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Emerging technologies set to shape the future of logistics
The future of the logistics sector is set to be shaped by technology and innovation. The sheer size and scale of the logistics sector mean that it is under constant pressure to innovate and find ways to improve efficiencies. In 2019, the total global logistics market was valued at $6 trillion (over 10% of total global GDP) (Research and Markets).
In this article COREX Logistics takes a look at the main technologies affecting the future of logistics.
AI and Machine Learning optimizing the supply chain
AI and Machine Learning offer huge advantages to the logistics sector through their ability to harness the enormous amount of existing data in the sector and use it to improve business processes. Machine Learning is being used by logistics providers to automate the supply chain and gather insights which when applied to tracking and internal processes are helping to streamline the supply chain and improve timelines of logistics processes. For example, companies are using intelligent algorithms to match shipments with capacity. These automated matching and routing processes dramatically reduce costs and improve efficiencies by decreasing “empty miles”, distances travelled with empty containers and helping to save on fuel costs. AI and Machine Learning can be used in supply chain planning, to predict demand, for route optimization and to help manage supplier and client relationships.
Blockchain improving transparency and traceability
Blockchain is an internet based technology that put simply has the ability to publicly record, distribute, and validate transactions in encrypted and immutable ledgers. Initially developed to enable the transaction of bitcoin currency many companies are now applying it to a diverse range of business functions to improve efficiency. It has many applications to logistics including managing financial transactions, managing global contracts, and implementing shipment tracking processes. It is also especially relevant to clinical logistics which require optimized storage systems. Sensors can be used to monitor cold storage and information tracked and readings stored using blockchain and where deviations are detected and can be corrected. It will still take some time for blockchain to be mainstreamed across the industry as companies will need to invest time and resources into its adoption across their functions. However, it is well on its way to revolutionizing the industry as we know it.
3D printing has been around for some decades now and its disruptive force is being felt across many industries- the logistics industry is no exception. Originally developed as a means of creating prototypes, 3D printing has rapidly developed to the point where it may be considered a viable end-product manufacturing process. Also known as additive manufacturing, the list of materials that can be inputted and outputted is growing to almost science fiction levels for example, the potential to create human organs. It is likely to challenge traditional models of manufacturing through its ability to deliver customized products. This may result in a shift from mass manufacturing in low cost countries to more localized manufacturing hubsand a shift to “on-demand” production which will disrupt traditional approaches to inventory and warehousing.According to DHL, in the short to medium term additive manufacturing is likely to become a force in the area of “spare parts” production as the quality of 3D output continues to improve. In a 2018/2019 trends report, it notes that “dematerialization” of mass production is still a way off but encourages logistics providers to “orchestrate complex hybrid manufacturing networks and utilize networks of 3D printers to offer new logistics services”.
Internet of Things for tracking and tracing
The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to connect anything to the internet. IoT devices can connect trucks, cars, ships and warehouses with the internet. They can report GPS and environmental conditions such as pressure and temperature allowing tracking across the entire journey rather than just at the beginning and endpoints of a journey. IoT also provides greater security across the supply chain by improving traceability of goods thus helping to counter theft and counterfeit. The use of IoT devices is increasing across the logistics sector – according to Statista companies are currently spending $40 billion on connected devices to improve efficiencies and this is set to grow. Some examples of IoT use in logistics include Amazon using connected sensors to track its assets and improve warehouse planning while global shipping giant Maersk has teamed up with Ericsson to develop a real-time cargo monitoring system across its fleet to improve safety, security and cargo care.