Innovation has greatly influenced how technology has shaped our world, especially with advanced tech trends affecting logistics today. Many companies in the logistics and supply chain industry have seen many improvements from these events. From the introduction of different modes of freight shipping to the increased affordability and efficiency of transportation management systems (TMS), technology has slowly become an integral part of this major industry.
Before we can dive in and explore the major tech trends that affect the logistics industry today, we must look at the two major events from the past 40 years that contributed to today’s tech advances.
A Look at Previous Tech Advancements Affecting Logistics Today
1975 – First Real-Time Warehouse Management Systems
In the year 1975, J. C. Penny near Los Angeles introduced the first integration for a real-time warehouse management system (WMS). Although warehouse management is nothing new before this time, information relayed between the logistics process was not immediate. One of the many introductions of a real-time WMS was outfitting a forklift truck with a real-time radio frequency terminal. On top of that, this included a label printer that was virtually connected to the radio frequency (RF) terminal.
Fast forward to today, there are multitudes of technologies and integration for WMS. The advanced tech trends in logistics brought the beginning of WMS from integrations that would allow for all things digital, including data entry, storage, and accounting, sales orders, and shipping management. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) modules have been integrated with WMS to allow for business-wide traceability, employee accountability, and real-time speed.
Other benefits include:
- Reduced fulfillment time
- Increase inventory accuracy
- Improved customer service
- Greater space utilization
- Increase warehouse productivity
- Reduced labor cost
The 1980s – First Computerized Inventory Management
The early 1980s marked the beginning of a multitude of changes that would affect the logistics and supply chain management industry forever. The emergence of personal computers provided a graphical environment for planning and data for logistics processes. This helped in spawning flexible spreadsheets and map-based interfaces which would allow for huge improvements in the industry for planning and execution technology. The early innovators of this combined map interfaces with optimization models for supply chain design and distribution planning.
It was during these years that company executives became aware of how expensive, important, and complex the logistics process was. They realized that this was an area that they needed to significantly improve on, and that meant investing in trained professionals and new technology. This greatly improved the rate of technology that was created for this specific industry.
Current Technology Affecting the Logistics Industry Today
1. Use of Bluetooth Technologies
Manufacturers are beginning to understand how non-data driven devices can hold significant promises in the shipping and logistics industry. This technological trend for increasing accountability and quality control in the logistics processes refers to Bluetooth (beacon) technology.
Bluetooth technology introduces low cost and use of low energy to further enhance tracking and processing in logistics. These devices, which can be mounted on any surface, can be used to relay information about a package within proximity of the device. They can be attached to shipments, loaders, docks, and anywhere else throughout the shipping journey. Ultimately, this helps increase shipment tracking and provide real-time data updates to the logistics provider’s tracking system. The importance of these devices lies in the integration with transportation management systems to help drive accuracy and lifelines in all logistics processes.
Specific industries, such as those within the jurisdiction and governing bodies of the FDA may make use of these methods.
2. Continual Growth of eCommerce and Omni-Channel Solutions
Of all technology trends in logistics, eCommerce has always been prevalent in the B2C world. However, It is becoming more and more popular as the source of commerce for manufacturing companies (B2B).
The demand for a stronger online presence has grown over the years due to B2B. This influence to the industry has also increased advancements of APIs or automated protocol integration. APIs allow for businesses to easily track their processes immediately, which is extremely crucial in an age where patience is beginning to diminish with technology use.
Similarly, the use of cloud-based platforms has become a common aspect of shipper’s strategy to grow their customer base. To easily break it down, the cloud is the fundamental resource that makes working on mobile and tablet-based devices possible and cost-effective. The information that is relayed between devices is rapid, allowing for instant processing and analysis of data.
Since eCommerce is a major component in an omnichannel (multiple channels/all-encompassing) solutions to drive business growth, logistics providers are beginning to understand how the focus of technology will shift with time. Foromnichannel solutions, technology will focus more on the value of a product or service, not just the end product. This makes the importance of logistics processes much greater to maintain and guarantee customer satisfaction.
3. Increase Use of IoT-based, RFID, and AIDC technologies
The Internet of Things (IoT), radio frequency identification (RFID), and the automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) technologies all help in improving the order fulfillment process for logistics teams. Although they may seem overwhelming, all three are much more popular and cost-effective for today’s uses.
In the beginning, RFID sensors were too expensive for logistics providers and shippers to use throughout the shipment journey. Once the RFID sensors decreased cost exponentially over the years, shipping providers were able to take advantage and use them without increasing their rate of shipping. With the use of Bluetooth technology in combination with RFID, AIDC technology will become even more prevalent. AIDC provides a non-human way to share updates to a shipment status as it moves throughout the shipping process. These quick updates will help logistics providers know exactly where and when a shipment will arrive at the next stage to ensure satisfaction of their customer’s goods.
The Internet of Things has been used throughout the logistics industry to communicate between technologies and machines to improve production and efficiency of the shipping process. This helped reduce downtime and enhance the workflow of a given shipment and providers’ processes. Now the IoT has been taking a more proactive approach to overall management, like communication with RFID, Bluetooth technologies, and overall management of these processes. This helps identify what parts of shipments need to be changed or optimized to meet providers’ and consumer’s demands. These technologies also helped set the stage for the upcoming tech advancements that will completely change the logistics industry in the coming 10 years.
To learn more about the five different techs that are playing a key role in the freight shipping industry, check out our article titled “Five Digital Tech Trends That are Impacting The Freight Shipping Industry”.
Four Trends to Look Out For the Coming Year
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