It goes without saying that technology has changed every industry for the better. From improving safety and productivity in the manufacturing field to providing aid to the healthcare industry, technology has brought tremendous change to the world we know.
Overall, technology has helped increase productivity, minimize cost, reduce human errors and streamline several business processes. All of these benefits apply to the logistics industry as well, from improving road safety to better managing the supply chain.
So, without further ado, here are 6 ways technology is improving the logistics industry as we speak.
Improved customer service with shipment tracking systems
It wasn’t that long ago when, if you booked a shipment, all the information you got was an estimated delivery date and a phone number you can call and ask for details. Oftentimes, the customer service line was full and you had to wait at least a few minutes to get to talk to someone.
Now, thanks to some advancements in software and internet technology, clients can track their shipment in real-time, at any given moment. They will know exactly where their package is, how much it will take for it to be delivered and much more. This way, customer service is tremendously improved, but it also helps logistics companies save valuable time and money, keeping the customer service line available for issues that require a human approach.
Such tracking systems provide features such as shipment notifications, reports that can be customized to the company’s needs and customer accounts.
Radio Frequency Identification and the Internet of Things
Could you imagine 10 years ago that you would be able to turn on your vacuum cleaner, dishwasher or air conditioning at home while still being stuck at the office? Nowadays, many devices are equipped with Wi-Fi technology and a multitude of sensors, allowing them to use the internet to connect with each other. This is how your phone can communicate with your vacuum cleaner through what is called the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT helps open up many possibilities for the logistics industry, such as helping companies avoid risks and thus eliminating delays and reducing costs. Sensors can be built inside cargo ships, trucks or even trains, which are then giving information to an alarm system. If any issue is spotted, the alarm system transmits the information to the monitoring crew, giving them valuable insight into the situation. Another example of IoT usage is temperature and humidity sensors that can be installed inside the warehouse, monitoring quality control.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been around for quite some years and helps logistics companies keep track of their inventory. A sensor that sends radio waves is placed on the product and the data received is then processes by the logistics company.
Improving road safety through technology
Truck drivers are on the road for many hours a day, meaning their safety can sometimes be at risk. Smart road technology is still in its infancy, but the potential it has is tremendous. A number of startup companies are already working to bring such technologies onto the roads. One of these technologies involves integrating solar panels into asphalt surfaces, generating energy that can melt snow and ice on the roads, reroute traffic or give directions to autonomous cars. These panels can be equipped with sensors that detect traffic disturbance, sending signals that alert drivers in case of traffic jams or accidents.
But until we manage to get there and actually bring those innovations on highways and boulevards, let’s talk about some technologies that help drivers now. A lot of accidents that involve heavy goods vehicles happen because drivers have limited visibility from the cabin. Their visibility is measured by what is called the direct vision standard, and to improve this, trucks need to be equipped with monitors and nearside cameras that aid drivers. These cameras, together with blind-spot sensors have the potential to tremendously reduce accidents and improve road safety.
Autonomous transportation methods
Having a drone or autonomous car pick up and deliver packages may seem like something that comes out of sci-fi movies, but the technology is already here. All it needs is a bit more polishing and we may be able to see autonomous trucks on the road soon enough. Tesla has already launched its autonomous truck, and while it isn’t completely driverless yet, they are on the right track. For now, a driver is still sitting in the passenger seat, monitoring the car and getting ready to intervene in case of emergency, but this is still a huge step towards fully autonomous vehicles.
Amazon has also announced they are working on a system called Amazon Prime Air, that uses drones to deliver packages right to the people’s doorsteps. And while more time is needed to ensure all regulatory measures are taken into consideration, this is a huge step for the logistics industry.
The blockchain is perhaps one of the most important technologies emerging in the past decade. Although it first appeared in 2008, blockchain technology has only recently gained the attention of the general public. The blockchain opens companies up to what is called smart commerce, which can benefit logistics companies tremendously.
Let’s say, for example, that a supplier that delivers goods to your warehouse has failed to arrive on time or the package has been tampered with. This generates a series of time-consuming issues and can even lead to legal disputes. Through blockchain technology, you can negotiate smart contracts with clearly defined terms that can be verified by both parties. Of one of the parties fail to meet these terms, the contract is then canceled.
Most of a logistics company’s time and money go into warehouse operations. Employees need to keep track of every package that enters or exits the warehouse, ensuring it remains undamaged throughout the process, but human errors happen at any time. By using robots to load and unload trucks, move boxes around and check for the state of the package, logistics companies can eliminate human error and improve the accuracy of their business processes.