From boardrooms to warehouse floors, better ways to operate become ever more accessible to players in logistics. And while we’re far from flying cars and teleporting parts, many powerful technologies revolutionise our operations on the ground.
The Supply Chain Index indicates that we’ve reached the peak of disruption. And although this is comforting, no one can perfectly predict what the future holds. Companies continue to seek ways to safeguard against volatility.
This post will cover eight trends and innovations that leaders in logistics are turning to in 2023.
Mobile Apps & IoT (Internet-Of-Things)
Think of any task or process – chances are, there’s an app for it. If there isn’t, it’s safe to assume that someone, somewhere, is developing it right now.
Mobile app deployment helps to enhance visibility in Logistics. Transparency issues are resolved, app by app, and illuminate the entire supply chain. Drivers and managers stay on the same page. Vendors and suppliers keep in touch. And customers keep calm and plan ahead with delivery tracking.
We’re also not limited to manual app development anymore. No-code app builders help businesses bypass lengthy development cycles with drag-and-drop app-creation software. If you look hard enough, you’ll find that some builders can even be white-labelled. This allows companies to rebrand and sell it, diversifying their offering. Appenate is an excellent example of this. With our flexible interface, customers can get creative with their solutions to process inefficiencies. Many of our clients have white-labelled us too.
Here’s a case study on how we helped one of our vendors create white-labelled apps for use on rugged Zebra vehicle-mounted devices.
On that note, take a look at these app examples to get a taste of what we’re typically used for.
Quality mobile apps can also integrate with IoT sensors. You can connect them to pressure sensors, barcode scanners and NFC tags – to name a few. IoT qualifies as automation technology. It removes the hands-on work of monitoring stock and warehousing conditions, for example.
The growing prowess of artificial intelligence has also entered the conversation. Many companies are now contemplating the potential of AI-empowered drag-and-drop builders. The fusion of these two technologies could amount to something groundbreaking.
Industry giants like Amazon are well known for disrupting the entire retail landscape. Over the years, they’ve earned the loyalty of millions of customers across the globe. And as the Amazon Effect continues, many smaller players are modelling the script.
Despite Amazon’s criticism, we’ve learned one thing from their success; customers love convenience.
This discovery has initiated a large-scale expansion toward ‘Multichannel Distribution Models’. This just means that sellers use a combination of channels to reach their customers. Websites, e-commerce stores, apps, and brick-and-mortar stores are all considered ‘channels’. It attracts more customers by tending to their comfort. They can get what they need, where and when they want.
While this is great for market reach, it further complicates things. Companies that rely on siloed data will need help with multichannel hosting. They might struggle to stay on top of things if they don’t have sufficiently integrated systems.
For this reason, high-level integration must take centre stage for all companies in the coming years.
Many Manufacturers are also banking on the promising outlook of Additive Manufacturing – the industry term for 3D printing.
There are many cost barriers to the globalisation of supply chains, and cascading fuel spend is one of them. The further we travel to deliver goods, the pricier things get – not to mention the CO2 aftereffects.
With additive manufacturing, parts can be created locally without sacrificing quality. Part blueprints can be shared with the click of a button. This saves fuel, diminishes C02 emissions and has immense potential to speed up production.
Of course, engineers are still running the show – calling when to print what and why. Some parts demand perfect precision or specific materials, still requiring custom machine manufacturing. It really depends on the product. Engineers consider things like strength, durability & performance requirements before calling the shots.
The rise of AI-powered 3D printing will take it a step further – unlocking unprecedented levels of efficiency. As new models develop, they will increasingly be used to;
- Optimise the design process.
- Enhance the printing process.
- Improve quality control.
- Enable predictive maintenance.
- Help with material development.
- Uncover new knowledge.
Here’s an interesting article by Ethan Karp on how additive manufacturing is becoming an industry 4.0 staple.
No matter who you are, AI updates have most likely surged to the top of your news feed too. Some promise a bright and efficient future. Others claim we’re about to cross the singularity. Wherever the present falls on that continuum, the word is out that BIG things are coming.
Despite the craze around it, AI has been used in Logistics for a long time – take geolocating apps, for example. It can assist us with route optimisation and customer sentiment analysis. It can process data, forecast demand and automate time-consuming work. But we’ll need accurate data if we plan to leverage these advancements to break through efficiency barriers.
For this reason, data integrity can no longer be an afterthought. Simply logging entries won’t cut it. Your data must be cleaned, validated and crawled to detect outliers. This is important when you plan to introduce models that assist with strategy. Misfires can be costly, but we can prevent them with the right tools and sound data. This also leads us to the issue of ‘data literacy’. Technically apt workers are a rare find. Companies will need to implement plans to upskill workers if they want them to remain capable in the digital revolution.
If you have all these in place – a tech-savvy team, a digital data management system, and your eyes on the AI industry… You’ll be well-equipped to conquer the challenges of the future.
Robots & Drones
In the modern age of Intralogistics, floating machines can finally do the heavy lifting for us. These bots have been wildly successful in tempering accident rates too.
Mobile Warehouse robots are packing and stacking more and higher than humans ever can. With the employment of AS/RS, warehouses can grow vertically – saving floor space. Warehouses and distribution centres are turning to robots to improve efficiency and accuracy. Pick and place, parts transfer, pick to cart, and truck loading can now be left to the machines.
In one survey, highly automated warehouses were 76% more likely to reach a 99% reporting accuracy rate. They were also more likely to reduce labour costs and boost shipping consistency.
Going forward, firms that solely rely on legacy systems will find it increasingly difficult to hold a competitive advantage.
Cloud-Based Systems & Analytics
Today, accessible data is non-negotiable. As we employ these evolving technologies, they’ll need to integrate with each other in real time. If your data is scattered on dislodged systems or worse – stored on paper, you’ll have a hard time.
Cloud systems are becoming the norm because it centralises document management. This simplifies the integration process and allows managers to achieve strategic oversight.
It’s also easy to scale cloud systems, allowing databases to expand as companies grow. With the cloud, we can effectively handle many data sets and computationally intensive tasks.
Finding tech-proficient employees despite a deepening labour shortage takes work. Instead of seeking the perfect talent, businesses should consider upskilling their existing teams.
Investing in your current human resources is always a good thing. It also helps attract growth-focused employees who are open to learning.
There are many approaches to upskilling your workforce. Here are some suggestions;
Cultivate a Mentorship Culture
You can assign mentorship roles to the experts in your team. Before you do, consider the time commitments and availability of your experts. Mentorship might not be feasible if they’re constantly packed with other responsibilities.
You’ll also want to reward them for their efforts. Those who’ve had the privilege of mentoring others know it isn’t a walk in the park. To keep your mentors from being discouraged, ensure it’s worth their time.
A more subtle way to implement mentorship is to encourage the free flow of information. Where everyone can consult each other on a need-to-know basis, regardless of seniority or department.
Partner With External Educators
If you don’t want to run mentorship programs, external educators can bridge the gap for you. They are often highly specialised and updated in their expertise.
Leap And Learn
You can also get a foot in the door by trying out a user-friendly Data Management System. It can be an excellent way to introduce employees to new technology. Granted, it comes with excellent customer support.
Before we move on, Forbes recently published an article on upskilling front-line workers if you want to take a look.
Let’s touch ground on the environmental side of things. Decarbonisation & alternative energy solutions are breaking to the foreground of concern in Logistics.
A staggering 60% of the world’s carbon emissions can be attributed to Supply Chains.
Because of this, the pressure to achieve carbon neutrality is intensifying. With customers becoming more environmentally conscious and tightening regulations, we must act fast.
The first step to curb emissions is to achieve operational transparency.
Product emissions can fall into three categories (scopes 1, 2 & 3) that must be tracked. Unfortunately, many companies aren’t monitoring these numbers at all… If they do, generalised figures are often used. This becomes a problem as vague estimations don’t necessarily reflect reality.
You can always reel in third-party inspectors to assess your reports to address this.
On the bright side, the collective switch to digital is revolutionising data transparency. As sensor technology becomes more common, data capture will be instant and reliable.
This will also help us to assess the impact of alternative energy solutions.
What All This Means For You
We hope you found our take on the trends in logistics helpful. Now, where do you go from here?
First things first, do you have a Digital Data Management System? It should be the very first step on your Digital Transformation journey. We can help you with this part. As mentioned, Appenate is a mobile app-builder that facilitates the switch from paper to digital.
We support GPS, barcode and NFC integration and a whole lot more…
Start your free trial today (no strings attached), and create mobile apps that suit your operational needs.