Recently, Robotics Business Review published an article about the successful use of robots in various eye surgeries. The larger picture, of course, was that robotic surgery is on the move and on the rise in the healthcare industry. This is just one example of how technology is forever changing that entire industry.
Logistics is another sector that continues to be “disrupted” by new technology. And while we may not understand the specifics of this new technology, we can certainly understand the results that it brings.
With that in mind, here are six technology trends that will dominate logistics in 2020.
This was the technology that was first developed for cryptocurrency exchanges, as a means of recording those exchanges in immutable chains that no one could access and change. The uses for other sectors quickly became apparent. Every stakeholder in the logistics industry can benefit. Contracts are “set in stone” and immutable unless both parties agree to a new one which is then date and time-stamped and added to a new “chain.” Tracking shipments that must go through several intermediaries will reduce theft and fraud; everything from production to warehousing, to shipment, to payments are housed in a transparent immutable system that all stakeholders can access at any time. While many logistics concerns may not be using this technology yet, 2020 will see a huge increase in its use.
Blockchain also provides an element of cybersecurity that cannot always be achieved through traditional methods. When customer personal and financial information can be housed in a blockchain environment, there is just more security.
We are just in the beginning stages of using this technology but already we see great benefits. Order placements and details can now be housed in permanent chains to ensure that we and our clients are both clear on what must be produced and delivered; blockchain can protect anonymity and confidentiality for the clients, and any order can be tracked as updates are placed within a chain. This provides a permanent record of all of our and our clients’ logistical needs.2.
2. Use of Third-Party (3PL) Providers
While this is not a particularly new concept, it is a rapidly growing trend. Manufacturers see big benefits in turning over the logistics of supply chains to a third-party who focuses solely on the most efficient and transparent methods of moving goods from supplier to customer. This is especially attractive for international shipment and delivery. These 3PL providers identify the most efficient and cost-effective methods, provide insurance, and track shipments through all of their transport points. This leaves the manufacturer to focus on his production and warehousing functions.
3. Same Day Delivery (aka “last mile delivery”)
In order to remain competitive, consumer-based retailers have had to look at this rising and popular trend. Everything from groceries, to pharmaceuticals, to fresh food, to even non-essentials will need to meet the growing demand of consumers for immediate possession.
Consider this: a customer places an order with Amazon for same-day delivery. That order is placed into the massive digital system. It is then sent to the nearest procurement center where a robot receives the information. It then pulls the product, prints out a shipment and tracking label, and delivers it to a shipping dock. The label itself includes the information for which the truckloads the item, and the driver does the rest. All the while, the customer receives updated information on delivery progress and time. Except for the driver and customer, no humans are involved in this process.
Same day delivery also involves a bit of DIY on the customer’s part. This may mean that the customer drives to a location and picks up an order. But it must be correct and perfect. The right technology that allows this to happen will continue to improve throughout 2020 and beyond.
4. Drones and Self-Driving Vehicles
This technology will be impacting the “last mile delivery” with both speed and accuracy. Be prepared for drone deliveries for consumer goods to increase. Self-driving vehicles are already in use and have proven to be reliable.
Another technology is that of smart glasses. These allow hand-free route searching and face recognition so that deliveries do arrive to the right person.
All of these new technologies will provide the efficiency and speed that consumers demand.
5. Use of Data Analytics
This is more technology for purchasers. Data science allows companies to make much smarter decisions about how and when they purchase raw materials, finished goods, etc., based upon what they can now know about demand. The insights will let them know when demand is highest, when shortages may occur, and when they may even need to employ additional staff to meet the demands of their customers/clients. This technology provides a competitive advantage when used to make key decisions. Being able to forecast supply-demand will allow inventory and labor management, as well as needs for warehousing and shipping.
Elastic logistics is fast becoming a new buzzword in the industry. It refers to the greater flexibility of all who are involved in the logistics sector to modify their activities based upon what the data shows them.
We use big data to determine all sorts of things in the writing service industry – new products and services that our clients may request, peak times of demand for our products/services, and more. Without this technology, we would be well behind our competitors in our ‘supply chain’ preparedness.
The rapidly increasing use of IoT for logistics is now being used to provide information about potential issues with supply chains. The use of these devices can point out potential issues with production machinery, alert suppliers of routine maintenance needs, inventory capacities, and shortages, and even embed shipment tracking technology on labels and on products themselves. This enhances efficiency by allowing proactive measures to prevent disruptions but also assists in theft and fraud prevention.
“The Times, They are a’Changin’”
This was the title of a classic song, written and performed by Bob Dylan, years ago. But nothing could be truer than the times we experience today. In fact, the changes are occurring far more rapidly than in his time. Logistics pros will embrace these new changes or they will be left in the dust by competitors who do.