After successfully overcoming the impact of the health crisis, the logistics industry faces an expansion cycle, beginning with a significant increase in global demand. Technological development and investment in innovation will be fundamental allies in this growth process to successfully address the challenges that this scenario poses.
The rise of e-commerce has led to an unprecedented revolution for logistics transport. This is evolving quickly, and the ability of companies to adapt to the new demands of the industry will set apart those which are to be successful in the future. The fact of the matter is the new demands of customers, digitization, climate change footprints, and, above all, the increase in shipping volumes, which have transformed the transport and logistics business.
During the last decade, this industry has faced the challenges of operational efficiency, reverse logistics, and rigorous compliance with delivery deadlines and procedures. Challenge is a constant in an industry that does not pause for a second throughout the day: according to data from the World Trade Organization (WTO), goods worth 17.6 trillion dollars were transported in 2020.
Virtual solutions have conquered all global industries: new trends are focused on digitalization. Logistics 4.0 includes more and more virtual solutions, especially in the field of information. Thus, for improved data management, the industry is making a big bet on Big Data, which can be used to optimize routing and manufacturing functions, as well as to provide transparency for the entire supply chain.
And not only that, it also seeks to improve monitoring of goods in transit, such that it has identified great allies in both the Internet of Things and in Artificial Intelligence. Additionally, logistics transport is being supported by Blockchain, a technology designed to securely transform business operations and manage all the documents involved in the process.
Automation and Use of Robots
Due to the pandemic, many companies involved in logistics and transport have been forced to prioritize and reinvent themselves. Technological solutions are not the only ones to undergo digitization. In fact, two very relevant factors are automation in material handling, storage and order picking, and the use of robots in warehouses.
There is a new generation of autonomous mobile robots used to locate, track and move inventory within warehouses. These devices are also used for replenishment management, cycle counting, and item verification. It is notable that, although we are still a long way from seeing autonomous truck fleets on the road, some companies are already conducting tests for developing them. Starsky Robotics launched the first unmanned truck capable of driving independently on a highway in 2019.
Virtualization and automation of procedures increase the energy efficiency of this industry, reducing the impact it has upon the environment. The logistics transport industry is joining the trend toward sustainability: renewable energies and companies’ ability to create their own energy is helping businesses minimize costs and generate additional income thanks to the sale of surplus energy.
So much so that there is already talk of “green logistics”, which logistics with modified logistics chain strategies and processes in order to minimize the footprint. Whether land, sea or air, international transport is adapting to having the least possible impact on global warming.
Business Models and Careers
In addition to changing tools, another strong industry trend is the reconversion of business models. If the logistics industry wants to transform itself, it must address this change caused by digitalization, automation, sustainability and security.
This constant evolution also requires the adaptation of professional roles. Not only will it be necessary to include new, more technology-intensive roles in companies, they will also require ongoing training so as not to be left behind. The industry’s workforce is increasingly qualified to respond to an evolving, fast-paced, interconnected world.
Increased Levels of Security and Service
By its very nature, logistics work involves a certain amount of physical effort that sometimes leads to an increased number of accidents. The use of robots for some procedures could correct this problem, helping and supporting humans, but never replacing them. By relieving staff of the most complex or risky tasks, not only is safety improved, but their skills are enhanced and efficiency is increased.
As a result of the changes in recent months and taking advantage of the aforementioned trends, logistics transport is achieving much higher quality levels. According to an eMarketer report, e-commerce grew in Spain by almost 40% during 2020, making it the third-fastest growing market in the world. And as revealed by the IEBS Business School, during this time period, 75% of online buyers noticed improvements in delivery times and logistics processes.