Shaping the Future: What will Logistics Look Like?

If you grew up or are familiar with the Jetsons, some of the show’s concepts may have seemed a little “far out.” In all actuality, jet packs, flying cars, help around the house from a friendly robot or two, drones, holograms, smartwatches and more have all become a part of our reality and the future of logistics as we know it.

As a matter of fact, tests have been done using drones and robots (unmanned trucks like Otto) to deliver freight. While it’s not a part of our day to day operations just yet, these ideas are definitely within reach.

In our Shaping the Future blog series, we’ve talked about Autonomous Trucks and drones for delivery, but what exactly does the Future of Logistics look like?

We’ve poked around to see what some of the experts think, and gathered it here in one place.

Autonomous Fleets…of all kinds

One of Forbes’ main technology predictions for the future of the supply chain is autonomous fleets of all shapes and sizes.

Beyond autonomous trucks, Forbes believes anything from autonomous cranes, ships, truck platooning and more would begin to dominate the supply chain.

As with anything, the idea of switching to more autonomous equipment in logistics would increase efficiencies, but the argument remains that with efficiency comes a significant impact on jobs.

There’s an App for that

People are always on the go. If you run a business, you know you have to optimize your website for mobile users, you can expect to receive chats from people via cell phone, and people are finding your advertisements on the go.

Another major prediction, also from Forbes, is that truck brokerages should also step on the electronic train, creating e-brokerage platforms accessible on the go from a mobile app.

These mobile-based programs would fall into the category of the “Uberization of freight” idea. Basically, this means people could book trucks and space on trucks through a mobile device, much like you can buy a seat in a car through ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.

This idea has already popped up in the logistics scene, but it’s not widespread at this time, primarily because of risks and intricacies of shipping freight. It’s not as simple as booking a ride from point A to point B.

TMS of the Future

Transportation Management Systems are already providing increased visibility and technology to catapult businesses into the future of their freight management. These systems could become more like our beloved iPhones and Echoes in the future.

Flash Global believes voice prompting and commands for supply chain processes will improve the user-friendliness and efficiencies of TMS and Warehouse Management Systems.

“Logistica, show me the shipments for today.” (Okay, so the name may need some more work.”

Fueling Change in Logistics

Third-Party Logistics companies are already turning to intermodal transport and other modes to reduce their carbon footprint, but other battery-powered options may emerge in the future.

According to Scarbrough International, some companies are trying to develop battery-operated technology to replace, or greatly reduce, the use of gas and oil as fuels for cargo ships.

The Norwegian company Kongsberg also recently announced that a new all-electric and autonomous cargo ship will begin operation in 2018. The company plans to use the vessel to replace the work of 100 diesel trucks between its Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik, Norway.

You can’t forget the solar and wind power movement. Homes across America now have solar panels, and homeowners are being paid to house giant windmills on their properties.

There is such thing as a solar-powered boat, but let’s just say they’re built more for leisure than freight delivery purposes.

Solar energy may not be the sole source of the future of cargo ships, but it could pop up as a way to reduce the amount of fuel used in larger ones.

Business Insider says wind power may find its way back to the sea. Finnish firm Norsepower created spinning “rotor sails” that would power an oil tanker for Global shipping firm Maersk. This idea first came out around 1924 but didn’t have enough wind beneath its sails.

3D Printing in Logistics

3D printing is definitely cool. It’s actually been around a lot longer than it has been mainstream.

The first 3D printer was invented by Charles Hull in March of 1983. Now 3D printers can be used for medical devices, more affordable prosthetics, to build houses, and produce food.

It’s only fitting that 3D printers would enter the field of logistics.

IndustryWeek put together this infographic about why 3PLs will need to have some knowledge in the realm of 3D printing.

While it won’t necessarily be tied in directly to our day to day activities, 3D print centers may begin to spring up, increasing last-mile shipping because goods could be printed based on demand area.

There could also be a need for more “digital” warehouses to store goods that could be 3D printed only when needed.

Hyper-Local Supply Chains

Also potentially increasing last-mile delivery is the idea of hyper-local supply chains.

More distribution centers for goods available for purchase online could improve delivery time for goods to within the day – possibly even within the hour.

Same goes for food and grocery delivery, which we talked about in our recent blog.

Shaping the Future: What Does it Look Like?

We could go on and on for days, sparking many conversations and debates about what will actually happen in the next 10, 15, 20 years in logistics, so we decided to just stop at 5 things that could become a reality.

After all, it’s a dog eat dog world, and some technologies just don’t take off like we thought they would. (Remember when QR codes were going to be the future of advertising?)

Give us Your Ideas

What do you think the Future of Logistics will look like? Let us know!