Technology advances make waves across all industries, and the supply chain is among the most significant impacted areas. The logistics industry, known for using intense manual methods and vast amounts of data stored in different ways and different places, has the most benefit from executing new technologies and following the latest innovative tech trends in logistics and supply chain.
Over the last few years, there has been an enormous leap in the field in areas augmented and artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and advanced analytics, to name a few. Startups with even newer innovations are also contributing. However, these advances bring new standards and expectations, pushing logistics companies to adapt or lag. In addition, pressure is coming from customers – both companies and individuals, who insist that their services or products come cheaper and faster than ever before.
There are other challenges besides tech advancement. These challenges are coming from new shipping regulations to growing trade wars and an expected economic recession. Logistics companies will have to be on the alert and ready for 2021. For instance, carriers are now working hard to meet the 0.5% Sulphur cap that went into effect globally on January 1, 2020. The IMO estimates that this could impact up to 70,000 ships and lead to a 20-30% increase in overall fuel costs, affecting customers.
From real-time supply chain visibility to blockchain to digital twins, here are the top 10 technology trends every logistics should know in 2021:
Over the past years, the logistics industry began integrating AI solutions such as route planning, intelligent transportation, and demand planning in their operations. However, this is only just the start. AI is now making a massive difference in logistics – from sustainability solutions to last-mile delivery robots to predictive optimization software and warehouse automated picking systems. As a result, suppliers, carriers, shippers, and customers will benefit from logistics technology trends in 2021.
Using Augmented Intelligence is also expected to jump. Augmented intelligence blends AI automated processes with human intelligence. For example, in logistics planning, using Augmented Intelligence can be better than using AI alone. It combines human planners with experience, flexibility, responsibility, common sense, customer service, and more with AI tech, which then does tedious and repetitive work with fewer mistakes and less cost. Together, this can create a trillion in business value and billions of worker productivity worldwide.
Digital twins are perhaps one of the most thrilling logistics tech trends in 2021. As most logistics pros know, products are never precisely the same as computer models. Modeling doesn’t consider how parts wear out and are replaced, how fatigue collects in structures, or how owners make changes to suit their needs. However, digital twins tech can combine digital and physical worlds, allowing us to participate in the digital model of a bodily part or object just like we would with their physical counterparts.
For example, digital twins can collect product and packaging data in the shipment sector and use that information to identify possible weaknesses and recurrent trends to better future operations. Warehouses could also use the technology to create accurate 3D models of their centers to test layout changes or bring new equipment to see their effect risk-free. The same applies to logistics hubs and delivery networks to improve efficiency.
Supply Chain Visibility (SCV) is no longer just excellent for logistics companies. In 2021, it needs to take effect in real-time. Customers and carriers are increasingly demanding real-time data that gives quick responses to change – such as traffic patterns, port and road conditions, weather, etc. This fast data means that supply chain logistics and enterprises must implement front-line SCV solutions to meet challenges. SCV also includes cloud-connected IoT sensor technology for, say, shipment tracking.
Introduced in 2008, blockchain has become a big buzzword, especially in logistics technology. However, since understanding the concept is complicated for the general public, there’s been a lack of genuine development. Blockchain refers to an open record of transactions spread between computers in a network. Everyone on the shared blockchain can access the same ledger, have full transparency, the impossible chance of hacking, meaning no need for a third party. Blockchain could make it easier for shippers or carriers to share sensitive data, and businesses could create trade finance and supply chain solutions.
The logistics industry has always completely isolated its data. Companies store data how and where they want, leading to a disjointed ecosystem, inefficiency, and difficulty to digitize operations. The trend for 2021 is that isolated data will no longer be possible for businesses wanting to keep up with the times. For example, the DCSA (Digital Container Shipping Association) has created new data processing standards in container shipping. The mission is to build common information tech standards for interoperability and digitalization to make the shipping sector more useful for shipping lines and customers. However, work is yet to be done to standardize industry to improve demand forecasting, supply chain visibility, predictive maintenance, proactive linehaul planning, last-mile delivery improvements, and unexpected conditions detection.
New industry players and emerging business models are also impacting the future of new logistics tech. Often propelled by startups, new systems including elements of the sharing economy are fast gaining reputation. Without no need for rich asset backgrounds, startups focus on the “asset-light” parts of the value chain, such as by transforming into digital freight forwarders. In addition, their flexibility in operations lets them offer better pricing, transparency and provide quotes faster.
As mentioned, with the trend of increasing VC funding in pioneering logistics tech startups, mega logistics companies have invested millions in them or even bought them. In this way, the firms can leverage their abilities and drive R&D through their new partnerships. In addition, some companies are also expanding their technological portfolio in-house.
Sustainability is a cross-industry trend. In logistics, last-mile delivery is traditionally very energy- and time-consuming. As such, it presents many breaks for intelligent, fresh methods. Companies adopt many technologies to lower the negative environmental impact, from using electric vehicles to implementing AI-based software to calculate routes with the lowest generated emissions. Similar environmentally friendly logistics tech is being implemented throughout the whole shipping sector.
Although autonomous vehicles (AVs), be it drones or trucks, have become closely associated with the future of logistics, they may only be in their trial stage in the short term. Nonetheless, it is now one of the most talked-about logistics tech trends. For example, potential AV use cases could be using drones for small package delivery or fleet maintenance, such as airline hangers, to perform basic maintenance tasks and document possible external aircraft damage.
Warehouse operations have significantly shifted, and the trend to integrate technology is likely to continue. One of the most noticeable inventions is warehouse robotics. One company has created a fully autonomous robot with a long reach, small footprint, and vision system that enables unloading trucks, building pallets, and moving boxes through any warehouse facility.
Robotization can substantially improve warehouse procedures’ speed and efficiency, and many companies are testing and adopting the trends of 2021 and beyond.
Modernizing the trade and import sector will make import activities more efficient and soon become the norm. eezyimport offers Internet-based innovative tech to empower U.S. importers to become self-filers – saving time, money and improving efficiency and business growth!