Whether you are in the export, production, or delivery business, sound logistics planning is one of the key factors that will contribute to your success.
However, setting up a successful system is only the first thing you need to do. Flexibility and the ability to improve is the only way to keep your business lean, fast, and ready for anything.
There are a few good reasons why it’s so important to adapt in the world of logistics – because the world of logistics is always changing.
Several technologies are arriving on the supply chain scene these days, and each of them will have an impact on the future of the industry.
In today’s guide, we’re going to explore some of these critical technologies and give you a brief heads up on what you can expect in the next couple of years.
With a little knowledge about future trends, you will be able to adapt your logistics planning and business plans to keep yourself competitive and cut your costs.
Let’s get started with some of the basics.
Some incredible technologies are arriving on the scene today that anyone involved in exports, deliveries and production need to be aware of.
You’ve likely heard of Amazon starting to embrace drone delivery, of course, and it is probable that many other companies are going to follow suit.
But drones aren’t the only autonomous technology that is starting to make waves. It won’t be too much of a surprise to anyone when entire fleets are created for business use – certainly at sea for the moment, but also, possibly, on the nation’s roads.
And even in warehouses, there are several examples of driverless forklift trucks helping the companies that use them up to four times more productive.
It makes sense when you think about it – moving products and items from A to B is just about the most time-consuming activity for logistics professionals.
And if you can save time – and costs it’s clear that your supply chain will be far more efficient than it was before.
Big data – or psychic sales?
There’s a good chance that your business already uses big data to influence your decision making. The trouble is, much of the data everyone mines from their websites isn’t all that useful right now.
Spam makes up the vast majority of analytics data, and it can be incredibly difficult to the untrained eye to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Even massive companies like Amazon struggle to get the most out of their data, although they are making serious moves towards some exciting developments.
In short, they are starting to use data to preempt their customer’s wishes – they want to send out your order before you even buy it.
How are they doing this? Let’s say you are interested in the new Google phone. Amazon will look at your recent searches – ‘Google phone launch date’, for example, and predict the likelihood of you buying it based on your previous purchase history.
The online retailer will then ship out the relevant number of products to your local area, and finally use drone delivery to complete your order within an hour or two of you paying.
In times gone by, the biggest manufacturers would almost always own and operate their logistics assets themselves. However, when you take a look around at the current supply chain environment, there is a significant shift to aggregation rather than ownership.
For example, there are several companies currently operating purely online services, and hire logistics services like freight and trucks rather than building their own fleets.
It allows them to remove the enormous costs of maintaining such fleets, and their use of data means they are always searching for the best price.
In short, they act as consultants, rather than the traditional logistics business that actually moves products and goods around the globe.
The Internet of Things
There are a lot of people excited by the prospect of the Internet of Things – or IoT. It’s a revolutionary new technology that many people believe is going to be the future, and while it is taking time to cement into people’s lives, there’s a good chance it will have an impact at some point.
For anyone who creates products or moves freight, it’s going to be a fantastic opportunity. Experts believe there will be a reduction in waste, increase in speed and a lowering of overall costs for warehouses, exporters and logistics teams.
When you consider that the IoT could lead to orders being made directly from people’s households goods – smart fridges and the like – it’s easy to see why.
Augmented reality was making a few waves a few years ago, and although Google Glasses never really succeeded, it is expected that the tech is taking a break rather than being put into retirement. And it could prove to be an exciting technology for logistics teams who are willing to embrace the future.
For example, let’s say you have a warehouse, and your employees are all wearing something similar to Google Glass spectacles. They receive an order to pick, and the central system works out the most efficient route for them to take, saving them a lot of time in searching for the product.
You might even be able to use AR to fill trucks in the most efficient way – workers will be working to complete the ‘puzzle’ they see in their eye displays.
It won’t be much of a surprise to see AR ending up in freight vehicles, too, rerouting shipments at a moment’s notice if there are traffic problems on the road ahead. Think of it as a jazzed up GPS system that resides in the windscreen rather than on the dash.
The collaborative supply chain
Many companies are beginning to partner with others, in an attempt to share experience, knowledge, skill sets and reduce costs. Expect this trend to continue for some time – and there are a few reasons why.
First of all, when you collaborate with other partners, you start to establish trust in each other. You begin to learn each other’s processes and develop workflows that can work efficiently for you.
The result is that you reduce the workload of admin and other time-consuming tasks that are not your forte, and, ultimately, you can expect to save resources.
The collaborative supply chain can also enhance your market share – each partner can tap into the other’s. And finally, successful partnerships tend to breed innovation.
Each partner can understand what pains the other goes through, and develop better services that lead to cost savings.
But what sort of areas could you collaborate in? Similar to the ‘fewer assets’ section above, many logistics companies are looking at finding partnerships for all kinds of things, including invoicing, ordering and taking payments.
Almost every area of your supply chain could be improved with collaboration, so we’re expecting more moves towards this method of working in the near future.
Ultimately, all these areas of logistics – and much more – will be used to cut costs. But also, and increasingly importantly, it will also be used to create a more sustainable industry.
Reducing road miles, investing in technology, and using less carbon-intensive means of delivery will become vital for logistics teams who are trying to appeal to an eco-aware society.
Companies from every industry out there are feeling the pressure to be more environmentally friendly than before so the end result of this trend will turn being sustainable into being profitable.
Finally, one development that could cause havoc in the logistics world in the not-too-distant future is 3D printing. It’s a technology that has been around for a while now, and while it is yet to enter public consciousness fully, it is certainly on its way.
One day in the future, we could see 3D printers in every home, and less need for logistics and movement of goods than the world has seen for several centuries.
Instead of ordering products, consumers might only have to enter programs into their printers to get them and leave their printer to do the work for them. If you are in the manufacturing or factory business, this could well turn out to have a huge impact.
First of all, you are likely to use the technology yourself, and your entire business model could pivot into an entirely new direction. It might remove the need for assembly lines, and enable you to meet customer demand much quicker than is possible today.
There tends to be less waste with 3D printing, too – leftover substrate can easily be recovered and used in another product or project.
But there is a downside to all of this, of course. If consumers can create what they like in their homes, where will these leave many of the companies that are currently producing those products? We await the answers to that question with interest.