According to a PwC survey titled ‘17th Annual Global CEO Survey – Key findings in the transportation & logistics industry’ , while global transportation and logistics CEOs are cautious about growth in their industry, confidence is being instilled again with economies around the world coming back on track.Of the 101 respondents, 82% revealed that they were planning to change their technology investments, with an eye on becoming more innovative in their operations.
Technological advancements offer a great opportunity for logistics companies that are looking to streamline their operations and gain efficiencies. From automating the business process of material handling in warehouses, to gaining incisive, real-time information from data that pours in from different sources, technology is powering transformation in the logistics sector. Some of the most impactful technology trends in the logistics industry are described below.
Big Data Analytics Tools
‘Torrent’; ‘deluge’; ‘high-velocity’ – these are just some of the words that are usually used to describe the data from different sources that companies deal with on a daily basis. These high-volume data sets are now known as big data, and across sectors, successful organizations are leveraging information technology advancements to harness these information assets for business intelligence and growth.
The logistics industry too is catching on to the power of big data. In the PwC survey  mentioned earlier, 89% of the 101 interview respondents said they are exploring better ways of using and managing big data. DHL’s white paper ‘Big Data in Logistics’ throws light on some of the benefits of big data for the logistics industry:
- Optimized service properties such as delivery time, resources used, geographical coverage and capacity forecast
- Creation of critical market intelligence
- Identification of supply chain risks and implementing measures against disruption
- Generating actionable insights on the global flow of goods
- Collating localized information along transportation routes
Social Supply Chain
Drawing inspiration from the social networks that have permeated the lives of millions of people around the world, the social supply chain refers to logistics and supply chain companies using social media platforms and tools to communicate with branch offices across the globe as well as collaborators and clients. An article on sdcexec.com advises that organizations in the supply chain can create a community or communities to garner process efficiencies, find solutions to challenges, enhance collaboration and generate business-critical information.
An article in InformationWeek in 2011 revealed how Fedex was implementing its own version of a private cloud to leverage network convergence and converged storage technology, with an attractive ROI. The logistics company’s CIO Rob Carter also saw no serious technology barriers to perhaps moving to a public cloud model in the future, provided business model, security and compliance concerns could be addressed.
Cloud-based IT solutions offer a number of benefits to logistics companies:
- Cost efficiencies with pricing as per business requirements
- Flexibility for personnel
- Real-time monitoring and streamlining of business processes and systems
- Enhanced intra-organization communication
- Improved business productivity
According to an article on eft.com, more and more logistics providers are employing mobile technology to connect with their customers. Mobile applications are being provided to help track shipments, keep track of shipping history and locate the nearest office of the logistics company, among various other uses.
By effectively leveraging mobile technology, logistics providers can bring in business efficiencies, gain cost advantage, enhance customer satisfaction and adhere to regulatory norms.
Automation in the Organization
The business of logistics is a document-intensive one, with multiple forms being generated throughout the course of the organization’s operations. As in other industries, document process automation is gaining momentum in the logistics industry as well. Data can be captured, indexed and archived from forms, invoices and emails generated from different sources, and readily accessed when required. Document process automation solutions can accelerate the management of airway bills, bills of lading, freight bills, export and import folders, commercial invoices, certificates of origin, purchase order forms, among others.
Now considered integral for effective Enterprise Content Management (ECM), document process automation also aids companies in meeting regulatory compliance requirements. With document process automation solutions in place, large logistics companies are decreasing the total cost of data capture and witnessing a substantial increase in the efficiency of their customs clearance process.
Automation in the Warehouse
Logisticsviewpoints.com reports that the 2014 edition of MODEX, the expo for the manufacturing and supply chain industries, featured the latest warehouse automation technology, including automated storage and retrieval systems and automatic guided vehicles. Also showcased were technologies like collaborative mobile robots and augmented reality glasses, that could change the way logistics companies work in the future. In its predictions for 2014, Forbes also highlighted the trend of robots in the warehouse, and conjectured the possibility of warehouse labor being reduced considerably.
In conclusion, as technology keeps progressing, it offers numerous possibilities to logistics companies to use the advancements to their advantage.