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Future proofing the logistics workforce is the next big challenge as COVID-19 accelerates digital and automation initiatives, according to a new report from DHL.

The DHL Logistics Trend Radar said the mega trends that will continue to reshape logistics have not changed: new technologies, growing e-commerce and sustainability.

But some areas will evolve faster than others, “not least because of the impact of COVID-19 on global commerce and the entire workforce,” said Katja Busch, chief commercial officer of DHL.

“The next big challenge will be future proofing the logistics workforce through training and upskilling in increasingly technologically sophisticated operations. This will take center stage on the strategic agendas of supply chain organizations in the years to come,” said Matthias Heutger, senior vice president, global head of innovation & commercial development at DHL.

Accelerated transformation

The impact of COVID-19 is accelerating trends that have been already well underway such as big data analytics, robotics and automation, IoT, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence, observed the report.

These trends have stabilized in the past four years, but the current global pandemic is accelerating transformation processes in the logistics industry.

“COVID-19 has driven changes regarding recent logistics innovation, automation, and digital work more rapidly and has accelerated industry digitalization by years,” noted the report.

Conversely, many trends initially perceived as disruptive game-changers for the logistics industry have yet to deliver on their disruptive potential, it continued. Self-driving vehicles and drones continue to be held back by legislative and technical challenges as well as limited social acceptance. Logistics marketplaces are stabilizing on a few leading platforms, and established forwarders are entering the game with their own digital offerings, backed with robust global logistics networks.

“From cloud computing to collaborative robotics, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things, logistics professionals have to make sense of a vast market of novel technology,” the report said.

“Modernizing all touchpoints of supply chains, from an elegant digital or customer journey, through fulfillment transport and final mile delivery is the new imperative for long-term success. Those who adopt and scale new technology and upskill workforces fastest, will have a competitive advantage on the market.”

e-commerce drives sustainability agenda

At the same time, e-commerce is still growing rapidly even as it still represents only a fraction of global consumer retail spending. Business-to-business e-commerce is expected to follow suit and dwarfs the consumer market size by a factor of three.

The coronavirus pandemic has served not only to accelerate both e-commerce growth and supply chain innovation agendas, it has also become a central issue in a company’s growth strategy in the new normal.

“Key moves to scale and adopt new technology like intelligent physical automation, IoT-powered visibility tools, and predictive capabilities from AI will ultimately determine the ability to fulfill heightened customer demands and secure industry leadership positions in the future,” said the report.

And with governments, cities and solution providers committed to cut down on CO2 emissions and waste, sustainability now is an imperative for the logistics industry, said the report.

Today, increasing bans on single-use plastics and the 40% parcel void space caused by bulky packaging make a rethinking of the packaging inevitable. Sustainable logistics—optimizing processes, materials, new propulsion techniques, and smart facilities—provide huge potential for logistics to become more environmentally friendly.

Smart containerization in transportation will also be important in developing environmentally friendly formats for delivery in congested cities.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

 

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