Here are the top technology trends that all shippers should be focused on as we move into 2020…and beyond.
As the logistics sector becomes more multifaceted and interconnected, the plethora of technologies that helps shipping managers manage these complexities continues to grow exponentially. From automation to IoT-connected devices to big data, these and other tools are helping shippers streamline their shipping operations, operate more efficiently, and save money.
“Today, the accelerating pace and potential of technological innovation is astounding,” says Michael L. Schoenfeld, Senior VP and head of contract logistics USA at DB Schenker. “Within the supply chain industry, innovation has long been the name of the game, delivering critical advances as businesses make improvements to their operating procedures and hit enterprise goals.”
5 Tech Trends to Watch
Here are five emerging technology trends that shipping managers should be talking to their logistics partners about in 2020:
- Data is the new oil. Few other industries have collected as much data about global trade and commerce than the logistics sector has. From the point of raw materials to the distributor to the end user and all points in between, logistics providers collect all of the pricing, shipments, customs codes, transport methods, and other critical supply chain elements. “Data is the new oil,” says Jochen Thewes, CEO, DB Schenker, “and it gives logistics experts the opportunity to leverage the data-driven business models, data analytics, and predictive analytics that help shippers extract more capabilities out of their supply chain.”
- IoT eliminates “blind spots” in the supply chain. A network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment, the Internet of Things has had a profound impact on the logistics industry. With 50 billion connected devices worldwide (Gartner’s prediction for 2020), the opportunity to use IoT for supply chain visibility is ripe for the taking. “IoT tracking and processing options have multiplied over the years and have already reached billions of connected devices,” DB Schenker’s CIO Markus Sontheimer says. In the past, for example, logistics visibility relied on “vertical checkpoints” between major steps within the supply chain managed by different parties (terminals, importers, exporters). With IoT, the process takes place across an interactive network of people, data, and processes. “As more containers, trucks, and cargo become equipped with IoT sensors and devices uninterrupted location-based tracking becomes possible and real time visibility from shipper to the recipient can be monitored end-to-end and eliminate many blind spots.
- Platforms and dashboards put the power into the shipper’s and customer’s hands. Thanks to advancements in technology, the day when companies can track their end-to-end supply chains is here. This not only provides benefits for the shipper, but it also helps enhance the customer experience—something that all organizations are focused on right now. “Customers don’t want to know what day their shipments are arriving; they want to know exactly what time those goods are getting there,” says Thewes. “They also want to be kept apprised of any delays, issues, or other concerns.” By combining data with predictive analytics, today’s shipping platforms provide very high levels of visibility, traceability, and control over the end-to-end supply chain.
- Robotics, 3D printing, and drones come of age. The days when humans work side-by-side with robots in the warehouse and use autonomous drones to deliver packages to customers are here. Driven in part by the worldwide shortage of skilled and semi-skilled labor, this trend will continue through 2020 and beyond. “A good number of technologies are already in development and beta, with the goal of finding ways to complement human processes and operators,” Schoenfeld says, “creating remarkable advancements in labor efficiency.”
- Blockchain technology supports better supply chain transparency. By providing end-to-end visibility of the status of every shipment, blockchain’s distributed ledger technology is helping shippers be more transparent while also encouraging them to share data with their trading partners. By tracking the tens of millions of shipping containers that are transported annually, this emerging technology “helps reduce the delivery times by simplifying the process of recording the travel logs, data spreadsheets, and inventory all into one system which cannot be altered by any single party without the go-ahead from the other parties involved in the transaction,” Exchanger Hub’s David Madden points out. “Though this may sound complicated, because it records every change chronologically, this prevents delays at port and minimizes human error and fraud, in turn reducing the cost of goods.”
Meeting Customer Expectations
In a world where customers have come to expect two-day and next-day shipping as the “new normal,” shipping managers need logistics providers that can both meet and exceed these expectations. DB Schenker continues to push innovation in the logistics industry by implementing the best combination of people, processes, and technology, all of which are focused on getting the right shipment to the right place at the right time.