility, would it be wise to imagine a super-link between all the solutions that would emerge and, finally, take action?

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