Is there anything left to say about multimodal digitisation, now that every multimodal operator or terminal has its own TMS or TOS? Yes, because that is far from being the whole story. The days are gone when automating your own processes is sufficient in the logistics chain. Logistics are changing at lightning speed. People who as consumers – particularly since the pandemic – have got used to tracking their orders closely and being able to make adjustments if necessary will increasingly demand the same in their work environments.

Poor visibility is no longer acceptable to customers

After all, why should they still be faced with a multimodal black hole at work? To a new generation of managers at shippers, forwarders and shipping companies, the current lack of visibility is no longer explicable or acceptable to them. As the end customers for multimodal transport, it is essential to them that everyone in the rail and inland navigation chain works together seamlessly, that cargo flows are transparent 24/7 and that deviations from agreements are flagged at an early stage. This allows the shipper, forwarder or shipping company to look ahead and proactively anticipate the expected time of delivery of goods to the warehouse or final location.

Transparency is scary, but it offers many benefits

There is a lot to be gained in this area within the multimodal sector. Offering greater transparency may be scary, but it is absolutely necessary for attracting new customers. At present, many companies still often choose the truck option, because road transport is more flexible, it takes the goods straight to their final destination and it enables easy track & trace via apps or the on-board computer. If the multimodal sector is to push on towards a modal split that favours rail and barge, it will have to offer similar benefits. That starts with a different kind of TMS or TOS, to which everyone from the client to their own customers can easily connect via the web or by means of a system link for real-time data sharing – from booking or transport order to invoicing and everything in between. Or in the event that replacing a TMS or TOS is currently not economically feasible, adding functionality via the web-linked customer portal. This allows everyone to share data in an accessible way without expensive interfaces, enhancing transparency for all parties and improving cooperation in the chain.

Every connected party can proactively take necessary actions

This is especially true if the multimodal operator or terminal can offer the client or their customers 24/7 automatic alerts from the TMS, TOS or customer portal in addition to the real-time information exchange. For example, about deviations in the chain or the availability of containers. No one will any longer have wait or search for that information themselves. Transparency puts everyone in charge together. Every connected party can proactively take the required action or make adjustments at any time. This kind of fully reliable, transparent multimodal product can convince many companies to say goodbye to trucks and further reduce their own carbon footprints by switching to rail or barge transport.

Chain cooperation enables a much better response to market needs

Multimodal digitisation goes so much further than automating the operational processes of the inland terminal, rail and barge operator. More than that, it demands a new way of thinking. Besides improving your own efficiency, putting chain collaboration and proactive data sharing at the heart of the process makes it much easier to respond to the needs of the market. Transparency pulls multimodal transport out of the black hole, so opening the way to a sustainable future in which rail and barge truly lead the way.