Few areas of the modern economy remain untouched by technological advance. And the world of logistics is no exception. Driven by the explosive growth of the e-commerce sector, shipping companies have been driven to resort to ever-more sophisticated methods of getting a package from A to B at minimal cost and within minimal time. The result has been an unprecedented level of change. But what does that change look like?
Not so long ago, shipping wasn’t a complicated business. The courier brought the package to the required address, and if there was no answer at the door, they tried again the following day. But customer lifestyles have since gotten busier. What if you’re out all day, and thus unable to receive a bulky parcel? Increasingly, online shoppers want more flexibility with how they receive packages, and this has lead to the introduction of delivery lockers and other innovations.
Nowadays, small parts of the supply chain have been handed over to machines. The aforementioned RFID system can be considered a form of partial automation. The picking machines which operate in modern warehouses are another. Ultimately, it’s a near-certainty that we’ll arrive at a point where driverless trucks and drones come to deliver the packages themselves, rather than human beings.
Among the most important pieces of information in logistics concern where a given shipment is. Anything that can be done to get this information more quickly and efficiently will therefore make the business as a whole more efficient. That’s where Radio Frequency Identification comes in – it allows entire shipments to be inventoried in seconds, by having each package broadcast a unique digital identifier. Combine this with modern satellite tracking technology, and we can provide customers with a highly-accurate means of seeing where their package is.
A big long-term source of inefficiency is a lack of knowledge about when drivers will be needed. Currently, growth in the shipping industry is being far outpaced by consumer demand for shipments. There are simply not enough drivers to meet the demand, and this results in considerable ‘crunch’. This could, of course, all change if a wider economic downturn were to strike. In any case, better knowledge of the demand to come would allow hauliers to make the right investments to cater to that demand.
The solution comes, as ever, in the form of data. Fortunately, there’s never been more data floating around – and much of it concerns our online shopping habits. We should therefore expect the most successfully predict future demand.