Logistics Trends for 2018
There is unlikely to be much dispute that the logistics industry has lagged behind many others from a technology perspective. There are specific pockets such as freight forwarding where this has quite dramatically been the case. Whereas the likes of Amazon has pushed product supply chains on leaps and bounds. The good news for the likes of freight forwarding, is there remains a huge amount of untapped opportunity to transform the business model. So in 2018, what are going to be the industry-wide trends we should expect to see?
More IoT fuelling transparency
You may be slightly bored of hearing about the internet of things, it has been making lists for a few years now – but real and large scale implementations mean this is making the list once again. The industry is coming on leaps and bounds in terms of providing transparency of shipping locations through the use of RFID (radio frequency identification), GPS, and bluetooth. Having the ability to track shipments not only allows businesses to keep customers up to date, but they can also make better decisions in terms of routing based on real time conditions.
Blockchain is another trend that has been making lists for a while now, but it is still in its infancy in terms of being utilised in a useful and value adding way. Expect to see use cases shaped further in 2018 but wide scale implementations not forthcoming for a few years. Blockchain offers impenetrable security which make it ideal technology for mapping blockchain enabled vehicle registration numbers to shipment IDs. This would in itself have a number of benefits such as reducing the possibility of stolen shipments as there will be full traceability.
This is a particularly interesting one as it is an operational improvement which is made possible through technology. Elastic logistics is a phrase used to describe the flexibility to scale capabilities up and down in accordance with demand. A key way in which to do this is for logistics businesses to not own infrastructure, but to hire it on a flexible basis. This requires robust contracts, and brilliant planning technology to forecast demand and arrange supply accordingly. It is essentially the Just In Time of the logistics industry.
Drones and other unmanned vehicles
Drones made many lists last year and 2017 was the year that saw the likes of Amazon begin undertaking trials. Driverless vehicles in general have the ability to fundamentally change the industry by removing a huge amount of human resource and relying in some cases fully on technology from order to fulfilment. Unmanned vehicles are controversial in a number of ways, but they offer huge efficiency improvements. Never have to worry about a driver being late or ill ever again!
The trends lists are always exciting to read as they are ultimately a set of predictions that to some extent by design may become self-fulfilling prophecies. We are at a point technologically where some of the changes are so huge that the industry is not yet sure how to utilize them (block chain), and in other cases the industry is demanding technology that is not quite ready yet (drones and unmanned vehicles).