193139145 Wissanu Sirapat | Dreamstime
193139145 Wissanu Sirapat Dreamstime

Modern Supply Chains and the Role of Ocean and Intermodal Transportation

June 5, 2023
Discover how global supply chains are adapting to unprecedented challenges by embracing ocean and intermodal transportation for cost-effective and efficient delivery.

When you consider the significant changes global supply chains have undergone over the past few years, it's clear that things will never be the same.

The supply chain has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, leading to a difficult balance between meeting consumer needs and dealing with increasing shipping expenses. Though the pandemic is no longer ongoing, its disruption continues to affect many parts of the world.

A major difficulty that remains today is discovering an affordable and rapid method of transporting products from one location to another. It's not as simple as it was several years ago when businesses could rely on reasonable turnaround times and economical shipping choices.

Today, organizations need to get more creative with their logistics processes. To meet this challenge, many businesses are now turning to ocean and intermodal transportation services as a sustainable solution.

Navigating the Challenges of an Unpredictable Supply Chain

The global supply chain has experienced an unprecedented level of industry disruption recently. With ports shut down for extended periods of time, air freight rates at all-time highs and trucking capacity reduced due to driver shortages, it has become increasingly difficult for companies to move goods in a timely manner.

This disruption has created a domino effect of lost sales, increased costs and customer dissatisfaction. Without timely processing and delivery of shipments, many companies are facing a financial crossroads.

But over the last year especially, organizations have now started to see the advantages of integrating ocean and intermodal transportation into their supply chain. These two transportation modes are revolutionizing how goods are moved, and many organizations have been able to capitalize on the opportunity to reduce costs and get shipments delivered faster.

The Role of Maritime Transportation in Global Trade

Since ancient times, ocean transport has played a crucial role in international trade. The reason for this is that ocean transportation is economically efficient for carrying large amounts of cargo worldwide. Today, a vast amount of global trade is done via ocean transportation.

With its lower carbon footprint and fewer transportation trips required, maritime shipping is widely considered the most sustainable option when compared to air and ground transportation. The larger storage capacity of shipping vessels also allows for cost-efficient operations, making ocean shipping a common choice for most distribution and retail organizations.

Notwithstanding, there is one major drawback to relying solely on ocean transport – it is notoriously sluggish. Due to their sheer magnitude, ships typically require several weeks to reach their intended port. But this isn’t the only obstacle standing in the way. Compounded by a scarcity of available workers and terminal stoppages, ocean shipment leadtimes can be unreliable at best.

Because of this, organizations should now be looking at ocean transport as only one piece of the puzzle.

Intermodal Shipping: The Key to Faster and More Reliable Deliveries

While ocean shipping has always been a reliable form of transportation for global trade, the complexities of modern supply chains require a more innovative solution for maximizing efficiency.

Most organizations rely on large distribution chains to move goods from point A to point B. Going through multiple shipping modes and vendors requires a rigorous logistical planning process – one that can be time-consuming and expensive.

Intermodal shipping is a growing trend in global logistics that helps to simplify supply chains that have been historically reliant on multiple shipping modes and vendors. Intermodal transportation relies on the combined use of two or more freight transport services, such as road, rail, air and sea.

When used in combination, these transportation services can provide businesses with a much more efficient process of shipping goods across the globe. Rather than having to manage multiple vendors, intermodal shipping provides businesses with a single point of contact and one invoice.

It also ensures the timely delivery of goods, eliminates costly delays and reduces risks associated with lost or damaged shipments.

Enhance Supply Chain Performance

Efficient and cost-effective supply chain management requires a strategic integration of ocean transportation and intermodal shipping options. Organizations should meticulously analyze the benefits and shortcomings of modern shipping techniques to ensure secure and prompt delivery of their merchandise while safeguarding their profitability.

As supply chain disruptions continue to challenge the global market, it becomes increasingly crucial for businesses to remain adaptable and embrace innovative and agile supply chain networks. By doing so, companies can successfully navigate these uncertain times and ensure their long-term success.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Supply Chain Connect, create an account today!

About the Author

David L. Buss | CEO | DB Schenker North America

David L. Buss is CEO of DB Schenker North America, a 150-year-old global freight forwarder and 3PL provider. Buss is responsible for all P&L aspects in the North America region, which is made up of over 7,000 employees located throughout 39 forwarding locations and 55 logistics centers.