Staying up-to-speed in leading technology requires time and investments. With all the current and upcoming logistics technology, it can be confusing for shippers to identify what will have the best impact to stay competitive now and in the future.
Businesses today have never been in so much need of change and upgrade with their technology. Their list of challenges to overcome is never-ending. They have retailers demanding more visibility. Then there’s the struggle of finding capacity, managing costs, meeting service requirements, creating a more resilient operation, and more.
There are several current and emerging technologies available to help to address many supply chain problems. There’s a lot to go through, so let’s dive in and see how logistics technology can help.
The ability to match a carriers’ network to a shippers’ network is very important. At the end of the day, you still need to match a driver and truck with an available shipment. Available logistics technology can help make that happen, but there still needs to be more adoption of it for it to be more effective.
One thing the pandemic taught us is the importance of risk management and resilience. Mitigating your risk comes down to using technology to make better decisions faster by using better data. You must use a network of data to measure yourself against the current market and your peers.
Shippers have an ongoing need to improve productivity and cost management. Technology can help you create win-win opportunities to match loads to available capacity. Or get more committed capacity and good on-time service at a reasonable cost. Logistics technology can help you be more productive while better managing your costs.
Carrier selection can be time-intensive. The process of calculating the best combination of rates and lanes for a particular shipment can be lengthy. Logistics technology automates the carrier selection process, reducing your time spent. It allows you to select the best carrier for every shipment in real-time based on the cost and service level. Technology also helps with carrier vetting through digital applications and API feeds.
Most customers and shippers now expect real-time tracking. Technology allows shipment data like tracking and more to your customer in real-time using methods like APIs or geofencing. The days of frustrating phone calls to chase down freight locations are now history.
Load planning and driver routing can impact your logistics costs. Companies that have complicated delivery patterns can’t really be sure their network is optimized no matter how much time and money they use to plan without technology. Technology can do in seconds what it would take a human hours to do and do it accurately every time. This comes as a major benefit when developing routes incorporates several factors, like rates, delivery windows, and more.
Logistics has always handled a lot of paperwork and data. For shippers, it can be easy to become bogged down in all the manual processes that they are responsible for. Not to mention, a single error can cause problems up and down the supply chain. Technology allows you to cut down on errors and time, freeing you to concentrate on more productive tasks. It also allows for easier storage, giving quick access to anyone who needs it.
Thanks to technology, the supply chain is more transparent than ever. Your customer’s expectations and needs have increased to include transparency. Logistics technology enables your customers to receive instant answers to their queries and delivery status. This feature has gone from a nice extra into a necessity for you to stay competitive.
Technology has led the way to supply chains becoming faster and more efficient. Through warehouse and transportation management systems, businesses can quickly pull data, track resources, and reduced stock with real-time reporting. Through full visibility across your supply chain, potential errors, risks, and opportunities are seen, allowing your business greater efficiency.
Good communication creates improved business. Technology has made this possible by changing the supply chain for the better. The software enables teams to input data that is accessible for all stakeholders. Technology also allows better insight data, allowing your company to better forecast and communicate your requirements. An increase in your communication also allows for a stronger relationship between you and your stakeholders.
The ultimate consequence of the benefits outlined above is happier customers. More efficient logistics operations mean that your freight gets out of the warehouse and to your customer faster. Through centralized storage plus real-time tracking removes any uncertainty for your customers. Technology increases transparency and communication between all stakeholders.
The logistics industry has perhaps the most to gain from new technologies. In recent years, we’ve seen a massive advancement in areas like artificial and augmented intelligence, advanced analytics, and automation. These advancements also bring new expectations, forcing companies to adapt or fall behind. There’s also more pressure coming from customers demanding their products come faster and cheaper than before.
Here are the top logistics technology trends your company should be keeping an eye on and consider implementing.
The logistics industry has started using artificial intelligence in their transportation and more. AI has been making a huge difference in logistics through applications like warehouse automation and predictive optimization. According to research, using AI in logistics can increase companies’ gain by more than 50 percent a year.
There’s also augmented intelligence. Augmented intelligence combines human intelligence with AI automated processes. According to Gartner, augmented intelligence is its way to create $2.9 trillion of business value. This would lead to an increase of $6.2 billion hours of worker productivity globally by the end of this year. Augmented intelligence is expected to be used more to allow businesses to do their jobs quicker while reducing mistakes and allowing for cost savings.
Digital twins may be one of the most exciting logistics technology trends to keep an eye on. As many know, products are never the same as their models. Modeling currently doesn’t consider how parts wear out and need replacing, how fatigue accumulates, or how owners make changes to suit their needs. Digital Twins technology changes this once and for all.
Digital Twins allows you to engage with the digital model of a physical object like we would with their physical counterparts. The potential uses for this in logistics are vast. Digital Twins could collect product and packaging data to identify potential weaknesses and recurring trends to improve future operations in shipments. Warehouses could use it to create accurate 3D models of their centers, experimenting with the layout or the introduction of new equipment to the impact with no risk. Logistics hubs can create Digital Twins and use those to test out different scenarios to increase efficiency.
Supply chain visibility is no longer an extra benefit for companies to have. It’s now needed and is taking another step forward – becoming real-time.
Real-time data is more in demand by customers and carriers than ever. New startups are creating technology that promotes a quick response to change by allowing companies to use real-time data. This data can include things like traffic patterns, weather, or road and port conditions. Companies that make use of an integrated supply chain are reporting to be 20 percent more efficient than those without.
You can’t mention visibility without bringing up the Internet of Things (IoT) Sensor technology. By using connected IoT devices on parcels, it allows warehouses to track inventory or shipped freight. Container management that’s powered by IoT can be made easier with real-time monitoring. You’ll see increased fuel efficiency, preventative maintenance, and container operations more proactive versus reactive.
Blockchain is an open ledger of transactions distributed among computers in each network. Since everyone has access to the shared blockchain, there is complete transparency. This also makes it impossible for users to hack into. It also makes it easier for different carriers or shippers to share data. Before a company can completely adopt blockchain, there are a few steps required. First, companies need to digitize, standardize, and cleanse their data. Then companies must form an ecosystem of partners to operate in a shared, permissionless blockchain environment.
Blockchain has grown to be a big buzzword as one of the most overhyped logistics technology trends. That’s because it depends on its market development and on the partners using it. Blockchain’s concept has also been difficult for the public to grasp. Despite its strong potential both in and outside of logistics, there’s been a lack of real development.
Yet, there are some pilot projects and small-scale operations in effect to keep watch of. UPS and Warren Buffet’s BNSF Railway recently joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance.
Data in logistics has always been isolated. Companies store their data in whatever way they deem fit. This leads to a fragmented system, allowing inefficiency, and making it difficult to digitize operations.
One of the biggest logistics technology trends points out that isolated data will not be an option if you want to keep up with changing times. The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), created in 2019 recently set new data standards in container shipping. Their mission is to create common information technology standards for digitalization and interoperability to make the shipping sector more efficient for both customers and shipping lines.
Other logistics fields still have work to do to solve data inconsistencies. There are many young startups focused on creating predictive and advanced analytics platforms as a solution. When data becomes standardized and digitized across the industry, all companies will benefit. Logistics data is essential for planning future deliveries and understanding what goods the market needs.
New technology isn’t the only one shaping the future of logistics. There are also new business models and industry players. Without a need for a rich asset background, these startups tend to focus on the asset-light parts of the supply chain. Since they have more flexibility, they can offer quicker pricing and quotes.
An example of this is Uber which launched Uber Freight in the U.S. in 2017, now expanding into Europe and Canada. There’s also Amazon expanding its expertise in warehousing and transportation. They’ve already made plenty of headway with Prime Air, the electric drone service it’s building, to fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds, to customers in less than 30 minutes. It’s also recently reported that the company has been importing new Amazon-branded intermodal containers.
Sustainability is a trend across all industries. More people are choosing companies that have an eco-friendly reputation. Companies are investing more in reducing emissions. As a result, ecological technology is beginning to influence logistics. For example, last-mile delivery is very time and energy-consuming. It presents many opportunities for a fresh approach. To lessen its environmental impact, companies leverage technologies like electric vehicles or AI-based software to calculate a route with low emissions.
Autonomous vehicles are still in the early stages. Even so, it’s a huge, discussed technology. A few short years ago, they were more unreal, but many companies are investing in them. Self-driving trucks could be efficient in operating busy roads to predict and analyze traffic. They could also help ease some of the driver shortage and capacity.
Warehouse operations have undergone a significant shift recently.
Technology has been progressively integrated and the trend looks to continue. According to the Global Customer Report of 2019, there has been an 18 percent YOY increase in the testing of warehouse robotics. Robotic technology comes in various forms, like wearable technology, driverless vehicles, or multifunctional robots. No matter the form, it can improve the efficiency and speed of warehouse processes. Industry trends focus on the automatization of manual work. The goal is to make routine work cheaper and more comfortable for their business. It’s also used to improve monitoring, receiving, and dispatching products in the warehouse.
A cloud-based TMS provides you with real-time visibility of your transportation, data insights, dashboards, reporting, and analytics. TMS technology may not be new, but its technology that continues to improve and offer a lot of insight into your logistics. Through real-time data insights, TMS technology can help you reduce risks and spot opportunities for cost savings through efficiencies. In an ARC survey, respondents indicated freight savings of 8 percent through the adoption of a TMS.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) support inventory, demand forecasting, scheduling, and predictive analytics. Tasks that could take people days or weeks are reduced to minutes. Through automation, you can save time and increase efficiencies in your supply chain. The level of automation can be semi-automated, completely automated, or a mix of both.
Years ago, customers would book shipments, receive an estimated delivery date, and then be left waiting. Now software allows customers to access tracking on their shipment 24/7. User experience is enhanced, and time and money are saved. Here at Trinity, we currently use FourKites, MacroPoint, and Trucker Tools for our shipment tracking.
Many devices made have built-in WIFI capabilities or sensors. The easy access to WIFI and the internet connects everyone to everything, which is why it’s called the Internet of Things. The adoption of IoT is on the rise. It opens many opportunities in the supply chain, like reducing costs and delays. Sensors can be placed into trucks, cargo ships, trains, on parcels, or more. They can also connect to an alarm system or have a dispatcher that monitors and tracks. One example would be temperature monitoring for temperature-controlled products. IoT isn’t new technology, but it continues to impact and grow in logistics.
RFID technology is a popular way a company can track inventory. A tag or sensor gets placed on a product, and radio waves are sent out. Data then gets received and processed by the company. RFID tags are like barcodes, but the superior speed of delivered information and data processing is more appealing.
Autonomous cars are already a reality with trucks not too far behind. Companies like Embark and Uber have already used autonomous trucks, and Tesla will be releasing their electric truck soon. Even though the trucks are not completely driverless yet, it’s a huge step in this breakthrough technology. As mentioned prior, Amazon will be using electric drones soon through Amazon Prime Air. The drone deliveries are still a few years out, but the idea of an even quicker delivery is appealing.
With so much available and upcoming in logistics technology, shippers should partner with experts who can offer customized solutions. Be sure their technology is not only flexible but that they stay on top of technology trends. Adopting technology in your business can provide you with more visibility, connectivity, advanced analytics, and more. Technology can help you enable better collaboration with your stakeholders and offer greater efficiency across your entire supply chain.
Here at Trinity, we understand technology can make or break your supply chain. This is why we continue to stay ahead of cutting-edge tech and make sure to have the best technology applications available to you. Additionally, by working with Trinity, you’ll not only have the data and applications you need but the experienced tech and logistics professionals ready to serve you.
To find out more about what best-in-class technology applications you gain with Trinity,
To learn more about Trinity’s TMS and Managed Services through a free supply chain analysis, request a consultation.
Author: Christine Morris
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