Bottleneck Buster

Issue 3, November 2022

How China’s WWL Pivoted and Pioneered Sustainability Amid Historic Lockdowns 

If the pandemic were the only factor that impacted the global supply chain, building resilience into operations might be enough. But effects from the coronavirus produced an endless wave of aftershocks: insufficient market orders, poor logistics, and unstable and varying conditions worldwide. The maritime supply chain, one of the main enablers in flow of goods, felt these effects acutely.

While technological innovations helped, technology alone won’t alleviate the need for a safe, stable and efficient global industrial chain and supply chain system that includes and benefits all. In a turbulent time, only the supply chain enterprises that take advantage of entirely new models, including digital services and sustainable practices, can survive and transform during constant change.

WWL’s global game-changer: “digital shipping”  

Worldwide Logistics Group (WWL) is a digitally integrated, cross-border logistics platform that spans 100% of China’s large ports. “Despite the many unstable external factors in the current environment, the combined efforts of CCL’s global workforce have provided strong backing for the company as it copes with the severe challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Jacky Lim, CEO of WWL. Currently, WWL’s main target markets are countries in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Its second-largest market is Latin America, and its third-largest market is in Central and Eastern Europe. WWL has also increased investments in North America and Northwest Europe. “The global reach of WWL’s industrial chain, centralized operation and management by an international team, in addition to its many cross-regional synergies, have further strengthened WWL’s core competencies and the global presence of its supply chain,” Lim says.

WWL plans to zero in on digital connection with overseas agents, shipowners, ports, customers and peers in the future and devote itself to the digital transformation of the industry.

A collaborative digital network plays a key role in the development of supply chain companies. End-to-end digital fulfillment capability, what WWL calls “digital shipping,” has become essential for cross-border forwarders. With the aim of enhancing digital redesign and upgrading, Lim led the establishment of a team responsible for developing digital products to meet the needs of customers. His team also provides a one-stop suite of integrated, digital, intelligent and visualized supply chain interconnection services. “WWL plans to zero in on digital connection with overseas agents, shipowners, ports, customers and peers in the future and devote itself to the digital transformation of the industry,” says Lim.      

To accelerate its digital transformation, WWL and Cainiao established the joint venture company Flying Fish Tech. It also partnered with to provide online logistics services for small- and medium-size cross-border merchants. In 2021, WWL received about $237 million in a fresh round of financing led by Cainiao and COSCO Shipping’s Yuanhai Fund and earlier shareholders, such as Sinovation Ventures and Yunqi Partners.

Extreme agility for an extreme situation 

After an outbreak of COVID-19 in late March 2022, normal life in Shanghai ground to a halt. Transport via container trucks was semi-paralyzed, creating severe backlogs for inter-provincial movement. As a result, the distribution systems surrounding Shanghai, the world’s largest port city, came to a standstill and caused serious disruption in the global supply chain.

In response to increased difficulty with cargo transportation during the pandemic, especially obstructed road transportation, WWL took advantage of its comprehensive supply chain capabilities to come up with timely alternative solutions. For example, it switched to water and sea-rail combined transport to clear bottlenecks on land. The alternatives maintained the efficiency of cargo transportation and ensured services for cross-border e-commerce during this period, solving problems for customers in Jiangsu, Anhui and other regions. And sea-rail transport also had its advantages:  “Taking Shanghai Yangshan Port as an example, this mode of transport proved to be more cost effective than purely transporting goods by road,” says Lim. The strategy avoided incurring additional costs, such as container stuffing charges, accrued charges, discharge container fees and secondary entry fees. It also ensured the timeliness of supply chain services, eased pressure on land transportation services and reduced the overall impact on supply chain customers.

Environmental protection at the core 

As the market gradually matures, there’s less room than ever to compete. Players must figure out how to accommodate market needs and improve service quality to stabilize their customer base and enhance market share. All the while, the industry has put forward higher requirements for the responsiveness of enterprises in end-to-end solutions to solve supply chain bottlenecks. In this already-challenging landscape, many supply chain customers are demanding more sustainable practices from their suppliers. For maritime supply chain enterprises, this means more sustainable transportation to help customers achieve their environmental goals. Low-carbon transformation and upgrading are the watchwords of the entire supply chain industry now.

WWL is finding new and unexpected ways to transform its business to become more sustainable, says Lim. One example: The company participated in a pilot program run by the Chinese Ministry of Transportation to go paperless with electronic bills of lading on November 8, 2020. Working with Cainiao, COSCO Shipping and Shanghai Port, WWL became the first company to go paperless with bills of lading for e-commerce import cargo in China over the entire process. On top of enhancing service efficiency, programs such as this set a premium on green and low-carbon supply chain business practices and empower supply chain customers to achieve sustainable development and ESG goals.