UPSdrones Photo: UPS
United Parcel Service is already testing how drones and trucks can work together to deliver packages.

Innovation is changing the supply chain

Drones, 3-D printers, and self-driving trucks will transform trucking and the logistics industry that it serves.

By Keval Baxi, Codal

An entrepreneur in the “digital intelligence” arena, Keval Baxi is president and CEO of Codal, a global cloud, web and mobile application development consulting firm. And he believes the development and wider deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT), just to name one technology driving future change, is leading to rapid change in how we transport all manner of cargo. In this guest column, Baxi argues trucking will change as well as this “technological transformation” continues to gain speed.

Industries around the globe are going through a complete digital transformation. We’re using the IoT to treat medical patients remotely; we’re having groceries delivered to our door via a mobile device; and we are using IoT and iPads for children in schools.

Over the next decade, new technologies are going to start rapidly changing the logistics industry – and for an industry of its size, it can surely make a huge impact.

Just a few years ago, the global logistics market was worth around $4 trillion. That is a whopping 10% of global gross domestic product [GDP]. And innovative technologies such as 3-D printers, drones, and self-driving cars, will change how goods are moved by that market.

3-D Printers

Around 19% of manufacturers and retail companies are already using 3-D printers in their organizations, but according to 3PL Selection, only about 1.5% of these organizations can consider themselves experts at it. Over the next few decades, we will see many more 3-D print shops popping up as a logistics IT [information technology] solution.

Keval Baxi, Codal

To start off with, 3-D printing promotes more regional and localized production. What does this mean? It means that products and goods will no longer be required to be shipped halfway across the globe. Instead, they will be “printed” closer to the consumer. Thus more 3-D print centers will result in fewer products needing freight transportation.

Once there’s an abundance of 3-D print shops around the country, no longer will there be a need to store replacement parts at a warehouse. Instead of having to order a replacement product piece, those parts will potentially be stored in “virtual warehouse,” where parts can be printed on demand.

Drones

While many people believe that drone delivery will not be commonplace, companies like Amazon are already delivering packages via air (such as by Amazon Prime Air). This is the future of logistics, whether you want to believe it or not.

In large cities, like where our Chicago app developers reside, traffic on the inner roads can cause major delays in deliveries – it happens all the time. Chances are, you have experienced this if you live in a large city. Digital transformation in logistics could take some of that traffic away from the road and put it into the sky.

Major players like Amazon are spending a lot of time and focus on cutting delivery times, so that the consumer can get what they want as soon as they want it.

Drone-delivery means faster shipping and delivery to consumers. And as we are a UX design agency, this means customers will have an overall better experience with any online e-commerce business.

Self-driving vehicles

Trucks that drive themselves are poised to change how organizations deliver their products and how consumers receive their packages. Autonomous vehicles could have a huge impact on logistics, especially for warehouse workers and order-fulfillment managers.

Some companies, like Mercedes Benz, believe that their self-driving trucks will not replace drivers. Instead, it will free up their time to do other important work tasks inside the cabs.

Google has also been testing self-driving vehicles for years, compiling 1.4 million miles, and Apple said it will be focusing on their own self-driving car in 2019. It is pretty safe to say that the logistics industry could adopt autonomous vehicles well before other industries.

While I used Mercedes Benz self-driving truck as an example, such vehicles can be utilized in many areas, not only long-haul deliveries; areas such as warehousing operations, or for last-mile deliveries.

While self-driving trucks won’t be fully emerged into society for years and years, it is the future of transportation.

In the end, all of this goes to show that the supply chain of tomorrow will surely be faster, more efficient, and – most importantly – self-arranged. While they are not going to be implemented into the industry in the next year, or even the next five years, in 10 or 15 years we’ll start seeing them. Thus it is critical to start planning for that future right now.

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