How has the logistics industry changed in the computer age?
Although the goals and the basic methods remain the same, the science of logistics has advanced dramatically over the past 25 years. Indeed, a haulage contractor from the 1980s or earlier would find the offices of a modern logistics firm nigh on unrecognizable now. GPS and WMS for instance are now commonplace, while cloud computing is the latest internet-based innovation to radically reorganize the way the sector works.
An expanding sector
In the computer age the logistics industry has vastly expanded its reach. No longer a simple matter of shifting goods from A to B, it now encompasses the monitoring of stock, supply and demand across a global supply chain network. Deliveries can now be tracked and timed virtually to the second, and any glitches in the system can be responded to instantly. Manufacturers and retailers are demanding ever-greater flexibility while also putting on the pressure to keep costs down. E-commerce and globalization have made logistics one of the most important and fastest-growing areas of international business, and the most successful operators are those using the latest technology to retain a competitive edge.
As the founder of global logistics firm Worldwide Express, David Kiger is well aware of the importance of technology within the sector. When he came on board as a major investor and strategic advisor to EXOS Transport Group they were still a start-up. Now their greatest strength is their unique data system delivering real-time information from a single access point to customers and clients alike. Kiger’s success with Worldwide Express gave him the means to help socially and economically disadvantaged American entrepreneurs to achieve their full potential. As EXOS is owned and run by veterans of America’s armed forces they were a worthy cause, but their unbeatable strategy utilizing the latest technology meant that they were also a sound business proposition.
Look to the cloud
The advent of cloud computing, particularly in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) category, has been a huge boon for the logistics sector. Cloud-based ERP solutions provide an integrated view of the whole network from several databases simultaneously, managing inventory and product flow while anticipating and hopefully heading off problems before they occur. Logistics as a result is now part of an intersectional holistic eco-system of co-reliant business processes that also includes production, marketing, accounts and so on.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is already having a profound affect on the logistics industry and this is only the beginning of the IoT revolution. The proliferation of smart devices, enabling objects to monitor their own statuses and communicate with each other, as well as with a central data-gathering point, has obvious implications for shipping and supply. Cloud technology is able to facilitate this development, opening up a potential future of across the board interconnectivity.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags for intelligent tracking are already in common use. These can record not only where and what a consignment is, but can transmit other crucial information, such as whether the item is being stored at optimal temperatures or whether it has been tampered with. But IoT remains in its infancy and so represents a massive potential growth area over the next decade. Indeed, the trend has been predicted to bring benefits worth 19 trillion dollars to the logistics industry, with fifty billion devices likely to be connected by 2020.
Warehousing, transportation and endpoint collection options will all be enhanced as global connectedness becomes a reality, but the structure of the logistics sector will have to be radically overhauled. Increased revenues and reduced overheads will be achieved at the cost of job losses. The advent of new technology is inevitably disruptive, but a stronger, more streamlined logistics sector will emerge as a result.