The global eCommerce market is expanding at an enormous rate. Statistics suggest that it will climb at a rate of 246.15% by the end of 2021 as compared to 2017. And this will be a huge $4.5 trillion market! But with this, the parcel delivery costs have also seen at a rise at a rate of 6.2% from the year 2016 as per the report by Wall Street Journal. Rising rates of interest and fuel costs are also creating challenging moments for the companies all over the world.
Furthermore, the upsurge in the numbers is creating more opportunities for technologies and innovative concepts to prevail and transform the logistics industry. There is a rising demand for same day delivery and automation so that task redundancy can be minimized. The customer wants to shop at all platforms right from social media to websites and in-store. This is again creating huge potential for concepts such as Omni channel retail.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams - Eleanor Roosevelt
Having said this, there is a burning need to channelize the potential of these dreams and be ready to embrace what follows next.
(1) 3D Printing: The emergence of demands in the logistics industry is all set to implement the concept of 3D printing at a enhanced scale in the coming future. There is a tremendous encouragement owing to business critical factors such as waste optimization, localised manufacturing and delivery etc.
3D printing is a step towards adding diversity to the manufacturing and fabrication, which will also be seen combining with traditional practises for many businesses, with a high impact for the next 5-7 years.
3D printing for the B2B can help in reducing warehousing and distribution costs, especially concerning the after supply chain in the market. Now, enabling parts from industries such as automobile can be manufactured as per the demand instead of stacking them in the warehouse where they are barely ordered. This will in turn reduce the delivery and lead times since inventory can be catered through localised 3D printers at different distribution centers. The speed of delivery printing might seem like an issue for now but it can be credited to its adoption in the future.
Currently, 3D printing is being used by companies such as Daimler for plastic and metallic components.
(2) BlockChain: The shipping and logistics industry industry is already taken by storm by the blockchain. It is not just simplifying the shipping process but also creating greater trust and transparency levels among stakeholders etc. One of the greatest implications of the blockchain technology lies in global trade, where reducing the supply chain complexities can boost the global trade by 15%. Distributed ledger technologies such as Blockchain is helping new business opportunities and models flourish along with increased transparency for the customers by reducing invoicing errors.
Currently, various companies are capitalising on the blockchain to reduce product duplicacy by tracing its end to end process from manufacturing to consumption. Even with challenges such as technical limitations, large scale deployment etc. blockchain is set to impact the industry for the next 7- 10 years.
(3) Big Data Analytics: Data is one of the indispensable things across the world. The power of data driven insights is transforming industries and introducing innovative practises for advancement. Capitalising on the value of this data that can be acquired through different sources in the supply chain can assist in optimizing productivity, reduce risks and most importantly drive decisions in logistics. The integration of structured and unstructured data has much in store to offer for real time route optimisations, smarter forecasting risk management and anticipatory shipping. With end to end planning in the supply chain, costs can be reduced and customer satisfaction can be maximized with data driven solutions and services.
One of the major futuristic concepts lies in anticipatory shipping, where data will be able to predict an order from the customer before it actually happens. Currently, intelligent analytics such as ETAs in delivery and data based strategies are implemented in the logistics industry. However proper skill set for this job and strong IT alignment can remain an issue for the moment.
(4) Artificial Intelligence: Just like all the other sectors that are currently experiencing the thwack of artificial intelligence, the logistics industry is all set to hover with this trend in the coming years. With continued improvements in computing and adaptation of automation, AI is changing the way logistics providers operate. It is inducing a more proactive approach towards predictions and connectivity, therefore amplifying the human effort involved in the logistics supply chain.
One of the advantages of AI that will be seen in the coming 10 years is its applications towards the back end of the logistics business and at the customer’s end as well. It can streamline internal functions as well as enhance customer touchpoints and drive shipment volumes.
AI can relieve the costs and physical demands of the modern day shipping. Implementation of elements such as robots and computer based vision systems can assist in sorting, inspections and handling operations in logistics.
Currently, AI in the logistics can be seen via Amazon Alexa that can help you track your package with courier partner such as DHL.
High capital costs and imposition of regulatory bodies for AI remain an issue but can be optimised with human interaction.
(5) Robotics: Robotics as a trend has already arrived in the logistics industry as a breath of fresh air. The visibility of robotics solutions for delivery is becoming dominant to reduce logistics workforce and boosting productivity. Labour shortage in the logistics industry is a common occurrence that can be abolished with delivery via drones in the future. Statistics suggest that nearly 80% of the warehouses are manually managed, thus, paving way for immense robotics and automation potential. Similarly, upscaling and down scaling operations can also be accommodated with robotics for assistance.
Robotics can be utilized in logistics for unloading operations, piece picking, analysing shape and dimensions etc. The issue of regulatory bodies persist in the implementation of robotics but with adaptation in the coming years, it can be simplified.
(6) Augmented reality: AR is all set to bridge the gap between reality and the virtual world. Augmented reality has the potential to empower the workers by providing the right information at the opportune time and moment. Through the means of a head mounted display various warehouse operations can be operated in a hands-free manner. One such facility is vision picking where one can order pick-up using smart glasses. Other tasks such as reading barcodes, picking, packing, sorting, indoor navigation along with gamification of tasks can be achieved through AR.
One of the biggest opportunities in AR can be observed in the last mile operations in the coming 5 years. Inspection or check of the optimal loading capacity in vehicles can be monitored along with navigation and driver assistance in vehicles. The quality and standards of shipping is all set to rise with the implementation of Virtual Reality. However, integration into the warehousing system remains one of the potential challenges.
(7) Automation enablement services: The wave of automation is already sweeping the logistics industry. The emergence of automation enablement companies and services are easing out the repetitive task of businesses and increasing transparency an end to end process. For companies who are using logistics providers to deliver their products, there remains a lot of task right from monitoring each order to deriving payments from orders. And especially, when we talk of global trends in the next 10 years that is giving rise to scalable start-ups and small scale enterprises, costs on delivery remain a big issue.
As an entrepreneur of a small or medium scale enterprise, if one is spending too much time in monitoring logistics tasks and taking care of trivial issues, then innovation on product will be put towards the backend. And this is where the competitive potential succumbs in the cut throat market, where almost everyone is ready to implement global trends for advancement.
On the other hand companies like Shiprocket, DHL, FedEx, BlueDart, Delhivery are automating the littlest of shipping issues and offering you plenty of time to focus on business critical factors and become a global leader.
Towards the end, as more and more technological forces try to take over the world and create a progressive environment for the logistics industry, it will ultimately come down to the collaborative approach of human and machine for a holistic and competitive habitat. The best practises lie in the letting machines do what they’re designed for and taking in-charge of the thing that humans are best at; building emotional connections and innovating.