Internet of Things
Nothing has caught the fancy of the tech elite as well as captains of industry as the Internet of Things (IoT) has in the last decade and the metamorphosis from fantasy to reality has only just started with several industries including logistics and warehousing fielding practical solutions in the space to everyday hurdles. The connection of physical devices that monitor and transfer data via the internet without human intervention, IoT is now helping the logistics space by enhancing visibility through every step of the supply chain, while also improving inventory management efficiency.
Entities such as UAE-based Fleetroot and that’s into fleet management, operates an IoT platform for companies, for instance, to control and manage their fleet. Offering fuel management solutions to fleet managers by providing fuel consumption and wastage reports, Fleetroot helps monitor the performance of a vehicle and sends critical alerts to the system using sensors and devices embedded in the vehicle. The data is then analysed along with historical data to predict fleet maintenance.
Addressing traceability as well as related issues, the decentralised ledger system that blockchain offers helps present a sense of security to users by presenting transparency in transactions to the logistics process. Quicker approval systems and clearance by reducing processing time at checkpoints is also garnered by adapting smart contracts that are based on blockchain tech. Players like US-based start-up Steamchain, for example simplifies payment processes using its World Trade Logistics smart contract system, enabling B2B payments as well as fraud prevention through impeccable transaction records.
Much as human workforces are against the notion for fear of job loss, there’s no denying that warehouse automation increases efficiency, speed, and productivity. Pick-and-place technologies such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs), robotic picking, automated storage and retrieval (ASRS), and put-wall picking reduce error rates and increases warehouse productivity. In fact, the use of AGVs was predicted to grow this year on the back of more businesses using them to manage their inventory efficiently.
The demand for inventory-carrying robots, stackers, forklifts and pallet trucks is high now. Indian start-up Addverb Technologies, for example works on Dynamo, an AGV that is used to transport diverse loads in the warehouse. Addverb offers a custom Dynamo AGV with different guidance systems including laser, inertial, wire and magnetic tape. It requires minimum to no human interference in the execution of picking operations in the warehouse. Going forward, warehouses will look at employing a combination of efficient automation technologies in order to control operational logistics costs.
Wearable technology for warehouses
Wearable barcode scanners, worn on the wrists or fingers are an impressive warehouse technology addition that’s made inroads in the industry this year. Devices such as Fitbits, when worn by employees allow for business owners to monitor worker movements around the warehouse premises as well as automated equipment and vehicles.
Digital twins and logistics
Digital twins is possibly one of the most followed trends in the logistics space globally this year. Products are never exactly the same as their computer models, and modeling in its current state doesn’t take into account how parts wear out and are replaced, or how fatigue accumulates in structures. Digital twins technology is expected to eliminate all this, bringing together the physical and digital universe. The move is allowing players to engage with the digital model of a physical object for the first time in the history of the sector.
The ramifications of this for the industry are huge, with the shipment sector for instance being able to collect product and packaging data and use that information to identify potential weaknesses and recurring trends to improve future operations. Warehouses and facilities can also use the technology to create accurate 3D models of their centres and experiment with layout changes or the introduction of new equipment to see their impact without risk. These are early days yet, but digital twins has the capacity to shake up the industry for the greater good.
Data standards and advanced analytics
The habit of companies within the logistics space, storing data as they chose has undermined the efforts of the few who have looked and aspired to tap the advantages rising from the efficient storage of data. Data that is siloed leads to massive inefficiencies and related difficulties in setting up a proper digitised network in the logistics space. One of the biggest logistics technology trends for 2020 suggests data in silos to be no longer a workable solution, with new data standards for example now being created for container shipping, with the initiation of the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) last year.
The DCSA’s mission is to create common information technology standards for digitalisation in efforts to make the shipping sector more efficient for customers and shipping lines. Months after launching, the organisation released its first industry blueprint, detailing new industry standards for data processes used in container shipping. However, the DCSA only represents the data standardisation movement within the container shipping sector and it will take time for the association to develop new standards covering different sub-sectors of shipping.
Elastic logistics enables companies to handle supply chain operations with more efficiency during periods of fluctuation in demand, helping upscale or downscale supply chain operations according to requirements. It deals with challenges such as underutilisation of vessels, as well as overstocking. UAE-based on-demand warehousing start-up, Shorages helps SMEs locate short-term warehousing requirements from an expansive network. While allowing owners to rent out unused space in their warehouses to meet short-term needs, they also offer pay-per-use and on-demand storage and fulfilment services for their customers.