The business of logistics is always evolving. Every day there are new supply chain innovations and technologies that are making the supply chain more efficient, responsive, and competitive. Here are the technologies to watch out for:
- Advanced inventory management systems
- Collaborative logistics
The introduction of robotics into the supply chain has reduced costs and improved efficiencies, while increasing productivity and accuracy. Today, robotics technologies take many forms and serve a number of important functions in the supply chain, from assembling widgets to reading barcodes to moving products from one area of a warehouse to another.
Robotics appear to offer a promising future in distribution as well. Daimler trucks is working to bring automated trucks to the road within the next decade, investing $500 million Euros into the project. And, of course, drone delivery is still a promising option. Amazon has been developing its drone-delivery tech since 2014 and they’re now starting to take shape. This past summer, Amazon announced that it’s drone delivery program, Prime Air, would be making consumer package deliveries within months and would be able to deliver in 30 minutes or less.
The common perception is that robotics and automated processes will replace jobs, but that’s not always the case. In fact, it seems more likely that robotics technologies in the supply chain will create new opportunities; for example, as new technologies are implemented, the need for robotics maintenance and expertise will grow.
2) Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is revolutionizing the supply chain, through the ability to embed sensors on parts, packages, and equipment to track them throughout their journey. This lets retailers know exactly where their goods are, from manufacturing to transit all the way to the warehouse and then to the consumer. Gartner predicts that by 2020 some element of IoT will be incorporated into more than half of new business processes.
IoT is being used for everything from tracking buying behavior through RFID tagged products to signaling re-orders of products when inventory is low. Some of its benefits to businesses include speed, accuracy, cost reduction, and better inventory tracking.
3) Advanced inventory management systems
Today’s highly advanced inventory and network optimization tools provide visibility and insights at both a high level and the most granular level. Advanced inventory management technologies directly integrate just about every aspect of 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 management 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.
Two major issues in supply chains today are their complexity and the lack of transparency within them. Blockchain—a distributed, digital ledger primarily used for cryptocurrency—has the potential to change all that. With blockchain, every transaction is recorded on a block, and each block links to each other. Within the supply chain, this would provide end-to-end transparency from manufacturing all the way to delivery.
Businesses are already finding innovative ways to use the technology along their supply chains. In the food industry, Walmart, Unilever, and Nestle are using blockchain to track the source of the products and their sell-by-dates. And De Beers diamond company is tracking stones all the way from their mining source to the end-customer to assure their consumers they’re getting a genuine and conflict-free product.
Blockchain is still relatively new, so the logistics applications will only continue to develop.
5) On-demand warehousing
On-demand warehousing has been recognized by Gartner and featured in publications like Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. It gives major retailers like Walmart and Ace Hardware a scalable, flexible warehousing solution through a marketplace model and transactional pricing.
FLEXE connects warehouse providers who have excess capacity and services with retailers and brands who need flexible solutions. Through an on-demand, pay-as-you-go model, retailers and brands can secure warehousing and fulfillment solutions quickly and with no long-term commitments or costly setup fees.
It starts with the basics
Before you can explore drones, AI, automation, or any other technology, it’s important to get the basics of your logistics strategy right. All the innovation in the world can’t help you if the fundamentals aren’t there to back them up. Understanding your customers, and providing a delivery promise you can deliver on is what really matters. Find out how you can improve your delivery promise in our blog on network optimization and on-demand warehousing >>