Smart Logistics and Technology Shaping the Future of Supply Chains
By Jordan Kass, President, TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson
There are multiple factors at play in driving the latest supply chain innovations, including increased demand and complexity, multi-leg shipments, rapid fire replenishment, final mile, and the overall trend of urbanization.
Population Growth and New Supply Chain Technology Drive the Change
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) projects that freight volumes in the United States will increase by more than 40 percent over the next 30 years. Mid-sized cities are expected to grow three times faster than the rest of the country over the next three decades, adding to the pressure to develop better ways to manage logistic flows.
These pressures are by no means confined to the United States. Megacities—cities with 10 million or more people—are growing in both number and size across the globe. Estimates project that by 2030, 60 percent of the planet’s population will live in cities—up from around 50 percent today.
Supply Chain Technology Innovation in Action
The logistics of moving goods between sprawling urban centers is a major challenge. Groundbreaking approaches to logistics management are being developed in major cities around the world. Commonly called “smart mobility” projects, the work aims to improve both the safety and efficiency of transportation, balanced with improved environmental sustainability.
Utilizing new technology and connectivity is providing important tools for developing megacity freight transportation services, such as vehicle or road-based sensors that track delivery patterns in cities and better manage the movement of in-transit inventory.
For example, this March, the Wyoming DOT selected a vendor to supply advanced vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications equipment for a pilot project.
Mid-sized cities are expected to grow three times faster than the rest of the country over the next three decades, adding to the pressure to develop better ways to manage logistic flows
Wyoming is one of the pilot sites selected by the DOT for its Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program. The state will test a new communications system on the busy I-80 freight corridor. When the system is in place, truck drivers will receive various automated traffic alerts pertaining to severe weather conditions and traffic congestion. They will even be warned if there is a danger of collisions with vehicles in the system. Other smart mobility solutions are highlighted by the DOT’s Smart City Challenge, which solicited ideas from mid-size cities across the United States for creating an integrated smart transportation system.
The Initiative Generated Many Innovative Plans.
For instance, Seattle proposed a shared data system that provides dynamic routing for truck traffic and promotes off-peak deliveries. Boston outlined a project for “radically programmable” city streets where dynamic markings can change areas from loading zones to thoroughfares depending on the time of day and season. The use of signaling systems to prioritize the movement of trucks in high-volume freight corridors is another idea that is being pursued.
However, smart mobility does not only encompass city environments and road networks. Consider, for example, the Hamburg Port Authority’s smartPORT initiative in Germany. In collaboration with leading IT and communications companies, such as Cisco, the port has developed a cloud-based communications system that connects port stakeholders.
The system is being used to speed up traffic movements. A recent example is an incident where a lift bridge in the port malfunctioned. A technician connected to the sensors on the bridge via a mobile tablet, diagnosed the problem remotely, located the parts needed to address the problem, and fixed the malfunction speedily.
In addition, the industry is discussing the future arrival of autonomous trucks, which provides a clear example of the next-generation supply chain technology innovations that are expected to reshape the logistics industry in ways we don’t yet fully understand.
Smart Mobility is Just the Beginning
Expect more innovative smart mobility ideas like these to emerge over the next decade as the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data are being deployed to manage the movement of freight vehicles. The IoT is touching every corner and link of the supply chain, and its influence is growing. Not only are the number of smart devices and sensors embedded in supply chains is increasing, but the technology inside these units is also advancing significantly.
The future of smart logistics platforms is creating a new era of supply chain control, visibility, and responsiveness. Looking ahead, IoT-enabled supply chain management will enable the industry to become more proactive and predictive.
The logistics industry needs to be attuned to the enormous potential for raising the efficiency of logistics networks. With this in mind, this is an exciting time for the future of logistics platforms. The combinative power of truly connected supply chains, machine-to-machine communication, machine learning, and predictive analytics will create new levels of supply chain control, visibility, and responsiveness. Get ready for smart logistics.
TMC is a division of C.H. Robinson; the firm combines industry expertise with their global technology platform to support the world’s most complex supply chains.