Director, eCommerce & Marketing, eShipper
VP, Sales & Marketing, eShipper
VP, Strategy & Partnerships, eShipper
President, Founder & CEO, eShipper
With supply chain resilience freshly top of mind, industry leaders are sharing a potent vision that could forge a truly secure, modern, and accessible future for Canadian logistics.
For over two years, the often-overlooked complexities and inner workings of our global supply chain have been on public display. We’ve seen and celebrated its strengths and successes. But many points of weakness and obsolescence have also seen daylight for the first time. Coming out the other side of the pandemic, we now have an opportunity to take a hard look at the lessons we’ve learned and rebuild our supply chains better and stronger with the flexibility and resilience that modern technology and modern know-how can provide.
Of course, the indispensability of a robust supply chain — and the vulnerability of a poorly managed one — is not a recent realization for everyone. Rizwan (Riz) Kermalli was already thinking hard on the subject in 1999 when he founded Canada Worldwide Services as a specialized logistics service dealing with the most critical supply chains. By 2005, as technology marched onward, Riz had seen the early tectonic shift in the needs of increasingly online businesses and also in the possibilities of a truly modern digital supply chain. And so eShipper was born.
“It’s no secret that the supply chain and logistics industry have taken time to catch up with the modernization of the broader economy,” says Mohamed (Mo) Datoo, Vice-President of Strategy and Partnerships at eShipper. “There’s now a lot of thought going into technology for a number of reasons. The general expectations of the customer have changed. Customers expect complete transparency and end-to-end visibility on what’s going on at any one time.”
Logistics doesn’t need to be a barrier to growth
The new era of digital logistics is opening up what was previously a closed and inaccessible system for many small-and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Democratizing enterprise-scale supply chains allows growing businesses to compete while remaining focused on their core competencies.
“A lot of entrepreneurs start a business and are surprised to discover that selling product is not their biggest hurdle; it’s actually getting the product to the consumer,” says Riz. “Especially as they grow and start looking at customers and suppliers who are outside of North America, the logistics in places like China and India become a huge challenge. Large businesses have entire departments focused on this. We want small business owners to be able to focus on innovating in their area of expertise and to know that an expert logistics provider is taking care of their supply chain innovation.”
But equality is only the first step. Using technology to make yesterday’s best and most robust supply chains accessible to all is an obvious win, but the vision of Riz and eShipper extends beyond that to ensure that the supply chain of tomorrow is even better and more resilient.
Resiliency and agility are two sides of the same coin
The thinking behind eShipper was not originated with a global pandemic in mind, but their ideas were built on the knowledge that unexpected challenges are inevitable. Innovative thought on new logistics frameworks — including ideas like drone delivery, zone skipping, and utilizing alternative carriers within the gig and commercial travel economies — have proven their merit in overcoming not only pandemic-related disruptions but also the many other forms these unexpected contingencies can take.
“Consider the recent forest fires and floods that were happening in B.C.,” says Imtiaz Kermali, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at eShipper. “We had road networks that were completely shut down for two to four weeks at a time. We were able to conjure up relationships with some of our air providers to not just bypass the ground but actually provide a zone-skipping service at a cost-competitive rate. Being able to innovate and being able to come together with customers and carriers to problem-solve is the key to providing solutions when things go wrong or when they hit capacity. This same thinking allows for creative solutions that help smaller businesses grow when they have unique supply chain needs.”
Indeed, a big part of the work eShipper does is focused on thought leadership, ensuring that Canada’s supply chain infrastructure, technology, and support network are up to the task of the profound modernization and reinvention they champion. “Our ports and our roads infrastructure are old,” says Imran. “E-commerce has shot up a few hundred per cent over the last two years, and our infrastructure was not ready for it. The cost of fuel and transportation is rising, the labour supply is dwindling, and the shipping networks are overwhelmed. These are the kinds of big problems our team is always thinking about.”
The company’s advocacy and activism on these concerns have led eShipper to create an educational alliance with Export Development Canada focused on helping SMBs develop their international logistics while minimizing risks. Because, after all, building a more robust supply chain infrastructure and framework is fundamentally an undertaking of collaboration by everyone and for everyone’s benefit.
Never trust a fragile supply chain again
The worst of the pandemic may be behind us, but infrastructure debt, outdated frameworks, and ongoing labour shortages remain extremely disruptive to logistics. Now that the weak links in the system have been so clearly identified, we must take this opportunity to reinvest against the expected and unexpected disruptions of tomorrow.
Come what may, at the end of the day, the challenge will be the same, even as the circumstances and obstacles vary. It’s all about getting things where they need to be, when they need to be there, in the most appropriate way. For each new wrinkle in the logistics puzzle, technology and innovation are providing the opportunity for fresh solutions. For those who are bold enough to realize them, advocates like Riz and his team are there for you every step of the journey.