Companies increasingly need to compete with the smart warehousing and next-day delivery cycles of giants like Amazon and Alibaba, where robots carry out 70 per cent of tasks. Drone tech, self-driving systems, algorithms and the IoT ensure increasingly automated supply chains and logistics. The future of this industry might well include warehouses that extend vertically into the sky, using robots for lights-out order fulfilment.
A world where your parcel is delivered by an unmanned aerial vehicle, or where a smart machine autonomously drives you from A to B, still sounds like a sci-fi movie. But that’s exactly where we’re headed. Autonomous trucks like those from Uber, Embark and even Tesla are already taking to the roads. Highly sophisticated AI platforms using deep learning algorithms will plan and optimise delivery routes and drones – or autonomous six-wheel ‘cooler-box’ robots – will soon be dropping off your packages, a few hours after you’ve placed your order.
The innovative and self-learning distribution centres of the future will be increasingly fully automatic. Think shelf-scanning robots using cameras to identify missing, misplaced, mislabeled, or incorrectly priced items. But also sensor tech, AR, computer vision, analytics, wearables, and the IoT – smart technologies that enable smart, adaptable automation. We can expect to see more and smaller facilities closer to urban areas to enable same-day deliveries. These ‘vertihubs’ will also be taller in order to maximise available floor area.
The vehicle of the future depends on connected mobility – whether that means cars receiving software updates or autonomous vehicles linking up with the upcoming 5G network. Connecting users, vehicles, and services, makes mobility safer, more efficient and more convenient. Connected mobility – using the IoT, car-2-car connectivity and autonomous systems – also makes truck platooning a reality. This refers to the linking of trucks in convoy where vehicles automatically adapt to the ‘leader’s’ changes in speed and direction, requiring little to no action from drivers.
Warehousing operations of the future will be increasingly digital, transparent and efficient, with blockchain playing a pivotal role. The IoT and its ecosystem of temperature, location and humidity sensors enables real-time gathering, analysing and transmission of data. Micro-drones with cameras, sensors, RFID-tech and barcode scanners can reach the smallest spaces and check inventories with ever greater speed and accuracy. Wearables optimise processes like order picking, receiving, and goods handling. Face/voice recognition, cloud integration, video-conferencing, and chatbots transform warehousing operations and enable seamless collaboration among chain partners.
In this age of increasing ‘Uberisation’, logistics companies can’t afford to have empty trips. When a customer orders multiple items, logistics partners need to try and combine orders and optimise routes as much as possible. Enter ‘Uberised’ logistics, the ‘on-call’ consolidation of shipments. This requires the implementation of computer technology in vehicles and consolidating freights, enabling transport companies to optimise their available space and provide more efficient and faster deliveries. Customers can make use of logistics apps to pick the transporter, track the entire trip, and access the transporter’s performance.
In many ways, people are no longer separate from technology. It is, therefore, important to keep an eye on the moral side of technological developments. We need to philosophize about the implications for the world of tomorrow and ensure we take important ethical considerations into account. We need to determine our boundaries and have (and voice) opinions about how people and machines should work together. What will happen to our individual rights and how will we deal with privacy and risk management? How will we remain happy in the world of tomorrow?
As a result of the increasing use of automation in day-to-day logistics and SCM operations, there is a need for highly trained professionals to manage these highly automated operations, such as operations analysts, maintenance employees, and IT engineers. Apart from sourcing local talent, organisations may need to consider reskilling or upskilling existing staff members.
The future of work requires a new type of manager, one who challenges the status quo and is willing to abandon 20th century ‘best practices’. There will be a move to flatter hierarchies as millennials are great team players and see traditional hierarchies as outdated. They are result-driven and expect their managers to be the same. The managers of the future offer employees opportunities to develop new skills and explore new positions.
The organisation of the future is hyper-connected. It constantly monitors customers and competitors. By cooperating with startups and scientists, it stays on top of the latest technology trends. Also, its leaders rely on smart algorithms to analyse the world. They have a flexible workforce that rapidly develops new products and services. No challenge is too hard for them. Managers inspire and offer vision of a better future. And their organisations aren’t afraid to veer off the beaten track.
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Customers are asking for shorter lead times, lower prices, and more frequent, smaller deliveries. And the cost of mistakes, inefficiencies, and missed deadlines is growing as competition increases. How are logistics and SCM adapting?DOWNLOAD
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