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Efficient Intermodal Transportation during a Pandemic

Efficient Intermodal Transportation during a Pandemic

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By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Public University

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the entire supply chain industry to rethink and reimagine what deliveries look like. Leveraging opportunities include providing more efficient means of delivering goods and services and in some cases, combining various modes of transportation.

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Intermodal transportation systems include rail, air, water, land and pipeline. In order to produce expert transportation systems, there must be an increased flow of data, an improved timeliness and quality of information, and the possibility to control and coordinate operations in real time.

Workflow is directly proportional to the type of transportation used to move goods, supplies and services. Estimating costs, labor, overhead and purchasing can affect inventory management.

According to Hallye Sok, “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all parts of the supply chain, from operations and compliance to technology integration. And although many players have successfully restarted operations, it is important to consider the ways transportation has been forever impacted to better prepare for future disruptions.”

Intermodal Transportation Involves the Shipment of Goods without Changing Cargo Handling

Intermodal transportation involves the shipment of goods without changing cargo handling when changing modes of transportation, which lowers costs and increases efficiency. A seamless transfer of goods is essential to their delivery. The goods stay in the same secured container for the entire trip.

The intermodal container is the key to swift movement and transfer. Therefore, having a reliable transportation system can minimize waste and save money. There is a multiplier effect for trains and ships because containers can be stacked.

Advantages of Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal transportation also utilizes fewer drivers to move more freight. One train can transport the equivalent of 250 trucks. This mode equates to less stress on the infrastructure, less congestion and increases in advanced technology.

Usually, an intermodal transit center will be close to water, rail and an airport. The real intermodal advantage is for the transportation of goods of 500 miles or more. The delivery dates should be flexible with a time frame of up to a month and the order should weigh less than 50,000 pounds.

Annually, nearly 25 million containers are moved using intermodal transportation. In a transfer using multiple modes, a truck leaves the warehouse laden with cargo. At a port or airport, the cargo is loaded onto a ship or a plane. Once at its destination, the cargo is again loaded onto a truck and delivered to its destination.

Some of the advantages of intermodal transportation include:

  1. It’s cheaper than shipping via one mode alone.
  2. It provides additional capacity.
  3. It reduces wait times.
  4. Inclement weather has little effect on the delivery.
  5. It is environmentally friendly.
  6. It is reliable.

Disadvantages of Intermodal Transportation

However, according to Hellenic Shipping News, “Due to the usage of different standards for identification and tracking between the various transportation modes, it is often difficult to transmit all the information regarded as pertinent to the varied stakeholders in an intermodal transaction. Visibility of the shipment may be lost to parties other than the current transport operator until arriving at the destination of that transportation mode.”

In addition, a lack of standards can lead to substandard conditions. Substandard conditions means there are more breaks in the transportation time. A break is defined as a discontinuous flow of the product. An example of a break includes delays in changing from one mode to another, which lowers the overall transportation time.

Intermodal transportation’s punctuality provides more efficient services. Customers can have a variety of modes for delivering their goods. An intermodal lane is best explained as a pre-determined route including two or more modes of transportation for distances over 500 miles.

The Pandemic Has Increased the Need to Shorten Supply Chain Delivery Times and Use AI

As we all know, the pandemic has increased the need to shorten delivery times in the supply chain. Transit times usually increase when there is an inefficient transfer of goods from one mode to another. Likewise, intermodal service works well when there is a decline in volume.

Intermodal transportation includes a communication networker for suppliers, shippers and receivers. The speed of a shipment is determined by overall supply and demand, so it is imperative that accurate work orders are sent to those who set the route.

Tracking systems trace the goods in real time 24 hours a day. It is imperative to use innovative artificial intelligence (AI) to prioritize advancements, which is especially important when considering environmentally conscious processes and state-of-the-art technology.

About the Author

Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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