Logistics has been around for ages and has undergone major transformations time and again. With new advancements in technology, it continues to stretch its horizons. The burgeoning eCommerce sector has further propelled its demand. The logistics market globally is expected to touch $12,975.64 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 6.5% for the forecast period 2020 to 2027.
Supply chain optimization technology companies Locus and Shippo recently announced $50 million in funding to expand geographically and invest in additional technology enhancements for last-mile optimization as eCommerce continues to grow globally. The eCommerce sales surged in the first quarter of 2021 by 39 percent compared to the first quarter of 2020, while the US domestic parcel market is expected to touch 100 million packages per day by 2023.
With logistics automation, IoT-enabled connected devices, and tech-driven logistics services coming into play, it’s safe to assume we are in for some significant changes in the industry. But then, change is not always bad because it brings opportunity too. In the current scenario, it has ushered in new business models and greater customer expectations. Amazon and many others are already putting customers into the habit of expecting same-day delivery. Needless to say, fast, flawless service has now become an industry standard.
There is no denying technology and changing times have sparked new trends that are all set to shape the future of transportation and logistics. While companies like Locus are leveraging technology solutions to improve visibility and on-time performance, those like FedEx are leveraging blockchain to increase their competitiveness. So let’s look at the top 5 trends that are forcing logistics companies to adjust their sail.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
According to a McKinsey survey, AI can help enterprises maximize their gains by more than 50 percent a year. Not surprising then, all forward-thinking organizations are now eager to adopt AI technologies. AI and ML can address problems early on and propose solutions that can help tide over challenges and improve operational efficiency. AI algorithms with the help of ML can help companies address demand fluctuations effectively. They help reduce operating costs, plan supply chain processes, and bring intelligence to administrative tasks to accelerate data-based processes. AI and ML are improving every aspect of warehousing operations, thus increasing profits. For instance, AI helps them access critical information, while machine learning helps them make sense of this information to predict and track trends and make smarter business decisions.
2. Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT sensor technology and connected IoT devices have simplified logistics chores to a great extent. From tracking shipments and inventory to vehicles and equipment, just about everything is easily accessible thanks to IoT. Modern enterprises now rely on IoT-powered container management to increase fuel efficiency, ensure preventative maintenance, and enable real-time monitoring. Drones and self-driving automated vehicles come with IoT sensors to ensure timely deliveries.
IoT startups and logistics companies are joining hands to adopt a proactive approach to container operations. Hapag-Lloyd, for instance, collaborated with Globe Tracker to come up with Hapag-Lloyd LIVE that offers powerful features like real-time GPS location, temperature information, and power-off alerts. With its fleet of around 100,000 containers equipped to serve better, this initiative will ensure enhanced supply chain transparency.
Juan Carlos Duk, Managing Director Global Commercial Development at Hapag-Lloyd, elaborates, “Customers expect more reliable supply chains, so the industry needs to change and invest sufficiently. It is imperative that we understand and fulfill our customers’ needs faster than our competitors. Inviting our customers to further shape our real-time monitoring products right from the beginning will allow them to receive products that are tailor-made for their needs – while giving us a chance to deliver the best possible service at the same time.”
3. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
While sensors continue to hold an important place in cargo ships, trains, and alarm systems for tracking and monitoring purposes, tags or sensors are also placed on products enabled by RFID technology. Data is sent via radio waves to be processed for tracking inventory. This is a popular labor-saving technique that allows businesses to scan tags, barcodes, and labels to get information pertaining to their containers. RFID tags have been used increasingly in the apparel sector, among many others.
The logistics industry is now leveraging RFID to get real-time visibility of goods, reduce errors, plan product locations in warehouses, and even measure temperatures in case of chemicals and medicines to ensure that the right storage requirements are met. RFID systems can pinpoint the exact location in real-time, giving logistics managers a bird’s eye view on trucks, pallets, and inventory to see things exactly the way they are across the supply chain. In sudden events or unforeseen circumstances, RFID systems work proactively by changing a delivery route.
4. EDI/API integrations
Both EDI (electronic data interchange) and API (application programming interface) are crucial for logistics companies to integrate data across communication channels. APIs, however, bring more power and flexibility to enable companies to exchange data with cloud-based apps and other digital ecosystem systems seamlessly. API integrations can be used to connect eCommerce stores with fulfillment centers to meet consumer demands successfully when same-day or next-day deliveries are becoming so popular.
Modern businesses are now exploring new possibilities by integrating EDI and API rather than choosing one over the other. They serve as a smarter solution for those who wish to modernize but are reluctant to give up on their traditional EDI solutions. In fact, the allure of an integrated platform is simply impossible to resist. It allows companies to upgrade their legacy systems and evolve into an environment that facilitates end-to-end visibility to conduct business rapidly.
5. Disruptive technologies
Technology adoption in warehouse automation globally is expected to grow from 8 percent in 2019 to 45 percent by 2030. Supply chain and logistics companies worldwide are accelerating digital transformation initiatives to make their operations more responsive. Disruptive technologies are now taking over every sphere of logistics, positively impacting businesses and those who run them.
83 percent of those participating in a survey by MHI in collaboration with Deloitte believed digital supply chains would become the predominant model in just five years. Says John Paxton, CEO of MHI, “Supply chain resilience has never been more important. Companies that made investments in digital technologies prior to the pandemic were more prepared and able to adapt, survive, and even thrive during this disruption. They will also be ready when the next crisis inevitably hits.”
Some of the top technologies that are making waves and helping organizations brave new storms include:
Blockchain – Relatively new but extremely powerful, blockchain is helping industry leaders induce transparency into their business. It facilitates safe transactions through an irrefutable decentralized ledger system and ensures quicker approvals and clearance. Blockchain with its trustless peer-to-peer network increases efficiency, reduces human error, and prevents fraud. For companies that are committed to enforcing digital initiatives, blockchain should be on the cards.
Robotics – Robotics play a significant role in increasing the speed, productivity, and accuracy of supply chain processes while ensuring that human jobs stay intact. Rather than replacing humans, they play a collaborative role to increase overall efficiency. For instance, collaborative robots offer assistance to humans in picking up, packing, and placing goods as required. On the other hand, autonomous mobile robots can help pick up goods and transport them to storage facilities. There are software robots that can do mundane, repetitive tasks to allow human workers more time to focus on chores that need human intervention. Logistics companies are leveraging Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for managing simple clerical tasks in areas like order management and after-sales service to reduce overhead costs and eliminate human error.
Related: Automated pricing operations powered by RPA helped a leading 3PL improve its revenue by 40%
Predictive analytics – Predictive analytics adoption, which currently stands at 31 percent, is expected to grow to 79 percent in the next 3-5 years. A good 43 percent of respondents plan to up their spending on predictive and prescriptive analytics to more than $ 10 million. Predictive analytics drives supply chain companies towards resiliency, helping them manage inventory, maintenance, pricing strategies, and forecasts.
Predictive analytics helps choose faster routes based on traffic, distance, weather, fuel consumption, and vehicle condition. It also helps anticipate maintenance of equipment and vehicles to minimize downtime. It forecasts demand accurately across any logistics network using historical data and market analysis data. It also helps companies adjust their prices based on need. Demand forecasts also help supply chain managers maintain an optimal level of inventory to ensure that demand is met at reduced costs by storing stock at appropriate distribution centers.
Cloud Technology – Software-as-a-service products hosted in public clouds are now a given, considering public cloud solutions are easier to implement. They allow logistics companies to leverage pay-per-use models, thereby necessitating low capital investment. Companies do not have to pay for the hefty cost of maintaining the IT infrastructure and yet get the security and scalability that the cloud offers.
Logistics companies are now leveraging cloud integrations to collect data from management systems, collaborate, and communicate to build process efficiencies and garner better business outcomes. Cloud-integrated logistics is not confined to time or space and gives greater freedom and accessibility that we desperately need today.
Sharpen your digital edge with Trigent
Trigent, with its decades of experience in the logistics sector and a process-driven approach, has been helping supply chain leaders and their ecosystem partners respond intelligently to market disruptions. Our technology experts help create lasting value by giving you keen insights into market trends and empowering you to adopt the latest innovations. Our solutions are custom-made to help you manage diverse aspects of transportation and logistics with amazing ease.
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