The fields of logistics, manufacturing, transportation, and supply chains are experiencing a rapid and unprecedented transformation today. The future development of these industries lies in innovation and technology improvement. Recently, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, drone delivery, and other modernizations that have become almost a reality, previously, have been the subject of science fiction. So, let us consider the most prominent implementations to high-performing logistics.
“The concept of 3D printing itself has existed since the 1980s. However, only now this technology has become available on a relatively large-scale market. This revolutionary advancement allows almost any company to create devices or their parts from metals, plastics, mixed materials, and even from human fabrics without special expenses” – according to Noah Miller, CEO of PhotoRetouchingServices.NET who plan to provide a new 3D printing service in 2021.
How can this affect logistics and supply chain management?
1. 3D printing significantly expands the production process
2. Increases independence from specialized industries and enterprises
3. Reduces delivery times, eliminating the need to store a large number of finished products in warehouses
The use of 3D printing will lead to drastic changes in the logistics field. Companies will supply raw materials instead of many finished products. Therefore, they will be able to provide 3D printing services at delivery points, which will be an additional source of income.
Smart systems and the Internet of Things
By the end of 2020, the number of connected devices is expected to surpass 50 billion. A world of coupled things is a treasure trove of opportunities for all sectors of the economy, including the trucking industry. Smart devices, connected in one information space, can store important data. For example, technical requirements, customer names, and shipping addresses.
Smart pallets and long-distance containers will make it much easier to track or locate goods in transit. Such systems will not only make it easier for warehouse employees to find, distribute, and dispatch orders, but also help manufacturers to perform maintenance and processing of goods at the end of the expiry date with higher efficiency. Over time, most logistics processes can become semi-automatic.
Tracking shipments in transit with network-connected devices will remove shipping worries. Moreover, in this way, it will be possible to check if the vehicles are in need of repair and receive information about the mishandling of some goods.
At the moment, tracking goods and services on the road is one of the major problems of logistic services. The use of the Internet of Things, along with the use of cloud GPS-systems, will allow you to track individual consignments easily. 50% of logistics service providers are already using cloud services, while 20% are planning to do so.
As data moves to the cloud, logistics services become available through pay-on-demand. This means that small businesses no longer have to spend money on complex IT solutions. They only pay for what they need.
In its turn, the Internet of Things is based on the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, which communicate with each other. Chips attached to the individual elements of the consignment transmit data such as:
-pressure and humidity
Once there is a notification of any negative action, it will be a trigger to promptly prevent any possible damage or theft. The chip can signal the onset of adverse weather conditions, such as high temperature or humidity. It can also transmit road condition data and info related to specific parameters, such as average speed and traffic patterns, or return information.
Supply and transportation chain management is a relevant issue for logistics managers and directors. Therefore, logistics companies will benefit greatly from using this technology. Also, they will be able to get an increased number of satisfied customers.
A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle. It can be either controlled remotely or fly autonomously, using programmed flight routes arranged in its system. Drones are small, light, and quite cheap to operate. They manage to fly where other means of transport fail to perform.
In the near future, operators will use drones to promptly deliver small packages in both cities and remote areas. Due to their high speed and accuracy, it is possible to reduce the supply chain and significantly decrease transportation expenses. As a result, courier companies may incur financial losses. There are certain obstacles that hinder the widespread use of this technology: the issue of government regulation, air traffic safety, the permitted size and weight of the drone.
The Electronic Air Waybill, e-AWB, is the first step towards digitalizing the industry. It is a standardized electronic version of the existing paper air waybill that accompanies cargo from shipper to delivery. E-AWB improves the efficiency of tracking and processing cargo data, as well as the transparency and safety of the route.
In addition, it reduces expenses and delays. The International Air Transport Association, IATA, announced the transition to e-AWB in early 2019. Major airlines such as Lufthansa and Emirates, have already implemented the electronic air waybill. Delta Airlines and United Airlines are likely to follow suit soon. Thus, by the end of 2020, 80% of air waybills will be electronic.
Since its advent in 2008, blockchain has never fallen off the radar in any industry. Unfortunately, the complex concept is difficult for many logisticians to understand. Despite its great potential, it has hardly evolved.
In addition, many logisticians are tired of the very frequent use of this term. As you know, blockchain is an open ledger of transactions distributed among computers on the network. Since everyone in the common blockchain has access to the same ledger of transactions, there is complete transparency that makes it impossible for users to hack the system. Thus, it eliminates the need for third parties.
In the logistics industry, blockchain can make it easier to exchange sensitive data for different carriers or shippers. Also, companies are able to create trade finance and supply chain finance solutions.
Digital twins, electronic copies of a physical object or process, are one of the most exciting trends in logistics technology to follow in 2020. Many logisticians know that products will never be the same as their computer models. However, the technology of digital twins changes it. Now, the physical and digital worlds can be combined into one, which allows us to interact with an e-model of an object or its part in the same way as with their physical counterparts.
The potential for using digital twins in logistics is enormous. In the transportation sector, this novelty can be used to collect products and packaging data. In this way, it uses the information to identify potential blind spots and recurring trends to improve future operations.
Web technologies, programs and transport management systems do not stop evolving. Currently, the logistics industry is experiencing yet another revolution. The latest technologies are mostly related to speed, accuracy, security, and continuous delivery.