The global lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have massively increased the demand for supply chain and logistics technology. ResearchAndMarkets.com predicts that the global logistics market, post-pandemic, could skyrocket from $2,734 billion in 2020 to $3,215 billion by 2021. But, during these times of never-before-seen restrictions, companies have had to operate under extraordinary circumstances:
So, in a bid to simplify processes, an ever-growing number of logistics and parcel companies are turning to automation. Automation in logistics refers to the use of control systems or software to run part of the supply chain, with minimum human intervention. There are many advantages to logistics automation, including:
There are, however, some who still see automation as a threat to human livelihoods. Yet, despite widespread concern, automation does not completely remove human involvement in logistics processes. On the contrary, many technologies require human assistance in order to operate successfully, i.e. creating new disciplines and skillsets etc.
Here's our pick of the top innovations in logistics processing and automation, designed to anticipate and overcome post-pandemic challenges.
In 2016, around 80% of warehouses didn’t have any automated processes. Nowadays, in a world where social distancing has become the “new normal”, automation has become a concrete standard. Automated equipment can vastly improve the sanitation of warehouses and even eliminate the need for surface disinfection.
Incorporating logistics automation into warehouses and distribution centres prevents the spread of COVID-19 and optimise supply chain processes. Automated technologies can do repetitive warehouse work quickly and with minimal errors. What’s more, the workforce demand within logistics can be very “spiky” – doubling through holiday seasons, then falling back dramatically – making it challenging to recruit and retain workers. Automated technologies are flexible enough to operate 24/7, allowing companies to scale up for simpler tasks as and when required.
Blockchain technology has gained popularity in the logistics sector for its benefits to supply chain management – right from the point of origin to the drop-off location. According to the World Economic Forum, by integrating their blockchain business ideas, T&L companies achieve new efficiencies in trade logistics that result in an almost 5% increase of global gross domestic product (GDP), and an international trade lift of around 15%.
Blockchain technology can help achieve better visibility and control over the entire supply chain, which is hugely important at a time when circumstances are evolving rapidly. Blockchain can also improve invoicing and payment via an efficient and secure system since all data and transactions are synchronised across the network. Smart contracts can be used to automate the whole process and make it error-free and transparent.
The Internet of Things plays a vital role in enhancing visibility at every step of the supply chain. According to a recent report, the global Internet of Things is set to reach $63,728.6 million in the logistics market by 2026, driven by the rise in IoT applications in warehousing and distribution.
IoT devices monitor and capture data via the internet, with no need for human intervention. Logistics IoT technologies combined with Data Science can provide real-time analytics and data visualisation, improving transparency and efficiency. The data can be accessed from anywhere globally and can inform users of possible delays, detours, unexpected stops or accidents.
New developments in AI have also allowed logistics firms to optimise shipping routes, and timing is one of the top priorities for a supply chain. Further, AI-enabled programs can handle massive data sets simultaneously, making accurate predictions for customer demand.
However, neither the Internet of Things nor artificial intelligence technologies can reach their full potential without data collection. Data obtained from monitoring helps inform better decisions based on real-time information. Then data analytics can automate scheduling, plan routes and handle volumes.
In these turbulent times, logistics businesses must focus their strategy on adaptability – enabling end-to-end visibility over the entire supply chain, promoting agility and optimising systems and processes. In this new reality, logistics automation can play a huge role in keeping people safe through social distancing, while helping businesses operate and adapt to increasing loads, potential workforce shortages and changing operational environments.
If your organisation hasn’t made automation a priority yet, get in touch with us to learn about how it can help you and how you can deploy it.
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