5 logistics technology trends that will shape 2020


A new report looks at five logistics technology trends that are enabling smaller organizations to become increasingly competitive with large industry incumbents.

Transport Intelligence’s (Ti) “Technology Trends in 2020” identified these developments as cyber 4PLs, digital retail studios, resources sharing, electric vehicle supply chains, and voice-controlled devices.

Ti foresees that cyber 4PLs will be thriving this year. Cyber 4PLs are logistics start-ups that have developed solutions to rival the incumbent’s technological edge quickly and at much lower cost.

They will be a combination of domain knowledge and market expertise, adaptable technology platforms, systems integration specialists, data analytics, advanced manufacturing capabilities and the ability to deliver these services to customers anywhere.

“These more agile companies that provide only digital services, and are unrestrained by assets and long term investments, will then be able to create customer centric solutions for new manufacturing and retail models faster and win the contracts of the future,” the paper said.

It also predicts the rise of digital retail studios over the next 12 months as e-commerce continues to threaten the traditional retail chain model.

Unused brick and mortar outlets will be transformed into retail “studios” where, apart from the essential structure, everything is digital with the capacity to show off limited stock for customers to touch and feel.

“So internal and external walls are covered with ultra large screens that can be programmed to display anything. This would enable the store to be rented out by the hour, day, week, or month to fledgling retailers, or manufacturers looking to market test products. For larger units, half of the space could be the display/experience area and the other half operated as a small fulfilment hub for local delivery and returns, or a ‘click and collect’ point,” explained the report.

“This would mean a move away from large-scale retail store distribution and to a model more similar to e-commerce deliveries for these retail studios.”

Technology is now supporting the third trend, resources sharing, which allows numerous start-ups to develop new businesses that focus on leveraging under-utilized assets by managing them as shared resources that can be hired by the hour.

Last-mile delivery services are now well known and provide a means for using pooled local transport resources, cars, vans, bikes, etc., for a range of delivery services, said the paper. This enables businesses that require adaptable delivery capabilities a means to operate in line with market demand, while avoiding a capital intensive approach that burdens them with an asset base that may not be utilized every hour.

“This opens up new opportunities for LSPs [logistics service providers] to organise and facilitate the movement of assets to where they’re needed, when they’re needed,” said the report.

The whitepaper also sees the trend toward electric vehicle supply chains upending and disrupting the industry. It added that the transition to electric vehicles has “huge implications” for any economy dependent upon the manufacture of vehicles with internal combustion engines, as the resulting manufacturing models will be unable to support existing workforce numbers across the industry. This will also impact the related supply chains that extend across the globe.

Finally, over the year, TI expects that an increasing number of voice-controlled services will become available across the logistics technology landscape. 

These voice-controlled services will range from “the ability to query systems for information and analysis, through to conversations with operational systems ‘on the fly’, in response to unexpected events or alerts, where the system will voice numerous options and then execute the spoken response.”

Major cloud service platforms are now making the systems that underpin “Alexa,” and others, available as services that can be integrated into standard operating applications. “As a result, some companies have augmented their standard track and trace applications so that customers can call into them and ask for shipment data, rather than having to interact via a keyboard,” said the report.

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