Technological Advances in Intermodal Transportation Industry

The intermodal industry has seen major changes supported by development in technology. Intermodal is the transportation of cargo in an intermodal compartment or vehicle, utilizing various modes of transportation (rail, ship, and truck), with no handling of the cargo when moving from one mode to the other. The following are the technological advances within the intermodal industry that assist retailers in getting their products to market.

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Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

This is the exchange of information, starting with one computer, to the subsequent one by institutionalized message arranging, without the requirement for human intercession. EDI enables companies in various locations to exchange documents and messages electronically.

Benefits of EDI

A key advantage of EDI in the intermodal industry is the lessening, or disposal, of manual procedures (human resource). Placing of requests, which physically can take 24 man-hours or more to finish, decrease exponentially to under one hour when using EDI.

With no human inclusion in the processes, the advantages are on saving of personnel hours used in a single process. EDI enables the use of human capital in other productive activities, increasing the profitability of the company, and reducing costs by greater margins. The reduction in costs, fewer procedures, and high profitability lead to reduced prices to a retail customer.

Retailers in the intermodal industry who use EDI are in a position to do greater tasks and with greater accuracy than those who do not use it. Transportation agents can use their time efficiently to get the consignment to their location.

This benefits customers as they can get goods and services when they want them. EDI updates the intermodal industry players at each step of the way and in real-time. Everything is automatically done, and EDI leaves an electronic paper trail, which makes it possible to trace a mistake. Retail customers can know where their goods are and can approximate the time it will take for the goods to reach them.

EDI reduces the amount used to process a financial transaction, such as invoice payments through electronic payments. Retailers do not need to wait for days to get their payments as EDI do them instantly. EDI improves the accuracy of requests, receipts, and delivery notices by a greater margin.

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Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

This is the remote utilization of electromagnetic fields to exchange and transfer information for the reasons of naturally distinguishing and tracking tags embedded in people or objects. The merit of RFID is that it assists in tracking the flow of goods. It helps keep at a minimum the sales workforce and reduce the stock handling expenses.

These two aspects form a huge part of the operational expenses. Intermodal operators track their goods from the source to the endpoint through RFID. Lambert (2011) observes that” the bar code recognition process which consumes much manpower can be replaced by using the read-write equipment to recognize the goods plate, the vessel, the box and the products” (p.109).

RFID helps reduce loss and theft of goods in transit. This is through tracking the movement of goods through the supply chain and finding the exact position of items at any given time. Retailers use RFID in the intermodal industry for tracking purposes. Tags stuck on equipment to save and transmit information about the equipment when on transit help retailers in the business. RFID provides better visibility, information sharing, and traceability of goods in transit throughout the supply chain.


It helps retailers by providing a platform where data exchange and transaction confirmations pass. According to Bowersox (2012), “the internet is an efficient system where global supply-chain logistics are enabled by an open, intermodal system that uses standard, modular and re-usable containers, real-time identification and coordinated routing through shared logistics facilities” (p.78).

This shortens the time used to get the goods to customers leading to a reduction in prices of goods. An Internet-empowered chain of stores decreases operational costs, obsolete stock, reduces the steps needed to move stock through the framework, wipes out obsolete business techniques, and accelerates creation and responsiveness to clients.


Bowersox, D. (2012). Supply Chain Logistics Management. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Lambert, D. (2011). Fundamentals of logistics management. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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