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Predictions for technology trends in logistics in 2019

Capgemini and Transporeon have suggested that logistics costs are rising. This has been driven by a scarcity of drivers coupled with a lack of available transparent information to support accurate planning by shippers. In addition, the so-called ‘Amazon effect’ which has raised customer expectations within the B2C realm in recent years is now increasingly impacting B2B industries too. Just as customers expect low-cost, high-speed delivery, today’s business clients simply won’t accept delays or cancellations to their shipments. Therefore, modern companies are facing increasing pressure to find new ways to implement efficient, flexible logistics planning that meets the changing customer expectations of our digital world.

European Road Transport Rates

These issues are compounded by the fact that, despite global digitisation being well underway, daily operations in many sectors still largely depend on “low-tech” solutions, such as physical PoDs and inefficient email or call-based correspondence. Indeed, according to PwC’s 2018 report on Strategy and Global Digital Operations, only 10% of manufacturing companies are ‘digital champions’. The report also illustrated that around two-thirds of manufacturing companies haven’t even started their digital transformation yet. Clearly, companies are struggling to keep pace with technological advancements and to effectively integrate newly available tools into their business models.

Digital maturity by industry

In 2019, new technologies, such as IoT and AI, will offer unique opportunities for industry players on all sides to deal with changes in the industry and to gain a new competitive advantage. We are likely to see higher digital adoption rates of particular technologies in the coming year among companies dealing with evolving logistics challenges. We’ll explore the five principal technologies that will be implemented to help find solutions to such challenges.

5 Logistics Technology Trends To Watch In 2019

1. IoT

Growth in connected devices

Today, it’s estimated that there are around 25 billion connected devices, a figure that’s predicted to will triple to around 75 billion connected devices in operation by 2025. Global digitisation is now well-established; in the logistics field, this trend will continue to encourage logistics service providers and shippers to adopt digital solutions. Through these solutions, companies in this domain will be able to fully leverage the potential of IoT, digitising and connecting devices (pallets, trucks, ships, etc.) - throughout their supply chain in order to collect real-time data. This will then allow for a more large-scale integration of product life-cycles, supply chain and customer insights in order to eventually develop a fully digitalised value chain. Companies will, therefore, be able to digitalise everything from inventory, order and fleet management, to barcode scanning and shipment tracking, to customer service. In line with this global shift, Ontruck’s network is connected to GPS, monitoring and tracking hardware installed in fleets around the world. This integration allows for maximum connectivity, traceability and data collection which in turn equips manufacturers with complete insights into ongoing operations and how they can be optimised.

2. Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics

AI and data analytics are improving day by day. For instance, employees can now analyse and make better, data-driven decisions without the need for specialist training. This is thanks to products that leverage technology to make sense of both unstructured and structured data aggregated within supply chain operations. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science and data analytics help manufacturers interpret data, automate decision-making and improve business performance in logistics operations and beyond. This increased access to data insights will not only improve decision-making in the future, but it also has the potential to completely transform business models. This means long-term ramifications for customer experience as a whole, due to an enhanced operational reactivity and fluidity. Indeed, Ontruck has already used machine learning to automate digital POD collection and QA, resulting in vastly improved services for shippers and faster payments for carriers.

3. Automation

Automated robots, such as Amazon’s Kiva robots, are increasingly being used in supply chain logistics, replacing the trusty forklifts that have filled warehouses for decades with a programmed, automatic alternative. This kind of physical automation improves efficiency and streamlines operations: Amazon, for example, has managed to condense delivery times to within a 24hr-48hr period due to this method. This optimisation will have a ripple effect, placing increasing pressure on other companies to match these standards due to soaring customer expectations. Automation, as we’ve seen above, can be extended to other parts of the supply chain too. AI and better data analytics allow operators to automate entire processes - such as tenders - and make digital, as well as physical, supply chain processes more efficient.

4. Blockchain

Company's stance towards blockchain

In 2018, it was predicted that supply chain management was an area ripe for disruption by blockchain technology, for instance, to track the transportation of diamonds from the mining stage to outlets. 2019 will see the continued application of this technology for decentralised supply chain management functions, such as smart contracts, traceability and authentication. Blockchain is especially useful for the logistics industry because it could benefit many players at once: manufacturers, shippers, customers, suppliers, auditors, etc. Blockchain technology allows suppliers and customers alike to track and trace products, and auditors to check transactions. As information stored in blockchain can never be altered, it cannot be manipulated by third parties and is, therefore, more secure than most other solutions. Indeed, research shows that 20% of logistic companies are already implementing bockchain solutions. Maersk and IBM pioneers in this field, recently introducing a new blockchain-based shipping solution that involves over 90 organizations. Solutions such as this, which utilise blockchain smart contracts, show the wider industry how to successfully implement blockchain technology in logistics. As this technology spreads throughout the logistics market, it will greatly help to automate, improve and accelerate the process of approving and documenting shipping.

5. Application programming interface (API)

APIs allow logistics operators to efficiently communicate data gathered through IoT connected devices in real-time to internal teams and third-party members. Using APIs, these operators can then ensure that the right information is being accessed by the right people. Currently, the issue of access to valuable data insights demands lengthy manual labour. However, as we look into 2019, leveraging APIs removes the need for manual checks by automating communication. This means manager interference is only needed for data access approval, cancellations and sharing rights modifications within their network. Furthermore, APIs could be easily integrated into any dashboard, management platform or software program to facilitate smooth data-sharing processes.

Conclusion

Companies needs to digitise

Both transport costs and customer expectations are on the rise. In response, many companies are looking to technology to help them tackle these issues. However, keeping pace with the rapid pace of change is difficult, and the risk of investing in the wrong technology is high. However, these investments in forward-thinking technology are critical to maintaining a competitive business advantage. As such, we’re likely to see increasing adoption of the above technologies in different combinations and contexts in 2019. Each of these technologies not only brings increased efficency but, crucially, increased visibility over operations too. This gives companies ‘elasticity’ - in other words, the flexibility to respond to fluctuating, real-time demands.

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