Over the past few years, the logistics industry has really picked up the pace when it comes to evolving technology and digitalising processes. This rapid progress should come as no surprise though to anyone within the industry.
By increasing efficiency through digital optimisation, businesses also benefit from increasing cost effectiveness, allowing them to stay ahead of the competition.
Industry progression is inevitable but the rate at which it’s currently developing is arguably down to high customer expectation and demand. The call for even more seamless, straightforward user journeys has increased the speed at which industry advances have needed to develop to keep up.
Implementing and adapting to new technologies is not without risk though. Investment in both services, products, and the time needed to develop stable strategies can feel like a lengthy process. However, the rewards almost certainly outweigh these commitments. Letting these new technologies pass your business by could throw your current way of working into jeopardy. Keeping up to date with new technologies not only enhances your customer offerings but also enables your business to work more efficiently and with the likelihood of increasing profit margins.
Keeping an eye on emerging trends will help position your business as front-runners of the industry, utilising the advantages of these new technologies to deliver agile, cost-effective solutions. Advances in analytics, robotics, artificial intelligence, digitalisation, and trend prediction and analysis means that businesses have plenty to think about. But where to focus your attention? We’ve put together a list of the five most interesting and progressive trends that you should most definitely keep an eye on.
Elastic logistics refers to the flexibility of scaling up or down performance based on a change in demands or market fluctuations. And 2018 looks set to be the year in which early success is achieved and best practices are established within this new way of working.
The elastic logistics approach means businesses can deliver to schedule and to budget, even despite a sudden or drastic change in requirements. By accommodating both established demand fluctuations and unforeseen changes in demand, customers can benefit from an agile service that is far from a one-size-fits all solution.
As humans we would be unable to deliver the same results within these same time frames, so elastic logistics is quickly becoming a key technology to embrace. If the need to suddenly alter distribution channels or geographic restrictions were abruptly discovered, the advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation will be far more efficient and precise than we’d ever be able to be ourselves, making it an attractive solution for businesses who experience the challenge of continual adjustments within logistics.
Blockchain is a distributed database that documents an ever-growing list of records. These records are known as ‘blocks’ and all blocks feature a timestamp and link back to the previous block, showing each step in a journey. From pick and pack to the final delivery, blockchain technology allows customers and businesses to see each and every step of the supply chain, and also provides a single-point of reference for all information relating to the transaction. Blocks cannot be altered retrospectively meaning the entire transactional process is secure.
The transparency, security assurances, traceability, and the streamlined process of blockchain technology means it’s unsurprising that it’s been estimated that by 2021 around a quarter of large global companies will be piloting blockchain automation, or already have the technology in place. Enabling complete transactional transparency is not only an attractive prospect for your customers but can also help streamline logistics in house too, perhaps even signposting where efficiencies can be made.
Artificial Intelligence is the use of computer systems to perform tasks such as decision-making, visual perception, and the processing of enormous amounts of data before putting it to use. Artificial Intelligence can also learn from past behaviours and use predictive analytics, making it a key weapon in a business’ efficiency-building arsenal. From robotics to self-driving vehicles, Artificial Intelligence can effortlessly make logistics operations even more efficient by enabling goods to be selected and shipped automatically. And by factoring out the human element, the problems that come from labour shortages can also be decreased.
Machine automation is estimated to double over the next five years. With the added benefit of real-time knowledge and intelligent forecasting systems, costs are kept low and efficiency high. There’s little wonder why companies are racing to leverage this technology’s potential.
Internet Of Things
As well as providing a wealth of benefits for your business, the Internet of Things (IOT) helps to ensure your customers experience a second-to-none service during their transactions with you. The IOT allows everyday objects, such as garments, to send and receive data through tiny embedded computing devices. With these items, chips can be discreetly attached to labels or swing tags, meaning they are barely noticed by consumers and do not affect the customer experience of the product.
Logistically, the ability to have devices ‘speaking’ with one another can mean security is tightened and the safety of workers can be improved. For example, machinery may alert you to any defects before human hands have even touched it. Similarly, RFID tags and a cloud connection mean both businesses and their customers are able to track goods right throughout their journey. This can help businesses quickly spot any inefficiencies within their supply chain, enabling processes to be put in place to increase speed and efficiency which helps improve the customer experience. Gathered data from the IOT also makes customer buying behaviour far easier to analyse, and allows businesses more insight to help aid their marketing strategies.
A report by the International Data Corporation and SAP predicts that IOT will lead to a 15% increase in productivity of delivery and supply chain performance. This, along with the increase in real-time information, are sure-fire ways to boost your business’ agility and productivity.
Companies like Airbnb and Uber have evolved their offerings into services that millions of people across the globe use every day. Sometimes known as collaborative consumption or peer economy, the sharing economy is a term for when owners of a product, such as a car or house, rent them out to a stranger. Having evolved over the past few years within these sectors, the trend that has helped to revolutionise how people get around is now fast making its way into logistics.
Using the sharing economy model, businesses can outsource or collaborate on points within their delivery logistics, including shipping processes. Bundling shipments from a variety of businesses can enable an increase in transport efficiencies by avoiding empty return journeys or incorporating routes that tie in with one another. Embracing the sharing economy is not only a great way to lower your operational costs, but the positive effect of lowering your businesses’ environmental impact also has the potential to be huge.