Technological Disruption in the Transportation and Logistics Sector

Transportation and logistics is undergoing a rapid evolution that promises increased visibility, higher efficiency, lower costs, and a superior customer experience. Open IT platforms, automation, robotics, and innovations in transportation are having a significant impact — is your business ready?

Transportation and logistics technologies offer leading supply chain companies unprecedented opportunities. Seamless data transfer between supply chain segments, sensor technology, connected devices, cloud computing, and integrated software are coming together to streamline operations, reduce costs, and provide faster delivery times. 

In recent years, dozens of advanced technologies have emerged across three dominant supply chain and logistics management areas: visibility and tracking performance, robotics and automation, and delivery systems.  Emerging technologies within those areas are catalyzing progress, including artificial intelligence (AI), augmented intelligence (intelligence amplification or IA), machine learning (ML), 5G connectivity, advanced data analytics, internet of things (IoT), and cloud computing.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are a critical component of supply chain operations that unlock data from legacy systems and leverage its power across all segments. When used together, these technologies evolve supply chain management and transform how the industry operates and delivers services.

How Technology Evolves Transportation and Logistics

Emerging logistics technology services are rapidly influencing three primary domains:

Performance Tracking and Visibility

Businesses across the transportation and logistics industry are standardizing data storage and communication software, increasing the ability of all partners to adapt, customize, and integrate new applications. Besides streamlining information between businesses, this increased integration allows companies to share data to improve efficiency, track performance, and increase end-to-end visibility. 

Systems that analyze multiple data sources refine processes and improve performance. Open-source solutions can also be adapted to specific business contexts, making software customization more affordable.

As more businesses generate, share, and analyze data, total supply chain performance improves. Besides increased visibility and superior performance tracking, better data analytics enables managers to optimize operations, find issues, diagnose problems, and apply performance improvements.

Automation and Robotics

Manual labor remains one of the most expensive components of logistics operations. Inspired by innovations in global manufacturing, advances in automation and robotics promise to transform labor-intensive steps such as product picking and packing. 

Today’s automation systems are more dependable, capable, and flexible than ever before. With the ability to handle hundreds of picks per hour, systems leveraging advanced vision technology can now identify and handle objects in different orientations and positions. In addition, traditional manufacturers are adapting products to current market conditions, including forklift truck producers adding automation features to stay competitive.

Research continues to develop robotic systems that achieve human ability and productivity, unconstrained by product sizes and weights. In the interim, sensor and safety technologies enable robot arms and automated guided vehicles to work and support human colleagues. 

In addition to improved productivity, recent technology allows warehouse channel operations to shift requirements quickly, adapt to increasing multichannel and omnichannel requirements, and increase storage density. With more options to automate warehouse and logistics operations, these technological innovations provide companies with more freedom to refine their strategy and implement critical network decisions.

Advanced Delivery Systems

Ride-sharing services revolutionized the consumer transport industry and are poised to transform logistics similarly. Logistics companies use smart applications similar to services like Uber and Lyft to buy and sell delivery services through online auction systems. These new systems increase efficiency, simplify rate negotiations, and facilitate fast payments by matching loads with available capacity.

“Last mile” delivery services are also evolving dramatically with new applications that allow businesses to crowd-source delivery services with third-party logistics businesses and the local community. By facilitating communication and payment systems, mobile applications are enabling firms to coordinate services with taxi drivers, commuters, retirees, and students to deliver parcels as part of their regular daily routine.


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Emerging Technologies That Advance Transportation and Logistics Management

Performance tracking, visibility, robotics, automation, and advanced delivery systems evolve the logistics industry to unprecedented efficiency, productivity, and service levels. Innovative supply chain and logistics technologies within those areas are catalyzing transformation even faster. These include:

Advanced Logistics and Transportation Software

Advanced transportation and logistics management applications help businesses easily automate shipping procedures, modify orders, and send data across multiple communication channels throughout the global supply chain. Modern software, including APIs that integrate applications, help businesses to: 

  • Access legacy system data
  • Increase speed between supply chain segments
  • Improve agility
  • Reduce security breach risks 
  • Improve customer experiences
  • Accelerate delivery times

Integration is the key to catalyzing the progress of innovation. Most traditional software fails to make use of the full potential of data. Modern systems connected through the power of APIs unlock the potential of data to improve operations while increasing value for all supply chain partners and customers.

Cloud Computing

Cloud-based solutions that connect supply chain processes between users, devices, and systems are amplified, enhanced, or made possible in almost every modern supply chain innovation. Some cloud-based benefits of information technology in transportation and logistics include:

  • Increased tracking efficiency between supply chain points
  • Real-time status updates
  • Integrated software systems and processes
  • Ability to seamlessly scale operations
  • Reduced risk and improved security
  • Ability to easily increase data storage space 

APIs maximize the value of cloud services by connecting users, software, and systems. In addition to extending features, APIs free up legacy data and reduce complexity to give managers increased freedom to pivot strategy and make effective decisions.

Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) technology combines sensors, software, and connected devices that track objects throughout the supply chain. IoT allows for increased visibility of data between shared distribution networks and systems. IoT creates a “touchless” supply chain environment that reduces labor costs, improves tracking ability, and enables businesses to monitor equipment effectively.

5G Connectivity

5G mobile networks amplify IoT technology’s potential with multi-Gbps peak rates, ultra-low latency, and massive data capacity. Besides evolving retail and manufacturing supply chains, 5G affects the greater economy. According to Verizon, 5G will increase the potential for personal and professional freedom with connected appliances that automate household tasks, autonomous vehicles, and real-time tracking of health metrics.

Augmented Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning

IA, AI, and ML are enhancing and sometimes replacing human labor with the use of tools that:

  • Automate shipping transactions and delivery routing
  • Optimize inventory management
  • Monitor temperature and pressure
  • Provide predictive analytics that enhances decision making
  • Enable process automation
  • Facilitate dynamic asset maintenance

While AI innovations do not replace human intellect and creative capacity, Augmented Intelligence provides a synergistic solution that combines human ingenuity with computer processing speed. With the ability to connect human ingenuity with AI algorithmic power, IA applications empower workers across the transportation and logistics sector to do their jobs with higher accuracy and at a lower cost.

Advanced Data Analytics

As the supply chain becomes more digitized across complex logistics networks, it produces large volumes of diverse, high-velocity data. Advanced analytics applications leveraging the power of this data optimize numerous areas that include:

  • Quality control
  • Inventory management
  • Warehouse operations
  • Predictive strategies
  • Real-time deployment

Legacy systems fail to keep up with the increasing complexity of technological innovation. Big data applications that include tools, algorithms, and processing go beyond traditional systems to provide powerful analytics that increase productivity, efficiency, and visibility throughout the international fulfillment network.

Transportation and Logistics Evolution Comes With Challenges

Not all advances in transportation and logistics have been successful. Since the initial emergence of mainframe computer technology, firms have pursued technological solutions to transportation and logistics issues. While some were successful, others resulted in dead ends, and some investments created more problems than they solved. 

One example is Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that promise real-time end-to-end visibility from manufacturing to delivery. While the idea was great in theory, real-world implementation proved complex and expensive. While the technology is not entirely obsolete, many businesses have replaced it with IoT.

Another example is Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) systems — production planning tools that analyze current inventory levels, production capacity, and demand forecasts to predict the optimized manufacturing output. Sold as a fully automated solution to production-scheduling challenges, MRP lacked flexibility and could not address real-world issues.

How APIs Overcome Modern Logistics Challenges

Digital evolution comes with numerous challenges. Learn how AVIO Consulting addresses those critical issues for leading companies by downloading our on-demand webinar, Challenges Facing the Transportation and Logistics Industry — And How MuleSoft Can Solve Them.

 

MuleSoft Jeff Bean

Jeff Bean

Lead Solution Engineer, MuleSoft

Mike Slack-3

Mike Slack

Vice President of Sales, AVIO Consulting

 

Watch Jeff and Mike as they address several transportation and logistics challenges, discuss use cases, and answer participant questions.