Digitalization boosts logistics efficiency amid pandemic
In the face of multiple challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, China's logistics industry is embracing digital technologies to boost efficiency.
The efforts are in line with the central government's call to support the building of digital third-party logistics delivery platforms and cultivate a batch of digital platforms and supply chain enterprises with global influence.
Full Truck Alliance Co Ltd, a leading Chinese truck-hailing company, for instance, is stepping up its push to leverage digital technologies to help boost logistics efficiency in regions affected by the pandemic.
Known as Manbang in Chinese, Full Truck Alliance's apps connect a large number of truck drivers with merchants that require shipping of their goods, which can help truck drivers find goods quickly and reduce empty-load rates and fuel consumption.
The company's two truck-hailing apps, Truck Alliance and Yunmanman, are operating "green channels" for owners of anti-epidemic products and agricultural products who are eager to deliver their goods to people in need. Their shipping requests are prioritized in the apps. For those in areas that face a serious shortage of transportation capacity, the apps will send nearby truck drivers using freight subsidies to help shippers complete delivery orders as soon as possible.
With the awareness that agricultural products in some rural regions are experiencing difficulties in getting goods shipped from villages to cities amid the pandemic, Manbang is also offering targeted logistics help to 160 counties across the nation to help rural residents who need to transport their agricultural products.
Tao Ran, vice-president of Manbang Group, which serves around one-fifth of the country's truck drivers with businesses covering more than 300 cities nationwide, said the company hopes to create a "digital expressway" for remote areas by maximizing the transportation resources on its platform.
"We hope that more truck drivers can see the shipping orders from rural regions, to help agricultural products get out of the farmlands and boost their sales through good logistics services," Tao said.
Fu Jing, sales manager of an e-commerce platform in Liupanshui, Guizhou province, said, "The cherries in the mountainous areas are of good quality and there are a lot of orders from Beijing and Shanghai, but we dare not accept them because it is difficult to find cold chain trucks locally."
In April, a large number of local cherries were ripe, but due to the imperfect logistics and transportation, many of them could not be shipped to cities.
"It's not that good things can't be sold, but they can't be shipped. When our fresh cherries first hit the market, they could sell for 60-80 yuan ($8.88 to $11.84) per kilogram in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. But if they were sold locally, the price is less than half," said Fu.
Manbang said it is offering targeted help to eligible agricultural products such as cherries, and it will operate the green channel for agricultural products in counties and rural towns for a long time.
Fu Shaochuan, a professor of logistics systemic analysis and planning at the School of Economics and Management at Beijing Jiaotong University, said more efforts are needed to build a smarter and more efficient logistics services network by, among other things, accelerating the construction of a cold chain express delivery system.
There is also a need to strengthen the emergency response capability of express delivery services. During emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, urgent delivery of products is of prime importance not only for providing timely relief for those in need but also for restoring social order, Fu said.
In April, the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council jointly released a guideline on accelerating the establishment of a unified domestic market, which said China will optimize the layout of commercial and trade circulation infrastructure and promote the integration of online and offline development.