3 Tech Trends in the Logistics Industry

Monday, 6th January 2020

Like many other sectors revolutionised by developments in tech, the logistics industry has plenty to gain from being at the forefront of new technology. 

Pioneers such as Amazon and Ocado are driving the revolution, trialling drones and robotic warehouse systems to fulfil orders faster and more cheaply. So which trends should businesses in logistics be keeping an eye on?

Automated deliveries 

The use of drones, and their potential for small businesses, is one of this year’s hot topics; especially so since Amazon announced its plans to launch drones for last-mile deliveries. 

The revolutionary retailer, who had driven the on-demand delivery sector with their Same-Day delivery initiatives and Amazon Dash button, is now aiming to utilize the sky as a stockroom.

They have filed a patent for a warehouse carried by airship, which can hover above events such as festivals and concerts to speed up delivery to customers. Officially called “airborne fulfilment centres”, they will come with drones that can “to deliver ordered items to user designated delivery locations.”

“As the UAVs descend, they can navigate horizontally toward a user-specified delivery location using little to no power, other than to stabilize the UAV and/or guide the direction of descent,” the patent said.

Whilst this all sounds a little ‘new-age’, several other major companies have been quick to jump on the bandwagon. 

Engineering giant Rolls Royce recently announced plans to launch autonomous cargo ships by 2030, and last week Ocado sent a self-driving truck through the streets of south-east London to test out autonomous deliveries. Although it was only a prototype, it still left a lot to be desired; it only held eight boxes of food at a time and required two human supervisors.

Whilst there is still plenty of room for improvement in this area, technology enabling autonomous delivery is likely to be one of the biggest topics in the logistics industry going forward. 

Warehouse technology

Online grocery company Ocado surprised the industry with its pioneering developments in this area; the company recently confirmed that it had signed a deal with a major European retailer, allowing it to use its newly-developed Ocado Smart Platform.

The use of robotics in warehouse logistics could – if the technology works, that is – have a big positive effect on efficiency. Ocado’s new technology uses autonomous robots that move around above a grid, storing and retrieving crates stacked within. Ocado is deploying this technology within its next generation of automated grocery fulfilment centres – the first two of which are under construction.

Crowdsourcing

Like many other industries, including the finance, investment and travel sectors, crowdsourcing is also set to have an impact on logistics. Matching vehicles with empty space with goods that urgently need shipping means companies utilising crowdsourcing can gain competitive traction by moving faster.

One such app is Convoy, launched in September 2015. It was aimed at small courier businesses, who found that they couldn’t grow because they weren’t able to connect with businesses that needed items shipped without plentiful phone calls and significant admin. 

Marketed as the "Uber for trucking”, the app pairs shippers with local carriers based on proper equipment, payload, capacity, and distance.

 

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