Over the past two years, global package shipping volume has increased by 48 percent, mostly driven by the ongoing growth of ecommerce. While this is good for business, it is also putting a lot of extra strain on courier, delivery and logistics companies. Many of them are looking to adapt for the future, to create more efficient supply chains and deliveries through using technologies of tomorrow. The next few years and decades for the industry could look very different as the following changes may come into play.
The Internet of Things
Nowadays, many devices, vehicles and more include in-built Wi-Fi and sensors, enabling you to turn on your light with an app on your phone, for example. The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to this ability for all sorts of ‘things’ to connect and interact with each other. Combined with the tracking capabilities provided by radio frequency identification (RFID) nd technology, the logistics and delivery industry is becoming far more efficient.
For example, RFID sensors attached to products and the delivery vehicles themselves provide a much more transparent and accurate way of tracking deliveries. This can be great for providing customers with peace of mind but also for transmitting information to delivery workers, monitoring items and informing drivers if there is an issue.
There have been a lot of predictions about driverless cars, with more autonomous technology evident in modern vehicles. Fully driverless vehicles would revolutionize the delivery industry though, cutting labor costs and potentially improving efficiency.
While this will create worry among current delivery drivers, at the moment any autonomous vehicles developed still require a driver to monitor the computer. Plus, when a driverless delivery vehicle arrives at its destination, depending on the size of the delivery it might still need someone to unload the items. This could mean that sending a parcel with TNT will look very different in the future.
The idea of drone deliveries has long been touted as the future of the logistics and delivery industry and it appears that future is nearly here. From being worth $40 million in 2012 to $1 billion in 2017, the drone industry has grown massively and there have already been various trials.
Issues still stand, such as regulation and privacy, with the routes drones need to take to make deliveries. Yet for logistics and delivery firms, the use of drones, especially for last-mile deliveries, is a highly cost-effective, faster and more environmentally friendly solution. Linked with developing IoT, it’s not inconceivable that drones could locate buyers based on their smartphone location, while being used for stock checks in warehouses.
Creating 3D objects from a digital image has evolved to the point where the most advanced machines can manufacture car parts, medical equipment and more. In time these 3D printers should become cheaper and faster, paving the way for improvements to the logistics and delivery industry.
Within supply chains there can often be issues such as breakdowns of machinery and vehicles. Ordering replacement parts typically requires a few days or weeks for delivery, but with a 3D printer it should become possible to simply create these at the nearest 3D printing facility. This would reduce shipping times and costs.
One way that the logistics and delivery industry is already changing is in terms of customer service. No longer is calling up the courier the first action if customers have a problem; instead, the majority will head straight to social media. Most businesses have their own Facebook and Twitter pages, where they can address consumers’ concerns. As social media develops, it’s important for businesses to keep up with the changing industry.
The operation of logistics and delivery companies will experience a technology-heavy revolution in the coming years, as it strives to make processes faster, more efficient and cost-effective.
Matthew Grahams is freelance journalist with a strong interest in the world of technology and finance.