This is a guest article by David Madden at ExchangerHub.
From big data analytics in shipping operations to drones for online order fulfillment, modern day shipping and logistics are experiencing a rapid transformation fueled by technological advancements. With new opportunities being discovered in artificial intelligence, the future of shipping and logistics seems to be heading toward a model that is entirely autonomous. Fleets of trucks and ships using algorithms for efficient navigation, and a bunch of wearable technologies, drones, and gadgets could accelerate the speed of online order fulfillment.
Logistics and commercial shipping can be expected to be increasingly faster, more efficient, and, most importantly, autonomous over the next decade or two. This rapid and unprecedented rate of change is being driven by cutting-edge technology that is gradually being adopted by the industry. We can already see a lot of these changes starting to take place today. Let’s explore some of the most important industry changes.
- Automated Doorstep Delivery
- Unmanned Ships
- Hands-Free Driving
- Increase in the Use of IoT- & RFID-Based Technologies
- Growth of eCommerce Solutions
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When you purchase a product from Amazon or an online retailer, you can expect that it will most likely be delivered to your doorstep. As online shopping and purchases continue to grow in popularity, there is also an increased demand for quick and reliable delivery services. Making online purchases is very easy; all it takes is a click of a button.
The issue with this process lies in the amount time it takes to get to your doorstep after making the order. Amazon has been working on addressing this customer need with its development of unmanned delivery drones to carry out small order fulfillments near its major distribution centers.
However, it is still unclear if this service would be efficient. There have also been concerns raised about the safety of the drones and the privacy issues that might arise from these drones taking flight through neighborhoods and communities.
Uber, a company that primarily offers ride-sharing services, plans to compete with Amazon’s drones in the near future. The company, which was founded in 2009, now operates in over 50 countries worldwide and has experienced steady growth. Recently, Uber began offering door-to-door delivery services that work through their current apps, allowing Uber drivers to carry out on-demand deliveries. The company has hinted at offering cargo and freight services in the future.
According to Bloomberg business, freight transported by way of ships accounts for about 90% of the world’s cargo movements. Sending products overseas is typically the first step toward getting the product to the consumer. As the regulations for sustainable shipping increase, companies continue to carry out studies on how to construct more environmentally friendly ships with reduced carbon footprints. Some companies are researching how to develop battery-powered ships which that don’t require fuel to run.
The future of commercial shipping is moving toward more autonomous ships. Companies are already making efforts to develop real-time control centers that could be used to monitor the ship, manage the crew, and even deliver important messages. With people monitoring the ship, alerting the crew of any issues or hazards they might be facing, the safety of the crew is increased.
The technology is continuously evolving, and the ability to remotely monitor and control the ships will also evolve with it. This will lead to a reduction of crew members needed on the ship, as well as the labor costs associated with those crew members.
Also, with overseas shipping, speed and time are important. Shipping containers are increasingly getting larger every year as the demand for more cargo increases. However, this may not always be the best choice. Bigger ships do take longer to reach their ports and are not always filled to their maximum capacity, sometimes because the ports are unable to support ships of that size. Thus, we might start to see a shift toward smaller and, more importantly, faster ships to meet the increasing speed and time demands of consumers.
Just like cargo ships, the future of trucks is also headed toward unmanned vehicles that are able to autonomously carry out deliveries. There are analysts who are still skeptical about the safety of self-driving trucks and cars. They also wonder if these cars would make it to the point where they’re all completely unmanned. As safety on the road is a top priority, some people believe that a driver should always be present to take control of the wheel. Discussions have been had on whether humans can trust these vehicles to react appropriately in dangerous situations.
The self-driving vehicle technology is still evolving and has a long way to go. However, as it evolves, we’ll begin to see features such as autopilot increasingly being used by drivers
It can be a little tedious to think about using the Internet of Things (IoT) and radio frequency identification detection (RFID) technologies being implemented in the process of order fulfillment. However, these technologies have become a lot more popular and are now cost-effective to use.
For many logistics and shipping providers, RFID technology was once out of a reasonable price range. However, with decreasing costs in recent years, it has become a viable option for shippers without significantly affecting their operational costs.
Just like RFID technology, the internet of things (IoT) will start to become more prominent in managing shipping and warehouse processes, as it can easily communicate with other existing technologies such as Bluetooth and AIDC.
Businesses have increasingly become reliant on other businesses and consumers to increase their customer bases. With the demand for retailers to have a strong online presence for improved sales, the use of APIs (Automated Protocol Integration) will become more complex. Cloud-based platforms for storage, data processing, and analysis would also become more prominent. As a result, business would become reliant on the companies that provide these types of services.
Currently, very few industries can claim to require a similar level of technology to what’s being used in the shipping and logistics industry. From autonomous transportation to eCommerce solutions, these technologies are having a huge effect on the landscape of the industry. As these technologies continue to evolve, you can expect to see even more visible changes and effects on the industry.