Technology has disrupted every industry and supply chain is no exception. With the advent of digitalization, the logistics and supply chain industry is getting a complete makeover. As logistics becomes the backbone of every industry like retail, e-commerce, consumer goods, and healthcare, the business world today is aligning its strategies with respect to the ongoing and upcoming logistics trends, such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms.
Once-futuristic technologies like Google Glasses and drones are already helping to improve speed and bring more convenience to customers. With the recent technological advancements, companies are aiming at improving their delivery happiness score and enhancing the customer experience.
Based on our observation of the past two years, following is a look at the trends that will revolutionize the logistics industry in 2018.
Blockchain and AI first certainly made their presence felt in the logistics industry this year. With the security and transparency blockchain offers, it offers an impenetrable way to store and share transactional data, while improving credibility with foolproof transactions.
For example, if customer’s ID proof is available digitally through a blockchain structure, it cannot be fudged by him at the time of delivery. Similarly, it’s possible to map the unique blockchain-enabled registration number of every vehicle against the delivery job IDs. By 2021, as much as 25% of the large global companies will be piloting or using AI and blockchain-based automation in transactional procurement.
Delivery of Choice
If the customers were not already spoiled for choices in terms of buying portals, products and crazy discounts, they will also have the option to choose among logistics providers to receive their shipment by. There were only a handful of e-commerce companies offering this feature in 2017 but the trend will pick up in 2018.
This could be a game changer for logistics companies, as they can no longer afford to be in the background. They have to compete against each other with differentiated, customer-oriented services.
Elastic logistics refers to the flexibility to expand and shrink capabilities to align with the demands within the supply chain during a given timeframe. Flexible automation solutions increase the agility and elasticity of the logistics infrastructure to cost effectively meet market fluctuations. It is not a “one size fits all” solution. However, it provides a customized answer to requirements like cost control, warehouse management, geographic restrictions, distribution channels, priority deliveries, and much more.
Interplay of demand and supply defines the day-to-day operations in the logistics and supply chain industry. To handle the changing demand and the fluctuations in orders, logistics companies are making their operations elastic to plan the capacity according to the requirement. More and more companies will be outsourcing their fleets through third-party logistics providers (3PLs). With optimal utilization, companies can deliver on-time while keeping their costs intact despite the rise in demand. Elastic logistics, in short, can help by:
- enhancing customer experience,
- adding real-time visibility,
- connecting all business processes, and
- providing agility and scalability.
Perfect Order Deliveries
Another trend that continues to increase in prominence is the quest for perfect orders. The complexities of last-mile delivery make the odds against fulfilling a perfect order overwhelming, but as companies are discovering, perfect orders are the ultimate measure of customer satisfaction.
Perfect orders are the percentage of orders delivered to the right place, with the right product, at the right time, in the right condition, in the right package, in the right quantity, with the right documentation, to the right customer, with the correct invoice. And in 2018, getting the orders not just right but perfect will be even more important than it is already.
Drones and Smart Glasses
With automation and mobility being part of the support system to compete with and hopefully stay ahead of the competition, smart glasses and drones will help drive logistics performance to next level. Backed by augmented reality, integration with smart glasses will make deliveries easier by hands-free route searches, face recognition for error-free deliveries and personalized deliveries.
With the rise in unmanned aerial vehicles and smart glasses adoption, the operational efficiencies of first- and last-mile logistics can be increased, along with flexibility and the speed of delivery in complex and congested metro cities.
Data-Driven Logistics Drive Anticipatory Logistics
By anticipating demand and studying the data patterns, companies can predict product demand, and thereby plan and align their operations well in advance. In the ever-changing marketplace, staying ahead by delivering service is the key and data-driven logistics will help enhance the future of logistics. Companies will adopt Big Data algorithms, data visualization techniques and smarter analytics to boost process efficiency and service quality by shortening the delivery times.
However, the big change in 2018 will be that companies will use geography-based search trends to anticipate demand of certain products in a region and ship in advance. So, for instance, if a lot of people in New York are searching for a new book due to be launched next week, some extra copies can be shipped to the nearest hub to make the most of this opportunity.
Building a Sustainable and Profitable Supply Chain
Logistics companies have been tying up their business and sustainability goals. With an objective to reduce carbon emissions, companies are adapting best practices that are helping them reduce their carbon footprints. The Paris Agreement and the World Economic Forum have been warning about the alarming rates of carbon gas emissions. According to the World Economic Forum, companies like UPS, DHL, SABMiller and Nestlé are among the top companies focusing on sustainability, with some revenue increases as high 20% while cutting down supply chain costs as much as 16%.
In order to achieve efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, companies will collaborate with logistics companies that offer intelligent auto-routing and smarter operations.
Overall, the logistics industry is moving towards simplifying the most cumbersome processes by eliminating mundane and repetitive tasks to create a more effective organization while satisfying their customers’ wants and needs.
Kushal Nahata is co-founder and CEO of FarEye, a technology provider whose intuitive dashboard delivers real-time visibility to companies in consumer goods, healthcare, retail and other sectors.