Shopping has never been easier: just one click on your smartphone and your new leather jacket is on the way. A few days later you hear the doorbell – the delivery is here.
That's how it looks from the consumer's perspective, but those making the supply chain work have more complicated issues to handle. While manufacturers are ramping up efforts to keep up with technological advances and consumer needs, logistics and transportation providers are adopting the latest warehousing, distribution, and loading automation solutions. The goal is to beat client expectations not only in price but also the speed of delivery and shipment customization. What's next?
Market observers from multinational transport and logistics provider AsstrA Associated Traffic AG have noticed a significant increase in the use of automation at the facility level. The most common automation trend – the search for sustainability – leads to growing usage of reusable totes, pallets, and packaging that involve robotics, conveyors, and other autonomous vehicles. Manufacturing and distribution industries are moving towards full automation. Automation trends – such as ergonomic handling not requiring manual lifting by workers, packaging solutions designed specially for robotic cranes, standardized tote sizes optimized for automation, reduced racking, and shipment tracking opportunities from manufacturer to end-user – will drastically change traditional transportation operations.
“A general feature of the logistics and transportation industry is its sensitivity to rapid market changes. 2017 is a year for all logistics companies to concentrate on shared services and to evaluate effective technological services. Logistical processes are steadily becoming more complicated, so branches are gaining faster dynamics,” says Vyacheslav Gural, Asia Regional Director at AsstrA.
If products could be produced, packaged, placed into self-driving transportation vehicles, and delivered to the end-user without the use of a human workforce, the only irreplaceable human skills would be creativity and a forward-looking strategic approach. Of course, self-driving trucks and the full automation of distribution processes do not exist at this moment. But we can clearly see a trend towards the full automation of internal supply chain operations with 3D printers, robotic machinery, artificial intelligence, and other dynamically developing technologies.
“AsstrA is proud to be an innovative and young company where all the bravest ideas of the team are welcome and open for consideration. We are constantly improving logistical processes by optimizing and automating our operations. Maintaining full control of the supply chain as 3PL providers would be impossible without a strong technological foundation. IT allows us to improve our services and to exchange information in real time,” adds Mr. Gural.
AsstrA is rapidly moving towards machine-to-machine logistics operations and investing in our employees' personal development, knowledge, and competence related to the newest technological advances. Innovation-friendly logistics managers can offer clients the best, most financially efficient logistics solutions and a modern approach to transportation in general.
If automation processes can make use of artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing and the Internet of Things can complement and even fully replace factory production. This recent trend has been globally discussed by logistics experts seeking to meet the needs of new manufacturing methods and ensure more flexible and economically efficient cargo deliveries. This goal leads to the faster adoption of logistics management systems and to the search for new hardware technologies supporting automated production. If additive manufacturing becomes more commonplace, warehousing and distribution services providers will need to relocate their centers closer to end-users, and transportation services will need to extend the geographical reach of their operations. AsstrA has already taken strategic business development steps towards new destinations via new trade lanes – and even to new continents.
To ensure that our operations are clear, transparent and effectively recorded we have implement and constantly develop our Transportation Management System (TMS) based on Oracle product, which supports all aspects of planning, execution, and freight payment for shippers, service providers and customers. Using desktop and mobile devices to monitor and exchange information related to personnel, cargo tracking, analytics, and automation helps us achieve daily goals efficiently and save on labor and operational costs.
“AsstrA plans to develop its Corporate Information System (CIS) and TMS in order to add new significant elements. Among new key changes and future segments of our CIS it is important to note the supplier's cabinet, the platform for online quotations, and electronic bidding. In real-time mode consignors, consignees and AsstrA, as a logistics provider will be united, therefore each participant of this supply chain will receive its benefits. Real-time automation systems are necessary for us, as a logistics services provider, in order to boost our profit margins and offer our clients competitive services. IT innovations open more business growth and development opportunities for AsstrA than it might seem at first sight,” says Mr. Gural.
The benefits of technology in logistics can be seen clearly in the daily transportation operational possibilities of real-time cargo condition monitoring and big data analytics, which allows logistics managers to reroute and adjust traffic flows to make faster deliveries. The more automated transportation operations become, the more flexibly end-users' needs can be satisfied. In this way, technology ultimately leads to improved business results.