Thanks to a truckload of available data through technologies, such as artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, increased processing power, and seamless connectivity, innovations are entering the logistics industry every day at an accelerating speed. Right from shipment tracking systems to drones to unmanned robots for delivering the last mile services, logistics is undergoing a rapid transformation. This is making supply chains faster, smarter, and more agile.
According to a recent survey, 65% of the respondents confirmed that the tectonic shifts taking place in the logistics industry are driving an era of technological transformation. The same survey further revealed that nearly two-thirds of the participants expect technology, such as artificial intelligence and telematics, to deliver significant productivity gains.
From autonomous last-mile delivery services to connected warehouses, tech adoption is transforming the logistics industry and making it more customer-centric and efficient than ever before. However, how are these advanced technologies changing the overall landscape of the logistics industry and how are the companies responding?
Some of the leading logistics companies are already harnessing artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve their core business strategies and to enhance real-time decision making on issues like costs, carriers, availability, inventory, and labor. But, considering the ever-evolving nature of technology, keeping up with these advancements can be challenging for logistics companies, regardless of their size. Although transitioning from the older technology to an advanced one takes time, leveraging the new technologies is critical to success in this competitive industry.
Below we look at how technology is transforming the logistics industry.
1. Automation Simplifies Key Business Processes
Labor is a critical element of any logistics company and automation is allowing logistics companies to offer better customer service at reduced costs. Some of the most labor-intensive processes in the supply chain, from warehouses to last-mile deliveries, are now being fully or partially automated.
Also, behemoths like Amazon and UPS are testing long-haul robotic trucks in states like California, Arizona, and Florida. Amazon has even already completed its first drone delivery. These technological marvels have the potential to automate transportation in the near future.
Amazon has also implemented automated solutions in its warehouses and its level of sophistication is improving with each passing day. For instance, automated loading and unloading systems have already been implemented and these systems will soon be able to optimize routes automatically.
In addition, package delivery is leveraging automation through delivery drones and autonomous vehicles. Google, for example, is already working on self-driving lockers.
2. Big Data Facilitates Accurate Demand Forecasts and Market Insights
As mentioned in the Forbes Insights Research, Internet of Things (IoT)/telematics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain are the top technologies transforming the logistics industry. And, according to research, the artificial intelligence market in logistics is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 42% to reach $6.5 billion by 2023. The research also indicates that the rising demand for on-time order delivery and customization is compelling logistics companies to invest in artificial intelligence.
Systems based on artificial intelligence use historical data for future projections, allowing logistics companies to make smarter business decisions. And, such systems, as well as those based on machine learning, have a compelling advantage over traditional systems. These advanced systems help companies discover patterns in the supply chain, using algorithms which highlight the key factors that influence customer demands and supply network. These patterns, in turn, help companies optimize their inventory levels, demand forecasting, production planning, and transportation management, providing them with the insights required to reduce costs, improve performance, and minimize risk.
3. Internet of Things (IoT) Enables Real-Time Asset Tracking
By deploying advanced analytics and IoT-enabled sensors, logistics companies are gaining real-time visibility into their operations. The IoT in logistics is projected to cross $10 billion by 2022 at a CAGR of more than 35%. The ability to tag containers, boxes, and vehicles with IoT IDs and equipping them with sensors for detecting temperatures and locations are offering effective solutions to reduce inefficiencies caused by theft and spoilage. These sensors are also improving the customer experience by triggering real-time notifications, providing the estimated arrival time (ETA) of the parcels.
Many logistics companies even use a route planner to plan well-optimized routes, track their vehicles’ location, set up geo-fences to enable alerts when vehicles move past desirable location markers, reduce fuel consumption, and track poor driving behavior like speeding and harsh braking. UPS is one such example. The company has been collecting a massive amount of data since the 1990s which has been helping it understand the real reasons behind rising fuel costs and vehicle maintenance costs. As a result, UPS has managed to reduce one mile per driver and is saving almost $50 million annually.
Nearly two-thirds of the participants in the Forbes study mentioned above believe that it is difficult to keep up with the constant advancements in technology, in the cutthroat logistics industry. However, more than half of the participants fear that their competitors are moving significantly faster in adopting the latest technologies.
Ultimately, technology plays a key role in every stage of logistics. Connected warehouses use artificial intelligence to automate the process. Transport companies are using systems based on artificial intelligence to allocate vehicles, monitor drivers, and optimize routes. Advanced methods, such as location intelligence and geocoding, are also being used to improve performance.
We leave a digital footprint in almost all our activities in the world we live in today. This serves as the stepping stones for machine learning algorithms. It is about time that artificial intelligence takes over manual processes and delivers packages more quickly and more effectively.
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