Robotics, online dock scheduling apps, and driverless trucks are just the tip of the iceberg. Buckle up and read on for the stories that signaled abrupt supply chain logistics changes in 2016, and beyond.
1. THE ROBOTS ARE RUNNING THE WAREHOUSE…SORT OF
The robotics technology that enables automated workforce management in fulfillment and receiving centers has arrived. The question is: are businesses ready to use it?
There are a number of perceived drawbacks of this “brave new world” from the labor side, balanced by research that shows that the use of robotics will lead to greater workforce efficiency and expansion, ultimately creating more job opportunities further down the line.
Before robotic warehouse management becomes the norm, however, the model needs to be scalable, and better integrated into the overall blueprint for efficient logistics operations. As noted in the Huffington Post, the cost of an initial investment in warehouse robotics (approximately $35,000 a pop), is prohibitive for many smaller retailers.
However, industry experts predict that the continued use of automation will lead to major savings across the fulfillment industry, to the tune of up to $900 million annually. In the meantime, Amazon will continue to offer a large-scale test model from which to learn, with their impressive fleet of 30,000 robots operating in 10 different warehouses across the nation.
2. IoT = BIG SHAKEUPS FOR SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) sort of sounds like something a college freshman might blurt out after a heady philosophy class. However, this concept is for real, and it’s a major influencer in today’s logistics industry.
An article in Global Trade Review makes clear that IoT is far from a buzzword. In fact, it’s not even that new; industry leaders have been using this everything-is-connected approach to create and implement smart logistics solutions for years.
“Cargotec has for a decade operated automated shuttle carriers which pick up containers at the quay, before bringing them to the yard where a fully-automated crane lifts them into place,” the article states. “Maersk Line, the world’s largest shipping company, has been working on an IoT solution since 2010: a refrigerated container (or reefer) fleet that as of 2015, is fully networked.”
IoT technology has the potential to change the face of logistics in swim lanes beyond traditional shipping and receiving as well. In late 2016, Supply Chain Digital reported that the Japanese IT giant Fujitsu had partnered with DHL Supply Chain UK in order to “develop new services based on wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) … [and to] use the partnership to drive the creation of entirely new markets in other sectors, such as airline logistics.”
3. DRIVERLESS TRUCKS, AND THE ROADS MADE FOR THEM
The advance of driverless trucks made headlines this year. However, we’re even more excited about the news regarding driverless roads.
That’s right. As reported in the Dayton Daily News, Ohio is investing $15 million to develop a 35-mile corridor of “smart” highway” to allow for the testing of smart transportation technologies on a highway that carries up to 50,000 vehicles per day. The data from this large-scale technology test will surely influence the future of shipping possibilities for years to come.
“Data collected on this corridor will allow automotive innovators to test and refine jobs creating technologies that are going to help move people and products more safely and efficiently than ever before,” said Jerry Wray, Ohio’s Department of Transportation director, in the article.
4. WAREHOUSE LOGISTICS? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
Referred to as “the Uberization of warehousing” by Supply Chain Management Review, one of the top supply chain logistics trends this year was the increasing use of mobile-based apps to conduct “on-demand” logistics business, as opposed to formalizing contracts with traditional third-party logistics providers (3PLs).
Lauded by supporters as a way to cut the fat and increase the efficiency of dock scheduling (hopefully reducing detention fees), the downside of this technology is that these new tools can also create major service gaps without careful planning.
While these new Digital Freight Matching (DFM) services invite exciting possibilities, Global Trade Magazine makes clear that “adoption of DFM services will affect all supply chain and logistics professionals.”
That’s especially true for carriers, who rely upon external connections and relationships to obtain business. Using these new tools is sure to create a major ripple effect, impacting everything from rates, detention times, liability, and scheduling. Experts warn carriers and shippers to exercise due diligence before adopting this technology.
5. THE ONLINE DOCK SCHEDULING REVOLUTION
If you asked 100 logistics providers to make a list of all the reasons why interruptions occur throughout their day, “time” would undoubtedly be right at the top. Whether it’s a dock supervisor not having enough hours in the day for his team to execute tasks, or management making decisions that lead to an ineffective use of resources, time (and by association, scheduling) is a leading pain point for those with any tenure in the industry. So it’s no shock that online appointment scheduling software is at the forefront of logistics tech trends.
With the help of an online scheduler, a dock manager can take back control of the dock by establishing carrier arrival and departure times, enforce an appointment scheduling policy for carriers arriving at the dock, allow carriers to self-schedule their arrival times, and maximize workforce efficiency by establishing dock predictability.
The reporting features included in most dock scheduling platforms provide visibility into upcoming staffing needs, cutting down on unplanned overtime. What’s more, managers can track insights on dock arrivals, loads, and departure times.
“With more distribution centers coming online every day, we are gaining more insight into how the simple act of inbound and outbound scheduling is transforming the industry,” says Bob La Loggia, CEO of the scheduling software company AppointmentPlus.
“Online scheduling is reshaping a formerly chaotic process into a tidy, efficient one. DCs commonly report to us that trucks are no longer lined up waiting to pick up or drop off. Instead, they arrive at their appointed time. This has a profound impact on reducing energy costs, labor costs, and detention fees.”
There’s no doubt that the next frontier of logistics is upon us, which means that new tools are required to integrate both human and technological effort into a seamless, efficient system.
Looking for more info on logistics automation trends? Check out our latest white paper for insights that can help your warehouse stay lean and mean, without having to entirely hand over the reins to your new robot overlords.