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Logistics Technology: Emerging Technologies Transforming The Logistics Industry In 2020

Swapnil Shrikant Bagul, CTO - Head Technology, Writer Corporation

In the era of the 4th industrial revolution and data driven enterprises, emerging technologies tend to assure transparent, predictable and reliable solutions for a sustainable business growth, if used appropriately. Though the connectivity across devices is a bare necessity and is affordable now, efficiency and availability of connectivity networks across devices and systems is as vital as we need water and electricity for a place called human society to be created. Enterprises are investing into research on new technologies to find the synergy and applicability of the same in their business processes and business management. Cutting edge technologies in the space beyond Integrated Applications are Machine to Machine communications, Robots and Cobots, Text, Image and voice processing, wearables and drones, big data and blockchain and sensing and responding devices clubbed with pervasive apps are few technologies that can influence the next generation of logistics vertical. Here are some of the applications of similar technologies to different entities of logistics value chain.

Huge warehouses paired with complex delivery matrices of orders are the causes to increased delivery times and have potential for erring deliveries, if managed manually. Further, acute transparency and predictability of exact time of arrival of shipment is a key to ideal logistics planning and positive customer satisfaction. Moreover, real time monitoring and control of routes taken by delivery vans for security, cost optimization and service excellence are key to the success of the business in today's fast paced world. Internet of Things has several applications to answer these questions. Geo Positioning System sensors deployed in delivery vans are key for fleet route monitoring and control.

Radio-Frequency-Identifiers (RFID) can see various applications right from package tracking upto inward-outward movement in warehouse, multi mapping of shipment to vehicle and crew to shipment / vehicle. RFID can also be used to mark the departure and arrival of shipment vehicle and also indicating the shipment load in the vehicle. Quality of shipment when untempered, results in positive customer satisfaction and the same can be controlled using temperature, load and humidity sensors. That is specifically used in supply chain of raw or ready food and chemical compounds.

Maintenance of fleet across the country from mechanical and aesthetic purpose is key to success of a fleet managers role. Hubs can be enabled with smart cameras that can predict damaged or ageing fleet that might need an overhaul. This technique is already in use in Insurance sector. Further, driver behaviour analytics offered by most of the vehicle tracking vendors today can lead to more insights for an insurance agency during claims settlement or new policy issuance. The same can be an indicator for the fleet management team to identify the errors that can lead to spurt in repair cost.

Object Character Recognition using image and text processing and analytics can be used to digitise frequent documents like driving licenses, insurance

policies, fitness certificates, annual maintenance contracts and other predefined statutory documents aiding the data availability from compliance and tracking perspective. This can be further extended on challans, invoices and delivery sheets too.

Efficiency and Consistency with reduced time to accomplish the given task than humans is the advantage of having robots do routine and mundane tasks on floor. A leading ecommerce vendor uses robots, to fulfill orders in 75% less time without any latency or delays thereby reducing the companies operational costs by 20 percent. Cobots are human assisted machines which are generally used in sorting and packaging activities in warehouses. Cobots help the companies in not only reducing operating costs but also increases productivity and reduces errors.

Real time monitoring and control of routes taken by delivery vans for security, cost optimization and service excellence are key to the success of the business in today's fast paced world

Artificial intelligence bundled with Virtual reality can be used for tracking the shipments in a warehouse without error and ensuring “Vision based Pickups”. This is referred to as Augmented Reality.

DHL, the world’s leading logistics company, has successfully carried out a pilot project testing smart glasses and augmented reality in a warehouse in the Netherlands. The technology was used to implement ‘vision picking’ in warehousing operations. Staff was guided through the warehouse by graphics displayed on the smart glass to speed up the picking process and reduce errors. The pilot proved that augmented reality offers added value to logistics and resulted in a 25 percent efficiency increase during the picking process.

Imagine a portal for transporters association where the transporter can optimize availability of transports by predicting demands in advance can give optimum returns to transporters. Also, ensure that the return journeys are equipped with shipments to gain advantage over empty returns. Fuel monitoring sensors are a key to transporters to avoid losses resulting out of fuel theft. Similarly, the fuel stations are bridging the gap of fuel theft by using RFID stickers which are read at the fuel stations by the dispensers thereby identifying the vehicle and its preregistered electronic payment details and thereby giving a complete visibility of amount of fuel dispensed with the cost incurred.

Various technologies and systems have been generating data for years now and a thorough churning of data to convert it into useful information will require analytical technologies that can give insights into past trends and predict the future opportunities. Once such example is route planning and scheduling. Excessive research is in progress to use machine learning algorithms on past data and predict the most optimum route coverage for a delivery vehicle. Adding the integration with the national agencies for weather predictions can avoid the impact on the operations and losses or damages to the property caused due to bad weather.

Availability of drivers across the global logistics industry is reducing due to the fact that the next generations of today's drivers do not want to get into the same profession. This has an impact observed across the countries globally. Cyber Physical Systems bundled with Artificial Intelligence, Computer Vision and Sensing devices can lead to driverless vehicles. Research on consumer vehicles is already in progress by the likes of Tesla and Ford. Soon, the gap will be bridged and we might see commercial and transport vehicles getting into the trend.

Movement and transfer of shipments between hubs and warehouses result in a huge vehicular traffic thereby increasing the carbon emission levels on the globe. With Drones as an efficient delivery mechanisms, last mile deliveries and movement between hubs and warehouses can be well managed without increasing the carbon footprint.

Support to the customers or partners is a key to success for a business. Bots is a forward looking solution for support which can even operate using voice like the one in Google assistant or Alexa for a predefined set of queries. Using Natural Language Processing and artificial intelligence, the bots can learn to communicate with the customers and partners for queries and alerts driven from the system.

Alignment of logistics processes involving warehouses, transporters and field operations along with technological advancements in the fields of automation can result in reduced delivery times, improved predictability and quality, optimization of resources and positive satisfaction across the customers and partners community giving a win-win proposition for all.

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