A lot of the trends for digitization and automation are either working in parallel in the same space (automation and platooning), working in conjunction in different spaces (virtual vs. traditional supply chain), or taking physical tasks and moving the control of them to the digital space (warehouse robotics).
Other examples include:
Digitization and automation being aspects of similar thought process (taking boring work out of the hands of human workers), but one is in the digital space, the other is focused on improving physical objects like trucks.
Digitization itself is (obviously) taking physical concepts and making them digital. The reflection is easy to see in all of our trends, especially Digitization of Loadboards and the Virtual Supply Chain.
"Global 3PL Study: The Customers' Perspectives"
What blockchain technology brings to the supply chain is an infrastructure based on shared value networks of guaranteed transparency, community, immutability, authenticity, ethics, and security.
At its core, the blockchain is a distributed ledger that can validate and register transactions without the need for a central authority. No one owns the ledger — it’s spread across the nodes that constitute its network and is publicly available to everyone that is a member.
Information stored on the ledger is interrelated through cryptographic hashes, which make it virtually irreversible and tamper proof. In a nutshell, it means that parties can make peer-to-peer exchanges of data, money or anything else of value in any amount and in a secure manner.
Every event is captured in a chain of events in a way that is available to all in the chain, but each “block” in the chain can only be changed by the latest person in the chain and the previous blocks cannot be changed by anybody.
So in a simple supply chain transaction the first block might be the order you send to the supplier, the next might be the dispatch of goods, the next the receipt of goods and the last the payment for those goods. Blockchain technology has many other applications ranging from secure messaging to voting.
Automation and digitization are two aspects of the same trend changing the supply chain and logistics world.
Automation takes logistics to a new level, providing new capabilities to assist drivers and providers in offering their services faster, cheaper, and with less room for human error.
Digitization reflects similar advances in the digital space that support those in the physical space.
Faster safe speeds due to automated braking, resulting in faster delivery times
Minimization of safe distance between trucks, potentially reducing traffic on the road
Speed optimization from automated planning utilizing terrain and topographic data
Faster delivery times, largely due mandated limits driver hours being removed
-Minimization of Environmental Impacts
Closely tied to the benefit of optimized transportation
Reduced fuel waste due to reduction/removal of human-caused over-acceleration
Platooning tests have shown that reduced wind resistance for following trucks and lower fuel consumption can lead to up to a 60% reduction in emissions
Limited impact of human error in transportation
Automated braking between connected vehicles in a platoon and improvements to sensing and avoidance technologies reduces risk of accidents
Improved traffic flows if platooning reached 60% penetration
-Lower Cost of Freight
No need for driver salaries leads to lower transportation costs
Overall cost of freight lower by up to 40% per kilometer, in part due to 4% to 20% fuel-efficiency in platooned vehicles (depending on the study)
Piecemeal regulation could make cross-border transportation complex
Safety concerns during development
Requirements for safe autonomous vehicle operation or platooning may not be available in all geographies
-Limited Consumer Acceptance
Automated technology is not yet a reality for 3PL providers, so it has not yet been adopted and adjusted for the practicalities of everyday use
It remains to be seen how quickly 3PL providers will adopt such technology and how fast driverless vehicles and platooning can become mainstream
-Existing Non-Automated Fleets
Most large 3PL companies already have existing fleets of non-autonomous vehicles
There would be a high cost to replace entire fleets
Could be a potential benefit for new, smaller players in the automated 3PL space
-Loss of Human Jobs
Driverless cars do not require unskilled labor of drivers
Benefit to companies of lower operating costs could be harmful to employment numbers
-Improved Supply Chain Management and Efficiency
Optimization of time, resources, and labor
Reduction of duplicated effort with greater insight into advance management (lower out of stocks, faster transportation time, lower congestion in warehouses, etc.)
-Greater Visibility Across the Supply Chain
Opportunity for increased level of transparency across the entire supply chain, especially through cloud connectivity and IoT
Support for greater integration across the supply chain
-Relatively Low Cost of Entry
Multiple players in the digitization space, all competing for the largest market share
Inexpensive opportunities to try SaaS and small-scale solutions before full implementation
Many companies are competing in the same space, which may drive costs down, but also means that continuity of service may be a risk
Digitization is progressing rapidly, so today’s technologies may be obsolete next year, as new players rise and fall in the digital space
Companies may struggle to build a comprehensive adoption strategy as technology changes over time
-Cannibalization of Work from Human Labor
Digital loadboards and IoT will remove certain aspects of everyday manual labor, from in-person monitoring to check-ins and scans through various points of the supply chain process
Warehouse robotics will take over aspects of distribution center picking, packing, and processing, reducing the need for unskilled labor
Companies and workers will need to adapt to the digitized workspace with new skills and coordination with ubiquitous technology
3 of top 4 are same for shippers and providers:
-Competitiveness in the industry
-Increased efficiencies (time to deliver)
-Meeting of customer service needs
1 is different:
Shippers: Decreased operating costs
Providers: Addition of value-add services
Same top 3 across shippers and providers:
1. Uncertainty of ROI
2/3. Lack of funding; competing core IT projects
Different next priority (priorities):
#4 for shippers: A non-digital culture or mindset
#4 for providers: Lack of in-house talent to develop, implement, and monitor
#5 for providers: Insufficient dedicated resources to developing digital platforms