Amid skyrocketing demand and global bottlenecks, the logistics industry is embracing a new, ambitious solution: 24/7 supply chains. Round-the-clock operations offer an intuitive answer to rising dwell times and unmanageable import surges for shippers and carriers alike.
The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports process 40% of the nation’s containerized imports. That figure fell nearly 10% in 2021, resulting from the congestion crisis that disrupted container traffic nationwide.
Many believe the solution to significant supply chain disruptions is a 24/7 overhaul, beginning with Southern California’s busiest ports. Last October, the US administration announced that Los Angeles and Long Beach would begin operating 24/7, a move meant to restore velocity and reduce delays. Although import volumes have primarily recovered, supply chain problems run deeper—and ports still scramble to keep up.
Expanding operations is a band-aid solution for US shippers
Twenty-four seven ports aim to maximize a simple-but-crucial resource: time. East Asian ports—which already operate around the clock—are world leaders in efficiency, processing high volumes of cargo with minimal delays. Implementing a similar model in the US comes with unique obstacles, including:
- A slow introduction. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s first 24/7 ports, struggle to keep pace with significant changes. In Long Beach, only one out of twelve terminals can confirm 24/7 operations; the rest likely remain in transition.
- Driver shortages. The industry must tackle a more complex challenge to introduce round-the-clock operations successfully: the longstanding truck driver crisis. Twenty-four-seven ports require consistent, productive movement made possible by overnight drivers. Hiring a new class of workers may seem like a pipe dream for carriers struggling to retain existing drivers. And it’s only getting worse: by 2030, the nation’s shortage could number a staggering 160,000 drivers.
- Outdated technology. What sets Asian and European ports apart from their American counterparts? One key factor is innovation. The Chinese port city of Qingdao, for example, boasts the world’s first and only fully automated terminal, with a Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) score that speaks for itself. The Dutch Port of Rotterdam, also equipped with advanced automation technology, enjoys similar efficiency rates. Its gantry cranes lift containers from ships and are approximately 80% more productive than those at the U.S. Port of Oakland.
- Bureaucratic inefficiencies. Many regulations only exacerbate delays. For example, Los Angeles and Long Beach governments exclusively enforce dual transaction requirements. Under these rules, drivers must drop off and pick up cargo simultaneously—and do so within the same terminal. As a result, appointments are difficult to secure. Instead of immediately investing in a 24/7 operations model, the industry should prioritize red tape negotiations with city governments.
Today’s best bet? Tackling problems at the source
Twenty-four-seven ports can radically improve supply chains. In the US, however, large-scale implementation will likely remain a vision of the future until the industry takes on more pertinent challenges.
Improving internal processes and cultivating long-term relationships remain winning strategies for logistics teams and carriers. By prioritizing innovation, risk management, and partnerships, businesses can stay ahead of the curve and confidently transition to 24/7 supply chains in the future. Here are a few tried-and-true tactics:
- Adopt industry-leading technology. Global bottlenecks are ever-evolving. A transportation management system (TMS)—which offers real-time shipment tracking, data-driven route optimization, and automated tendering, among other features—can help businesses navigate these challenges efficiently and strategically.
- Embrace diversification. In today’s unpredictable climate, risk management is essential. Businesses should consider diversifying their supply networks to maintain cash flow and minimize unforeseen obstacles.
- Build valuable partnerships. Shippers need reliable carriers and vice versa. Cultivating the right partnerships will almost certainly pay dividends in the long term—especially as 24/7 supply chains open new doors.
The supply chains of tomorrow
Today’s logistics industry is evolving in new, dynamic ways. Still, businesses are demanding better, more radical change. 24/7 supply chains might be the answer they’re waiting for—if and when the industry addresses its underlying problems. Until then, it’s all speculation.
CTSI-Global’s advanced software—including Honeybee TMS™, our proprietary TMS—helps businesses and carriers reimagine efficiency and agility. In a future driven by innovation and transformation, the right tools can make all the difference.