Skip to main content
Supply Chain 6 min read

Life during COVID-19: the paperless supply chain is the new normal

Life during COVID-19: the paperless supply chain is the new normal

With the business world in lockdown, paperless location-based technology can offer you greater end-to-end visibility of your entire supply chain.

Building the supply chains of the future means making adjustments in order to lower costs, increase sustainability and foster resiliency.

According to a 2018 HSBC survey of more than 8500 companies across thirty-four markets, 31% of businesses have already made sustainability-related changes to their supply chains.

In fact, top third-party logistics providers C.H. Robinson and Dachser went digital; dissolving outdated processes and choosing paperless initiatives.

Although automated systems are popular, some supply chains still rely on manual procedures, which are proving costly:

  • 1 fifty-dollar box of paper costs between $650-$1550 in labor costs
  • 1 employee spends 30-40% of their time looking for information in filing cabinets
  • 1.5 trillion USD is spent on non-essential information work such as reformatting documents or reentering data into computers


Digital supply chain operations can save more than trees: they can also increase long-term security and overall productivity.

HERE's Senior Product Marketing Manager, Peter Kueth, commented:

Many companies are still using paper to manage their supply chains. There are silos, miscommunications and managers operating on a reactive, rather than a proactive basis. Companies are losing huge amounts of money and time due to inefficiencies.


With the unstoppable rise and recent necessity, of online sales (the US documented an average 15% annual increase over the past ten years) McKinsey estimates many logistic operations could be automated by 2030.

With nearly everyone working from home, and the increasing demand on supply chains, the need to increase visibility and switch to paper-free, data-based management tools has never been greater.

The proof is in the paper

Using analogue processes, like data entry, leaves room for human error. For example, just one typo in a spreadsheet has the potential to cause a plethora of compounding errors.

When something unexpected happens (take our current global COVID-19 pandemic for example) you're forced to rely on the accuracy of hand-written documents, and people's inherently imperfect performance. Humans slip-up.

Then, to address the issue, you have to find and sort through documents to locate where the mistake occurred. On average, it costs American companies $120 to recover a misfiled paper, plus the cost associated with mailing documents internationally.

Meanwhile, your scheduled ETAs and customer satisfaction are slipping further and further away.

So, how does a company start the move to a paperless program? It's simpler than you think.

An automated supply chain works smarter, not harder

Removing paper from your day-to-day will save you money on physical and human resources while shrinking your carbon footprint. Gaining transparency with the help of location-based digital tools can make the transition feel more organic if not just plain easier.

Companies can start by identifying which documents are most readily digitized. This includes warehouse documents, shipping manifests, and customer-focused paperwork like invoices, statements and receipts.

German freight company Dachser is a great example. Founded in 1930 and employing over 30,000 people, their complex operations required a seamless automated platform with which to analyze performance and make appropriate future-oriented changes.

Since the introduction of a digital monitoring and tracking program like HERE's Supply Chain Optimization, all of their client documents can be requested, displayed and executed digitally. And, they have full access to their supply and demand data via their transport and warehouse management system.

More than just end-to-end visibility

Some of the ways digital supply chain platforms put you back in control:
  • Functions for handling and transparency
  • Asset traceability and streamlining of processes
  • Location data to accurately predict and meet ETAs
  • Real-time disruption alerts to minimize the severity of unanticipated events
  • Data-fuelled security and efficiency measures to improve overall planning


But, Dachser isn't the only top logistics provider using location-based tools.

Global supplier C.H. Robinson employs a digital solution similar to HERE's IoT Tracking API. Their system allows drivers to access load information and assignments while letting their customers easily generate online quote requests and view real-time order and shipment information. As a C.H. Robinson employee, you can even produce reports and manage accounts payable from the same, single online platform.

You may never touch another piece of paper again.

Location technology plus real-time supply chain visibility means you can track shipments throughout the supply chain. This could be as easy as putting a tracker on a container. It can also help automate shipments when there's less people working. All of this is crucial for planning and can save companies time and money when resources are limited. — Ajatshatru Kotwal, HERE Director of Product Management and Tracking Services


Location intelligence is more than just tracking: it helps paint a detailed picture of your supply chain through improved visibility and analytics.

When your company discontinues legacy and manual processes, you will benefit from comprehensive data collection and full transparency, leaving you in a better position to respond to the world's ever-changing future with greater ease and flexibility.

What could your employees be doing if they weren't collecting written signatures or filing papers? Let HERE Supply Chain APIs prepare you for the future.

Jasmine Reimer

Jasmine Reimer

Have your say

Sign up for our newsletter

Why sign up:

  • Latest offers and discounts
  • Tailored content delivered weekly
  • Exclusive events
  • One click to unsubscribe