Operations and logistics have come a long way in the last few decades, with the introduction of advanced mobile technology, automation and machine learning that leverages extensive data and analysis. Thousands of data points that would be overwhelming for human operators are less than a blink in time for computers, allowing business leaders to add complexity and sophistication to logistics processes. Data-driven decision-making is vital to providing real-time access to the most relevant and accurate inventory levels, efficient labour management and demand forecasting. Organizations that are able to accurately harness the power of technology will be able to grow exponentially, making technology a key factor for differentiation in 2019 and beyond. Here’s a forecast of the biggest trends in logistics technology according to experts in the field.
Use of Artificial Intelligence in Logistics Technology
It makes sense that AI could be a big change-maker in logistics tech, but have you also considered the impact that this emerging technology can have on the financial side of the organization? Smart suppliers are continually looking for ways to reduce financing costs across the supply chain, and AI provides a way to monitor payment profiles to more tightly control cash flow. Programmers are still struggling to define financial transactions in a way that computers can understand, but it’s only a matter of time before AI is able to replace the knowledge and skill of human financial modellers. There are software platforms that are nibbling away at the edges of this problem, but 2019 and 2020 are expected to be breakout years for leveraging this type of “artificial” modeling to make solid business decisions.
Customer support is also a key concern that is increasingly being managed with chatbots — driven by enhanced AI and often monitored by humans. According to Brian Jessup, Director of Customer Success at Yembo, “AI in logistics customer support (through predictive transit times) will reach more consumers this year”. Data and analytics are being leveraged to create a more cohesive approach to logistics, providing customers with a more timely and accurate understanding of where their purchases are in the distribution process. Organizations will need to struggle to maintain a high level of accuracy as consumer expectations are rising to the level of the most efficient businesses.
Leveraging IoT to Boost Operational Efficiency
The days of an individual or even a robot physically scanning individual pieces of inventory may soon be a thing of the past. organizations are moving towards solutions such as RFID (radio frequency identification) tags and readers that allow retail and production operations to more accurate and remotely manage manufacturing, distribution and inventory. There are several ways that businesses can utilize RFID: passive or active, embedded in items or on hang tags or boxes. Individual items can either be tagged with a personalized “fingerprint” or as a group of like items based on the business need. While RFID is generally found in a warehousing or retail environment, there are other applications throughout the logistics supply chain. Major global shipping companies have been leveraging this technology for over a decade, rapidly scanning large boxes to gather a detailed manifest and shipping details without human intervention — or even removing the load from a truck!
Logistics Cybersecurity and Protection Solutions Are Crucial
As data becomes a cornerstone of advanced logistics technology, Andrew Hagigeorgiou of Steadfast Solutions encourages organizations to consider logistics cybersecurity and protection solutions a top priority. Automation and robotics are making an impact, and mobile adoption has increased dramatically in the past few years. As this shift continues, there is a greater impetus for cybercriminals to infiltrate the systems with ransomware or other demands. Even a relatively small blip in services could have a ripple effect on logistics that are managed by a particular organization. With the availability and use of transportation management systems continuing to accelerate, it’s crucial to ensure that your logistics technology systems are fully protected.
Data Availability Has Powerful Impact on Freight Pricing
The cost of shipping continues to confound some suppliers, but savvy businesses are finding ways to tie in API conduits to freight costing services. Instant access to freight pricing for international freight moves allows forwarders to streamline the manual process of quoting shipments. This allows for a reduced booking charge and often a significantly lower overall cost of international shipping. Plus, shipping companies appreciate the added efficiency of having fully paid loads that replace the partial loads of the past. A thriving business in secondary pricing is cropping up, as enterprising individuals see the value of picking up incremental revenue through their ability to provide instant pricing for businesses that are not yet fully digital.
Now, businesses are able to track even the most complex shipments in near real-time, to the point of seeing where ships are steaming through the ocean and estimated delivery times based on projected weather conditions. This detailed data is turned into informative reports through the use of business logic, helping adjust details further down the supply chain to optimize efficiency and reduce costs at each stage of the packaging, shipping and receiving process. The use of digital data allows businesses to adapt and be much more flexible instead of losing time due to missed connections.
Blockchain and ML Provide Unparalleled Visibility and Transparency
According to TJ Sangam, CTO of SupplyPike, blockchain’s impact on logistics technology is only beginning. Few organizations have fully determined how best to leverage blockchain to provide benefits to the supply chain, but machine learning is well on the way towards being an entrenched part of logistics technology. The supply chain is extremely data-heavy, and machine learning allows businesses to process data in bulk in a way that simply wasn’t possible in the past. This insight into big data not only will help consolidate information, but also provide insight through predictive analytics and resolution recommendations.
Experts agree: logistics technology is changing rapidly, and the security issues that surround the data will expand in the future. When you want to learn more about providing your organization with technical support that you can trust, contact the professionals at Steadfast Solutions, the premiere IT services and support partner for Melbourne businesses. Contact us today at 1300-739-335 or chat online with our team during normal business hours.
Published on 9th May 2019 by Ian Brady.