The logistics industry played a central role in globalizing trade and investment. In the early period of its modern evolution, ecommerce and the aim of obtaining greater visibility of all assets, was the focus of its development.
As the US economy chugs back to healthy growth and manufacturing picks up, more consumers are expected to have disposable income. This is expected to fuel even greater sales and ecommerce opportunities. The latter has exponentially expanded the scope of logistics services, by reaching out to new consumers and markets.
Today’s trends envisage a completely digitized supply network, where software solutions have been optimized to minimize costs of the operating company and the universal presence of mobile communications and connected devices, embedded sensors, wireless networks and Big Data.
1. Those processes that were once linear are now dynamic and multidimensional, and use virtual automated networks for seamless operation, and instant and responsive communication.
2. Transportation management services have shown double digit growth since 2013. In the early days of ecommerce, companies kept separate inventories for online business and physical business in a location close to a package carrier. The trend now is to decentralize the inventories across several channels, spread across several locations, according to AreaDevelopment. TMS solutions monitor the entire process, from source to destination, and manage all fleet assets, including carrier interface. This is key to cutting costs and boosting returns.
3. The latest features in such software solutions include making the system more accessible for use, compatible with all manners of connected devices, operating systems, browsers and fleet vehicles, according to logistics software solutions provider FleetCommander.com, known for its automated solutions Xcelerator and MobileTek.
4. GPS tracking is also another indispensable tool that is being increasingly used in popular tracking systems, with embedded devices attached directly to fleet vehicles, enabling the precise location information to be available in seconds.
5. Intelligent systems will further utilize some form of GeoFencing, which alerts the operating company of deviations from planned routes by plotting a virtual map of physical territory that the vehicle may need to traverse.
6. Telematic software allows tracking and maintenance supervisors to know the exact speed at which the driver is driving or accelerating, how hard the brakes are applied or how long the vehicle remains parked at one spot. This information is essential to comply with driving regulations and safety norms, as well as send vehicle performance information (engine trouble, emissions, etc) before a breakdown occurs.
7. Today’s supply chain program needs to plan for dynamic modifications of routes and/or shipping information to enable a supplier to provide a single window of contact to the customer and speedy response to get around contingencies.
8. Integration of all solutions into a single ERP platform so that back office functions like accounting, inventory management and booking of new orders in common formats for portability is key to businesses looking to step to the next level of expansion.
9. As firms in this industry look to increase last mile connectivity to tap the market in geographically remote locations and look to partner with other similar service providers, a good software solution will provide a virtual map of the firm’s available network of markets so that routes can be seamlessly planned and executed.
10. More automation in warehouses, not just in terms of mechanization through robotic arms and wheels but also tracking, inventory and accounting, according to Forbes magazine.
11. It is possible that with the development of 3D printing, some manufacturing will also happen at the Distribution Center itself.
To keep up with these and other trends, innovation is crucial to supply chain companies. It enables them to respond to a dynamically changing market environment, according to the economic think tank Kogan Page. Needless to say, companies will continue to invest in technology to stay ahead of the competition, if not simply to ease life.