Tech innovations always make our lives easier, and this is not an exception in our industry. Nowadays, the supply chain has some processes automatized. Those old traditional models that used to rely on infrastructure and human input are adapting to excel their performance and fulfill the increased demand generated after an unprecedented year that boosted a whole new buying experience worldwide. It’s very important to step up and stop losing competitiveness to keep achieving the best results in the next years.
The industry is craving for a connected ecosystem, and new technologies are drastically changing the way things work making it possible. One of the most challenging tasks in business transformation is the digitalization of processes, which is how information is transmitted and received. Digitalization requires new ways to exchange, analyze, and inform. The innovations we’re going to talk about provide instant supplier response with greater transparency, efficiency, and real-time data visibility across supply chain processes helping companies to ultimately bring better service for their customers.
What are the emergent technologies that are causing a revolution in the logistics industry?
"AI and Machine Learning"
Technology fully capable of automatically reading data, looking for patterns, and improving an experience without the need for a program or code made from a human, this is helping to optimize a lot of processes. AI and Machine Learning can assist organizations in analyzing data sets faster, providing more accurate results, and avoiding mistakes. These innovations can also apply intelligent algorithms to predict problems as well as improve autonomous decision-making.
"Cloud and Subscription-based Computing"
This technology is shifting the way traditional business models and their payment structures work. Customers are now looking into the wide range of benefits these new models can provide. Among the many benefits, it includes the possibility of purchasing or subscribing to a vendor’s services reducing IT and equipment costs, bringing scalable cloud infrastructure, network backups with a faster and more transparent flow of information, and easier transfer of data.
"Data Transfer Protocols - Application Programming Interface (API)"
It is what makes possible all the interactivity we experience these days. To put the meaning in simpler words, API is the messenger that takes requests and tells a system what you want to do, and then returns the response to you just as a waiter in a restaurant, but instead of taking your order and delivering the food to your table, it runs back and forth between applications databases and devices to deliver data and create connectivity. Thanks to this software intermediary you can get access to a consistent experience, with an efficient and fast connection, providing real-time information, updated rates 24/7, as well as visibility, tracking updates, and the possibility to dispatch your orders anytime, creating a seamless experience to the customers.
This is one of the most searched terms in recent years. According to Oxford Languages Big data refers to extremely large volumes of data from new, existing, and emerging sources, and that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and other relationships. Organizations are looking for statistical science and data analytics to not only check historical operational results but also analyze them and make improvements to optimize efficiency and promote company growth. This gives companies a strategic advantage because they can use this information to make better decisions, upgrade their customer service and demand fulfillment. This even provides the possibility to develop contingency plans and improve reaction times.
This technology can be defined as a data structure that keeps transactional records ensuring security, transparency, and decentralization. This network will help us and allow us to do a lot of our operations much more directly, at scale, and lowering our use of intermediaries that aren’t adding value to our processes like some companies, banks, or institutions. A highly transparent and efficient technology, blockchain promises to significantly improve the process of trading in safe mode. It will also help to decentralize transactions because it will completely change the way traditional systems work. With blockchain, customers and companies will use a synchronized and reliable system of commerce that will help them avoiding redundancy in their processes.
"The Internet of Things"
Is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects animals, or people with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human to human or human to computer interaction. This connectivity and the collection of data provides an opportunity to deliver operational efficiencies, insights, and will offer the chance to observe trends and find gaps to find revenue opportunities. Every organization can benefit from the data gathered from these devices, preventing, predicting, and executing plans of action.
A quick example of how IoT works are the Smart Homes like refrigerators at home and the Wearable Tech like smartwatches or directly linked to our industry an ELD, which is basically a tech device that records a driver’s driving time and hours of service automatically helping everyone to fulfill the FMCSA regulations. This also can help to improve the safety of the drivers and will bring overall visibility of assets and their conditions. Companies are going to be always ahead of any novelty including vehicle maintenance issues with detailed information, routes are taken, drivers’ behavior, and many other features, translating in more control over the driving process and higher profits because some of the administrative burdens such as the IFTA fuel tax reporting calculation will be done automatically by this tech tool reducing the operational costs.
With strong technology and accurate sensors all over our surroundings and even in our bodies, we are now capable of gathering detailed information to make custom decisions, to control and secure our spaces, and even monitor our health day and night, providing an immense comfort in the collection process with a conveniently connected environment for us, bringing an even more tailored and seamless experience.
Self-driving vehicles are basically modern vehicles with the option to move without the input from humans to operate as usual. After 2020, some restrictions and the overall outbreak caused serious disruption and a severe driver's shortage across the country. With autonomous vehicles, the industry will reduce the need for humans into the warehousing operations, loading and transporting, assisted order picking.
"Robotic Process Automation (RPA)"
This technology has been created to automate repetitive, manual, structured, and logical tasks. The world of process automation focuses the attention to mimic and perform the job of the Knowledge Worker. This robotic process is made by software and it replicates the tasks of the workers on an organization that spends all their time in the digital domain, executing and running all the processes, extracting data, building reports, running analytics, making decisions that ultimately become transactions. Leveraging manual labor and repeatable tasks with the help of robots that can process high-volume tasks without human intervention will provide the companies the opportunity of using the human talent to perform tasks that truly provides value and innovative ideas to boost and contribute to the company's growth.
What are customers looking for in these technologies and innovations?
- Transparency: This is one of the most attractive attributes of the new digital supply chain industry. By bringing a high degree of transparency in all processes, the customers and organizations will have real-time updates, bringing peace of mind and react will be aware of any risk that the shipment may encounter and a proactive response manager, bringing the possibility of having a contingency plan before, mitigating the risks and possible losses at its minimum. With exceptional real-time visibility, you can implement smart workflows to react immediately to disruptions at any time of the process and be able to inform your customers to make a fast decision.
- Save Costs and Time: All investments require a return. By taking advantage of these technologies, customers are hoping to find a constant flow of information, conveniently in one place. They want to avoid extra steps that are not only time-consuming but affect the expenses and productivity of their company.
- Consolidated Documentation: Having a system integrated will bring the possibility to have all the information up to date and every operative record will be instantly created in the space, making it easier to track records having all the documentation gathered in one place.
- Autonomy: Customers expect by 2023 to have complete access to data to work at their pace and be able to have their shipping information at any moment without the permission of anyone. They want to have more control over the processes and be able to make fast decisions.
- Advanced Planning and Execution: Customers should have all the important information at hand to plan, analyze, and choose the shipping option that suits them best. They want to analyze the costs of diverse alternatives and all the accessories or special handling services they need before they need it.
- Instant Feedback: When a customer leverages their operational process with these technologies, they expect not only data visibility but also real-time feedback. With instant feedback comes important advantages including the anticipation of any problems, errors, delays, and the chance to make better decisions.
- Enhanced Customer Service: As humans, we are social beings, meaning that while we are looking for a reliable machine or program working for us, we also want excellent personal service by an expert team. These innovations can support this team in delivering the best service possible.
- Data and Connectivity: In an even more connected environment, both customers and organizations will see the agility of processes overall. Both will enjoy a better understanding of the other and as stated above, organizations will be able to provide a better customer experience by collecting data, processing the information gathered, and avoiding redundancies. This connectivity will translate into more revenue and better relationships with customers.
- Analytics and Development: Companies are looking for accurate data and reports to analyze the information that will provide insights to help them make better decisions, optimize resources, implement specific goals according to their unique needs, and identify strengths as well as opportunities for improvement.
2020 boosted business transformation and now is imperative to do something about it. The possibilities are huge. With these technologies, your organization will have the chance to easily spot your strengths as well as the weaknesses of your logistics performance at every step of the process. Your information will be organized, readable, and evaluated by fast technologies. From this vantage point, you will be able to strategically define where your resources should go and how you should optimize your IT expenses such as hardware, software, and storage.
Balance is the key...
Technology will undoubtedly help your company do those hard tasks that humans can’t do easily or those that are repetitive and could be automized. But this is by no means an invitation to get rid of your human talent. They’re extremely important and will bring your company other insights machines can’t bring. Some smart decisions will still need to be analyzed and executed by human intervention. Soft abilities such as customer service can make a difference in parts of the process and will directly affect the sales and the revenue of a company. So, balance your resources to achieve the best results.
The impact and benefits of emerging technologies are huge. The industry needs to incorporate some of the most relevant technologies and innovations to keep delivering the same service or product as quickly as possible, but it must do so reliably and responsively. The goals are to increase efficacy and reduce costs through automation. It is important to keep up with emerging technologies to deliver a better user experience, with real-time autonomic data and analytics delivered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. With no doubt, these technologies promise to transform supply chains around the world. As they continue the process of developing and growing into solid solutions, it’s easy to imagine the day when global supply chain systems operate with almost perfect reliability and efficiency.