Before the world was made a true global village by the Internet, purchasing goods from far-off places was a big deal that often required shippers to go through extraordinary lengths to procure items. An example of this can be found in the availability of spices in the Old World compared to today.
A long time ago, spice plants only grew in certain regions of the world, so obtaining things like pepper and sugar required travel to what were considered remote or unfamiliar territories. This necessarily caused prices for these items to be high along with their value.
Today, however, spices are available in your local grocery store for next to nothing in many cases. Not only have modern logistics, shipping technologies and the Internet changed things, but manufacturing and refinement technologies have evolved as well. For instance, if you are looking for washers to complete a building project, you can buy plastic washers today and either pick them up in a local store later in the afternoon or have the items delivered to your doorstep the next day.
This is partly due to improved manufacturing processes, but it is largely due to the ease with which shipping takes place today. Transportation plays a big role in this since air transport is commonplace, but over-the-road transportation by truck and rail still reigns over other choices for domestic shipping. When it comes to global shipping, marine vessels are still the go-to choice for affordable transportation of cargo.
A Wealth Of Shipping Choices
Another step in the evolutionary chain of global logistics has been the addition of third-party shipping companies. While the United States Postal Service (USPS) still handles a good portion of America’s domestic shipping services, companies like FedEx and UPS provide services around the world to get you those plastic flat washers or black plastic washers from the manufacturer to your mailbox from across the world overnight.
Many argue that the competition created by non-government shipping is good for the industry as it drives costs down and pushes for better customer service. While government holds a monopoly on industry, services can suffer and innovation can be stifled, but free-market solutions operate on basic economic principles of supply and demand meeting the market where it is to take it where it wants to go.
GPS And AI Making Smarter Choices
Another reason why global shipping is more efficient than ever these days comes down to global positioning satellite (GPS) technology and artificial intelligence (AI). Logistics companies often employ both of these technologies to some degree in order to route shipments around the world. GPS can track the movement of shipments as they move through the air, across land and over the sea. AI is able to make decisions based on various factors about fulfillment, overcoming delays and side-stepping bottlenecks in real-time.
This is especially helpful in the design of networks operated by companies like Amazon. When you order a product from Amazon, the company’s system automatically sends a packing order to the facility nearest to you that has the item in stock. From there, it is shipped from the warehouse (fulfillment center) for faster delivery. The implementation of warehouse networks full of duplicate products means faster service compared to the traditional model of a central hub shipping out items from a postal facility or third-party shipping site.
Another interesting thing about the use of AI in shipping is the positioning of items closer to customers who are more likely to make a purchase. AI reviews and interprets data and decides what items a fulfillment center should carry. These decisions are based on things like purchase history and trends in a particular area. Because you’re more likely to buy a certain item based on where you live or what your neighbors are buying, the fulfillment center is more likely to have the item on-hand, meaning it will be shipped faster.