The number of new technologies designed to help companies streamline their end-to-end supply chains is seemingly endless right now. Driven by the growth of omni-channel distribution, e-commerce, the increasingly global marketplace, and other factors, today’s shippers are turning to hardware, software, and applications to help them work more efficiently in this new environment.
Here are three important technology innovations to watch, and a look at how each is impacting companies’ logistics and transportation strategies:
- More robotics and automation both in and out of the warehouse. According to DHL’s Logistics Trends Radar, 2016, robotics and automation technologies support zero-defect logistics processes and enable new levels of productivity in the supply chain. The new generation of collaborative robots and automated solutions with significantly improved performance and enhanced sensing capabilities, for example, offers a genuine alternative to manual handling. Looking out a bit further, DHL expects unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or “drones” to “change tomorrow’s logistics by adding a new form of express delivery via carefully coordinated air networks. “While UAVs won’t replace traditional ground-based transportation,” DHL asserts, “they will provide value in areas of high traffic congestion and in remote locations.”
- The Internet of Things comes of age. Defined as “a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data,” the Internet of Things (IoT) is beginning to impact the logistics and transportation sectors. In Top 6 Technology Trends in the Logistics and Transportation Industry for 2016, DreamOrbit says that the IoT will be able to provide highly integrated “Transportation and Warehouse Management Solutions,” by connecting in-vehicle sensors and other integrated devices over a network. In addition, embedded sensors in transport vehicles and containers will continuously capture, share, and act on real-time data. Over the next few years, the firm expects IoT to find various implementations in logistics—from the retailer that wants to monitor the quality of food being shipped to the clinic that needs to control the temperature of a box transporting a specimen.
- Autonomous trucks and vehicles infiltrate logistics and transportation. In an effort to reduce labor costs, improve productivity, and gain efficiencies, a growing number of shippers are testing out autonomous (i.e., driverless) vehicles both in the warehouse and out in their yards. At the simpler end of the spectrum are features that are already widespread, like being able to set your speed limit automatically or collision protection cameras that prevent an automatic guided vehicle from bumping into a human, according to Logistics Viewpoints’ Logistics and Supply Chain Trends to Monitor in 2016. “In the middle of the continuum we might see trucks that can center themselves in their lane and follow traffic without getting too close, but require driver intervention when lane changes are required,” the author write, noting that the trend could soon make its way out into the transportation space. By 2020, for example, Arc Advisory Group expects to see full regulatory approval in the U.S. for trucks that can center themselves in their lane and follow traffic without getting too close, but that require driver intervention when the lane changes. “In other words, for the next few years we will be more on the simple to middle of the continuum that takes us to full driverless trucks.”
- Autonomous Drones. In a move that could find more flying drones entering the airspace above the nation’s warehouses and yards, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small, unmanned aircraft systems. This opens the pathways towards fully integrating drones into the nation’s airspace—a move that could also help companies harness new innovations safely, spur job growth, advance critical scientific research, and even save lives. (Read more about how drones may impact the logistics space in our blog post on the topic here.)
Odyssey is here, ready to help you leverage technology across your supply chain
Odyssey is ready to help your organization take full advantage of today’s logistics technology. If you have any specific questions about how to best leverage technology across your supply chain, please reach out to your Odyssey representative.