Fundamentally, the success of logistics operations stems from customers getting the products they want at the right time and place, and for a fair price. Customers are increasingly asking for improved delivery services and the ability to track their products, putting pressure on suppliers to improve quality while decreasing costs. Large companies are looking to startups for new technologies that will help them meet heightened customer demands and ultimately revolutionize the supply-side of production.
"Technologies that allow for environmental sensing and visualization during shipment can satisfy both user demand and prevent waste"
Startups offering newer technologies such as robotics, augmented reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are able to resolve long-standing challenges faced by companies in the supply chain and logistics sector. Together, emerging technologies can generate comprehensive data analytics, provide access to real-time data collection, and allow for constant monitoring and tracking of products as they move toward their final destinations. New technologies lead to better planning, prevent damage to products, and decrease waste. All of this translates to greater efficiency, cheaper service costs, and improved sustainability efforts.
In the supply chain, advancements in IoT have enabled warehouses to connect different technological inputs and create centralized automated data collection systems with live information on product locations, quantities, and storage temperatures. Madhu Augustine is the CEO of SnapSupport, an IoT- and AI-enabled mobile platform that provides real-time remote support for field and service technicians. According to Augustine, “Technologies such as AI, big data, and machine learning give organizations an unprecedented ability to understand critical business areas of interest and very quickly scale in response to changing business environments and customer needs.”
Many warehouses are being transformed into automated facilities with pick-ups, loading, and transferring happening through computerized controls. The growth in AI and sensor technology has helped warehouse robots become more efficient than ever before, with the ability to quickly adjust to shifting levels of demand and minimize waste. “In an increasingly data-driven world, winners will be those with the ability to utilize this data to model how their business operates outside its own four walls,” says Dave Gonzales, Director of Strategic Business Development at Descartes Labs, a predictive intelligence company that makes a data-agnostic platform for performing global-scale analyses. “Luckily, this data-rich environment coexists amid a culmination of machine intelligence tools and expertise, and powerful cloud computing capabilities.”
We have already seen the impact of technological advances in delivery, and we can expect major changes to this crucial aspect of the supply chain industry in the near future. Prior to the Internet and software improvements, customers would only receive estimated delivery dates for their products and often had no real way of tracking orders. Advances in shipping and tracking systems have not only enhanced the experience of customers, but have also provided for more efficient and predictable methods that save both time and money.
In the years to come, the use of emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles may once again revolutionize the delivery industry. Autonomous driving trucks will help resolve the growing issue of lack of drivers in many areas of the world. Automated vehicles can be combined with location tracking technology to give consumers real-time information about their products.
Partially loaded trucks are another common problem in many regions around the world, and technological advancements can help achieve more efficient use of space. Automated matching systems between drivers, warehouses, and stores lower costs, decrease road congestion, and positively impact the environment by eliminating unnecessary trips. “Data-driven AI software is the key to surviving the coming e-commerce disruption,” says Christian Rapagna, Founder and CEO of Fitter, a startup focusing on route planning and automated monitoring for last-mile delivery, drayage, long haulage, FTL, and LTL operations. “It will keep your trucks efficiently full and profitable. It can identify the best rates, determine the most efficient multiple order load build and fastest routes for delivery in real time.”
Technologies that allow for environmental sensing and visualization during shipment can satisfy both user demand and prevent waste. Companies operating in the logistics sector have responded by dedicating resources to invest in technologies such as SaaS, IoT, and AI. The high demand for supply-side innovation has attracted many startups to this field.
As the market shifts to accommodate heightened consumer demands, larger companies are looking to invest in startups that have the potential to lower production costs with innovative ideas and methods. In the competitive world of supply chain and logistics, it is of great importance for companies to learn how to navigate technological disruption and adapt fast.