Digital transformation trends for logistics in 2021

Let’s be honest. Logistics has been dodging digitization for quite some time now. Although it has introduced several innovations, it’s still beyond comparison to other industries that bursted with fresh technological ideas and dominated the market. If the pace continues to be that slow, it may involve some potentially risky consequences. And we’re not only talking about small companies that won’t get on top, but the biggest players with established positions doomed to collapse. What can they do to maintain their prestige and stay competitive? That’s easy — take what’s best from the hi-tech world and start their own digital revolution!

What’s stopping logistics from going digital?

According to recent surveys, 39% of logistics companies resign from going digital because of the lack of on-site technology skills and expertise. Having to be fully dependent on external partners is a crucial barrier for their digital transformation. Additionally, most businesses are resistant to change, relying on traditional solutions that seem easy and undemanding, but prevent them from constant growth and development.

There’s an issue of technology constraints, too. Artificial intelligence is still not capable enough to adapt advanced delivery drones able to avoid collision, and the Internet of Things may not be sufficiently safe due to flawed hardware or software systems design. But is it an impassable barrier? Don’t we have other solutions ready to make logistics more efficient and modernized? Let’s see about that.

Why should logistics mend fences with digitization?

As obvious as it may sound, digital transformation can make many processes a whole lot easier. Even the toughest challenges related to underutilization of assets, inefficient supply chain management or connectivity and visibility across various platforms and devices can be solved using the newest, well adjusted technologies. But let’s focus on actual benefits digitization comes with.

Automation of some internal, time-consuming processes and making the delivery faster using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be a huge competitive advantage for most logistics companies. The quicker the goods can get to a customer the better.

Using the Internet of Things allows us to connect sensor-based devices and transmit valid information over the network. It creates a smooth line of communication between both physical objects and people, accelerating the speed of reaction and improving various processes within the organization.

Your company generates great volumes of data? It’s time for an in-depth analysis and Business Intelligence implementation — they both require help from artificial intelligence, machine learning and cognitive computing solutions. If the decision-making process is data-driven, it’s easier to optimize the work, manage the supply chain, control the costs, and improve an overall customer experience. A crucial factor is also the way your data is visualised. Modern dashboards are able to present them in a pleasant, concise, yet meaningful form.

The essence of every logistics company’s work is making sure that the goods arrive on time, in the right location and in an intact condition. Therefore, it’s extremely important to take proper care of all the machines and equipment so as not to get surprised when something unexpectedly goes wrong. Such inconveniences can easily cause delivery delays, and that’s where predictive maintenance comes in handy. Using machine learning algorithms, Internet of Things sensors, cloud computing, and data analytics can help forecast any breakdowns, even a few months before failure.

What technological trends suit logistics best?

OK, now you know why it’s so crucial for logistics to be more open to digitization. But what technologies go hand in hand with the industry’s requirements and needs? What are the newest trends that will shake the world of logistics in 2021? Here’s the list of some of the most promising ones.

Still not used enough and only starting to get popular, blockchain technology has an enormous potential, decentralizing and validating information as well as securing data distribution. Implemented innovations can make the supply chain more efficient by letting all the involved parties track the process of issuing, transferring and receiving documents like e-AWB or a bill of lading. Such facilitation is said to lead on to a 5% increase in global GDP and 15% in global trade.

Nevertheless, some companies are not fully convinced to implement blockchain into their operations. They hesitate to operate in a transparent and open environment — mostly due to lack of mutual trust among various stakeholders.

We’ve already mentioned it a couple times before, so now it’s time to expand the topic, especially that the famous IoT can be a substantial game changer in the world of logistics. Although it’s still not omnipotent, it can be used for many different purposes, being highly adjustable to an organization’s processes. Its sensors can for example monitor the temperature and humidity levels while transporting sensitive cargo as food or pharmaceuticals. And with the use of a smartphone and NFC tags we’re allowed to authentify products, securing them against theft or counterfeit.

Superimposing the most valid information on a driver’s windshield sounds like a sci-fi movie scene, but is feasible with a little help from Virtual Reality (VR). It’s so much easier and more convenient than checking everything on a handheld device, giving a simple access to necessary guidelines such as traffic jams, blocked roads or alternate routes. Information about cargo’s weight, content and handling can also be displayed for a driver on VR-powered glasses. It all adds up to improving the entire delivery process, making it more efficient, convenient, and safe.

Using machine learning algorithms, we are able to distinguish patterns in supply chain data providing our company with additional knowledge and insights on:

  • Logistics and transportation management
  • Demand forecasting
  • Freight costs
  • Supplier performance, quality and risk
  • Inventory levels

The algorithm continuously learns, working better with every analysis and can be a primary source for structured and unstructured data, contributing to a supply network’s success.

We already use autonomous forklifts to facilitate the work of air terminals, ports or stockrooms and it’s only a matter of time until we see self-driven vehicles on roads — also the ones dedicated for logistics. Autonomous trucks will not only be able to travel without a human presence, but also to communicate with each other and create platoons. Vehicles driving side by side mean less slowing down and accelerating. Thus, they reduce the costs of fuel which makes up to 30% of the whole operating expense for a truck.

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) improving the areas of transport planning and customer invoicing
  • SaaS solutions replacing traditional tools to standardize business operations and become more agile
  • Business Intelligence platforms allow us to analyze data even more precisely optimizing a company’s work

Digital transformation of logistics — final thoughts

It seems that the future for logistics is quite exciting. Although the times aren’t easy, they’ve shown that digitization is sometimes the only way to survive. Many organizations advanced to hi-tech, intelligent, automated solutions, making their processes more agile and well-thought-through.

Digital transformation doesn’t have to be tedious and painful. Remember, that we’re here to choose the best technologies and innovations adjusted to your needs and goals. We’ve already helped a few logistics giants — you can check the results here and here. And we’ll be happy to help you as well!

human-centric software design & development. check out our website: www.iteo.com

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