Blog postsApril 12, 2016
Top 5 Logistics Technologies
The business of logistics is evolving.
The business of Logistics is evolving. We recently published an article about how the Internet of Things is changing several aspects of the supply chain and in recent posts we’ve also discussed additional new innovations, like freight marketplaces and supply chain design technologies that help make the supply chain more efficient, responsive and competitive. Those stories sparked an internal discussion about supply chain innovations that have made the greatest impact on the business of logistics. There are lots of them, especially if you look back at the full history of the supply chain, but most of those no longer represent consequential change or disruption to your business in 2016. So, after some debate, we narrowed our list down to the top five recent supply chain innovations that are revolutionizing the industry.
1) Robotics and automation
The introduction of robotics into the supply chain has reduced costs, improved efficiency, increased productivity and accuracy for companies that have adopted various robotic solutions to tackle a variety of tasks. Today, robotics technologies take many forms and serve a number of important functions in the supply chain, from assembling widgets to reading bar codes to moving products from one area of a warehouse to another. Robotics appear to offer a promising future in distribution as well. Daimler is looking at ways to automate smart, economical courier vehicles. And, of course, some companies, like Amazon, are making strides in the development of drone delivery.
The common perception is that robotics represents a threat to jobs. But that’s not always the case. In fact, it may be more likely that robotics technologies in the supply chain are sparking a new field and new opportunities as the need for robotics maintenance and expertise grows.
2) Advanced inventory tracking technologies
In our earlier article on the how the Internet of Things is revolutionizing the supply chain, one of the innovations we discussed was the evolving ability to embed sensors on parts, packages and equipment to track them throughout their journey and know exactly where they are, no matter where they are; in manufacturing, in transit or in the warehouse. Recent advances in inventory tracking technologies are making a huge splash in the supply chain, especially on speed, accuracy, cost reduction, and in concert with advanced inventory management technologies.
3) Advanced inventory management systems
Today’s highly advanced inventory and network optimization tools provide visibility and insights both at a high level and the most granular level. Today’s advanced inventory management technologies directly integrate just about every aspect our complex physical inventory world into computer-based systems that make them manageable.One of the largest expenses for many organizations is the cost of inventory. These companies know how important it is to keep a close eye on inventory levels.
However, as the supply chain has grown more and more complex, technologies that accurately monitor, optimize and replenish inventory have become essential. The inventory systems of today are highly sophisticated. They bring simplicity to inventory optimization and tracking, help manage procurement, receiving and returns, assist with demand forecasting and planning, call attention to spoilage and obsolescence and provide insightful analytics at every step. And they provide centralized intelligence and control for organizations with multiple distribution centers.
4) Collaborative logistics
Companies needing quick additional warehouse space or on-demand freight services are finding new solutions in the area of collaborative logistics. For example, freight and warehouse marketplaces enable companies who need immediate truck space to find trucks going to the right destinations with the right amount of available space. Collaborative solutions like these help organizations manage inventory peaks, position product closer to consumers and ultimately reduce storage and shipping costs. Marketplaces offer both a technology solution for quickly securing on-demand services and a network of collaborative businesses who have services or space (in the cases of trucking and warehouses) to offer on-demand, at a fair rate, with simple terms.
5) Supply chain design and modeling tools
One of the best ways to realize significant shipping cost reductions may be to rethink your supply chain design. Expanding your network of distribution centers can position key inventory closer to customers and shipping destinations. Placing distribution centers in just the right locations can reduce indirect shipping paths, zones and ultimately reduce the costs of two-day shipping. Supply chain modeling allows you to find the right supply chain design for your business by experiment with different scenarios that weigh additional distribution centers against shipping costs.
The analysis can be very beneficial, but it’s complicated and involves numerous factors. That’s why supply chain design and modeling software like Tactician from Starboard is so important. Supply chain design software does the complex mapping and analysis based on your unique requirements and calculates the benefits of each scenario.
We’ve selected these five as today’s most impactful logistics technologies because they all are enabling companies to become more efficient and cost effective (sometimes dramatically) and they’re all destined to have an even greater impact tomorrow. But maybe we missed a couple that you think may be even more impactful. If so, please chime in. We’d love to hear your perspective.