Logistics Sector: Key Areas of Innovation

credit: Image by Devanath from Pixabay 

The supply chain and logistics sectors are experiencing large disruptive technology changes. As part of this, the traditional operating models are being increasingly challenged: focus is much more on value creation rather than labour costs as a primary ‘driver’!

So, what are the most important innovations with the likely biggest disruptive effect?

Internet of Things, Big Data, and AI

The Internet of Things includes the use of sensors, technology and networking to allow buildings, infrastructures, devices and additional ‘things’ to share supply chain information without requiring human interaction. It creates better data intelligence for all parties in a supply network. Importantly, networks allow data flows to be shared across organisations – inside and out.

The potential of Big Data can enable the removal of  human involvement from the decision-making process – this is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes critical.

credit Otto. See video here

Robotics & Automation

Demand and supply trends, such as diminishing labour forces and the rising importance of e-commerce logistics, are driving the widespread adoption of robotics and automation in the warehouse. Whilst this is increasing logistics efficiency, the implications for the current workforce could be considerable.

Blockchain

The Blockchain is a permanent, secure digital record of transactions that are stored across a decentralised network of computers. It has benefits in many parts of the sector such as cost-saving (paperless transactions), data verification, asset tracking, ‘smart contracts’,  accountability and compliance.

Autonomous Vehicles

The phenomenon of autonomous driving has the potential to revolutionise the global logistics industry.  With technology giants such as Google and vehicle manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz investing heavily in the concept, it is only a matter of time before autonomous trucks are on roads around the world.

credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

On-Demand and Crowd-Shipping

Developed as a way of enabling small food outlets and retailers to provide a home delivery service, on-demand technologies have the potential to be leveraged by other sectors in the last mile delivery market. Crowd Shipping, meanwhile, involving ordinary individuals delivering parcels during an existing journey, could create a major new source of capacity in the market.

Alternative Fuels

The rapidly increasing emphasis on climate change and the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, plus Nox and Sox gases,  will mean that electricity, hydrogen cells and natural gas will power a larger proportion of trucks and vans over the coming years. However, despite a wide range of alternatives, no single form of fuel or technology will be able to replace diesel across the board. This picture may well change over the next decade, particularly given the product development work being undertaken globally.

There is a problem with marine logistics. One ordinary cargo ship using bunker fuel creates as much greenhouse gas and pollution as 50 million cars. As a comparison, there are around 33 million vehicles on the roads across the whole of the UK. Perhaps more local production to consumers needs to be thought through.

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