The future of logistics and related processes hinge on the adoption and development of innovative technologies. As it so happens, this is also bringing about an employment or career revolution of sorts. Many new opportunities, projects and careers are opening up in relation to logistics and supply. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the total number of logistics jobs will increase by as much as 22% through till the end of 2022, with an average salary of $73,000 per year.
However, It does beg the question, what technologies are so openly changing the field? Let’s take a closer look at some of the platforms and trends that will affect your business in the near future — if they aren’t already.
3D printing and mass customization
3D printing or additive manufacturing is one of those technologies that, by nature, presents some incredible opportunities. In the past, manufacturing and development hardware was relatively bulky and exclusive which meant items had to get produced and assembled before being shipped to their final destination — usually remote. With 3D printing, however, the materials used can help produce locally sourced goods — even regional — that are developed much closer to the consumer.
Furthermore, this presents a last-minute personalization opportunity that you can leverage to deliver mass customization to consumers. Imagine ordering a shoe, for example, and being able to choose the materials, colors and style based on your personal preferences.
Because the materials used for 3D printing are often kept locally and serve as practically everything you need to create a product, with no requirement to store replacement parts or goods. Therefore, manufacturers can outright eliminate large-sized warehouses and locations, downsizing to much smaller, local properties. The goods can also get printed on-demand, as ordered in a short period of time, so there’s no need to stock large quantities of the finished goods either.
36% of companies are planning to or already employ 3D printing as part of their regular business operations. Furthermore, the 3PL Selection and Contracting Survey from EFT revealed 19.2% of manufacturers and retailers already use 3D printing.
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The Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is often associated with consumer-level devices such as smart home technology. While it definitely has its place in that market, there are enterprise-level applications of the technology already in use. In manufacturing and development, for example, IoT sensors are used to monitor and maintain expensive equipment.
It can also get applied in much the same way in the field of logistics. Companies can use IoT sensors and devices to build a more connected production floor — one that delivers real-time alerts and updates about what’s happening, good or bad. But these devices are also leveraged across the entire supply chain. Imagine enhancing in-transit visibility, being able to track entire shipments along every minute of their full route.
Suddenly, equipment and employee monitoring are also possible much like you’d see in a modern fleet thanks to real-time GPS systems. The difference is, of course, you’re tracking goods, equipment and people with a great amount of detail.
In the same EFT report, when asked about the impact of IoT on logistics and supply chain management, 47% of respondents said they believe it will have a "tremendous" impact, while 49% said it will have only “some” impact. An incredibly small 3% said it would have “no” impact.
UAVs or drones
It’s no secret that Amazon is currently experimenting with drone-based delivery services for select local markets. It’s an awesome idea because drones and unmanned aerial vehicles offer incredible potential in this regard if only because they can provide a variety of economic and environmental benefits.
If there was a major swap to aerial-based delivery, imagine the sheer number of transports and ground vehicles that would get taken off local roadways. This would save traffic build-up; the costs associated with ground-based transportation and have a positive environmental impact as carbon emissions decreased.
Drones also offer potential opportunities for surveillance that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Logistics companies may eventually leverage UAVs to monitor infrastructure, as well as the movements of assets, transports, employees and more.
The EFT study additionally revealed that 31% of manufacturers and retailers want to see logistics providers utilize drones for product delivery.
Innovative technologies are embraced more each day
Many of the technologies discussed here are either already implemented or in the process of being deployed by logistics providers. It is evident they will have a significant impact on both the logistics industry and any involved or related fields, as well.
But the more important thing to consider is that new, innovative technologies are getting introduced each day. Driverless vehicles, for instance, are expected to save logistics companies £33.6bn when they are eventually adopted. This shows that, although many of the technologies in use are poised to transform operations, there is always a chance that a new, more efficient solution is right around the corner.
Exactly why we proclaim that the future of logistics relies on the adoption and development of innovative technologies.