In recent years the supply chain of today has met with unprecedented levels of disruption, from an inexorable and exponential rise in consumer demand, fuel shortages, to a global pandemic. Thankfully, we seem to be emerging out of the latter, yet still, such factors have caused the supply chain to grow ever-increasingly more complex. And, of course, this is felt most keenly within the transportation and logistics sectors.
This has necessitated the need for the industry to adapt, to find the most efficient ways for importers, manufacturers, and distributors alike to get goods into the hands of consumers. Followingly, fleet managers are being burdened with added responsibilities which they are expected to handle effortlessly. Each plays an integral role, and each is facing a high level of pressure due to surging competition.
In order to stay in business, an awareness of how transportation and logistics are reshaping is essential. This includes approaches to both technology and organisational management, namely, what the future holds. It’s for this reason that we’ve compiled our list of trends to look out for in 2023, so that those firms concerned can capitalise on developing transformations and, therefore, retain relevant strategies within this interconnected landscape.
Omnichannel fulfilment, or omnichannel distribution isn’t exactly a new trend, although it is certainly one worth reiterating because of its increasing prevalence. It refers to customers being given the ability, by companies, to purchase and receive their orders from multiple seamlessly integrated sales channels. For example, how Apple offers both an online, app-based, and brick-and-mortar retail experience for their customers.
One obvious consequence is that omnichannel shipping works to grow businesses’ consumer base, it’s a matter of market real-estate. However, it likewise means that several places take on inventory shipments that are supplied from one single location or supplier. In this way it optimises operational efficiency by reducing involved costs and improving transit courier times, ultimately ensuring that consumers get a good service from all stages of the purchasing process. It is this last point which makes omnichannel fulfilment an inevitable reality for successful logistics and transportation companies, i.e., customers having high-quality expectations for the convenience standards of retail outlets. Fundamentally, the responsibility falls onto fleet managers and their involvement within the supply chain.
Cloud-based integration is gradually becoming an industry standard for a great number of sectors, and so it would be remiss to disregard the impact it is having for transportation and logistics. It’s easy to see why the adoption of cloud-based systems and integrations has become so widespread. Cloud platforms typify the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model which provides companies and businesses with a host of scalability and expansion opportunities.
Moreover, cloud integration is rather easy to achieve, such systems are readily available to be incorporated into already-existing workflows. The benefits they bring comprise secure and efficient information storage and transfer, internal process streamlining, as well as enhanced financial control. For fleet managers in particular, these advantages are especially useful for when they are carrying out their important administrative & management duties because they make processes easier and smoother. This manifests as time and expenditure savings alongside improved brand establishment, in turn, meaning increased profitability. The degree of flexibility and the amount of capabilities that cloud-based systems afford are comprehensive both for logistics and transportation.
If the cloud offers a heightened level of security, then the blockchain cements secure procedures. Blockchain technology is most well known for its role in safeguarding the cryptocurrency infrastructure, so it may come as a surprise that it’s trending within the transportation and logistics industry. Yet, it is indeed steadily becoming more mainstream and accessible for a variety of parties. The blockchain functions as a decentralised digital ledger that records financial transactions with the impermissibility of retroactive alteration.
For logistics and transportation, this equates to smarter inventory management. Companies who choose to implement blockchain solutions will have the advantage of substantially increased security, efficiency, and reliability in regard to tracking and sensitive data management; all obvious concerns for financial teams, HR departments, and fleet managers. This ultimately results in a prevention of fraud, bottlenecks, and errors due to a wholly digitised system. The possible future trajectory of blockchain is hard to predict, although it is clear that investing in it could prove, as it already has done, to be singularly worthwhile.
4.AI and Machine Learning
It doesn’t seem so long ago that artificial intelligence (AI) was a concept to be materialised in the far future, now, however, it is a reality for a growing number of industries. Again, if transportation and logistics companies are to remain bleeding edge then they must similarly adapt to the changes that AI is bringing about.
AI and machine learning utilisation can provide an expansive range of benefits, of which, the list develops at the rate of the technology’s advancements itself. Foremostly, automation is a consequence of AI, that is, the reduction of the need for a physical workforce presence. Instead of requiring employees to carry out time-consuming tasks such as data entry and analysis, they can allocate time elsewhere while AI-based tools fulfil these responsibilities.
What AI and machine learning primarily lends is efficiency. With the removal of task completion being subject to contractual working hours, not to mention the associated risk of human error, productivity soon becomes an inherent attribute to structural systems. Followingly, the evaluation of operations like shipment routes and how they can be further optimised in order to boost profitability, as is a primary assignment of fleet managers universally, becomes faster than ever.
Not only is it internal processes that are being influenced by automation, shipment vehicle drivers themselves are nearing dispensability. For a few years now, companies such as Tesla have been manufacturing self-driving cars, likewise, the transportation and logistics industry is currently leaning into the trend. AI and sensors make it possible for vehicles to evaluate their environment alongside road conditions, subsequently allowing them to imitate, and so perform, proper and safe truck driving behaviours.
What this ultimately means for the transport and logistics sector is, potentially improved safety during jobs, easier manageability, as compared to manual drivers, and overall cost reduction. The latter being to a substantial extent if driving, delivery, and warehousing were all to become fully automated processes. If this indeed became a mainstay, then it would signal a shift in the role of fleet managers, providing their capacities with more specialisation and nuance. Thankfully for workers, this matter is still in its relative infancy, requiring significant advancements in both software and hardware before self-driving trucks are launched without the need of meticulous supervision. Despite currently being a long-term prospect, however, it appears to be an eventuality, therefore making preparations for its arrival increasingly more necessary.
One major fundamental change to the supply chain would be a significant reduction in the amount of time and fuel expenditure needed to deliver goods. Having goods be made on-site while curtailing the raw materials required for their production is something that 3D printing technology makes possible. Although it is not entirely prevalent now, it is a platform that is experiencing rapid expansion.
After all, if you could deliver a product cross-country instantly via a connected 3D printer, why would you invest valuable time and money into the conventional method of transportation? The former is not only a salient development for transportation and logistics, but also for the environment, given that it cuts down fuel emissions considerably. The implications are, efficiency, an unprecedented degree of close connection, and sustainability.
Last-mile delivery is often a challenge for transportation and logistics companies due to the high costs this stage of the supply chain involves. For this reason, an overcoming of any complexity, and an improvement in efficiency concerning it are milestone breakthroughs. One generational tech achievement in this area has been the ability to deploy autonomous drones for package deliveries.
Drone delivery came to the fore of the transportation and logistics’s consciousness in 2016, when its genesis occurred. This was marked by Amazon’s launch of their Prime Air programme, entailing estimated contactless delivery to addresses in around half an hour. Motivation for investment here began at that aforementioned date, and has seen continued support since, thereby implying a growing ubiquity. For the future this means, again, a reduction in physical workforce numbers and a new cost-effective approach. All while, simultaneously, signalling the ushering in of an overhaul to modern-day supply chain models.
Radio-frequency Identity (RFID) chips are the most prominent among a group of technologies that allow leaders in the transportation and logistics industry to have real-time analytics and tracking capabilities. They are, however, not standalone devices, RFID chips require file-based integration to be connected to them. This is so that the pertinent data received can be transmitted to core enterprise systems before being stored and then analysed for the insight that they provide. Namely, that which informs business decision-making.
Naturally, such real-time tracking also affords fleet managers with the ability to identify and anticipate solvable problems along the way of shipments. Thereby, maximising productivity and efficiency to an organisational degree. RFID chips aren’t solely integral for transportation and logistics companies either, they likewise benefit consumers. That is, by how they make it possible to be able to tell customers where exactly their package is, and when it will arrive at their doorstep.
This detail evinces it as a factor in brand establishment because consumers have grown to appreciate its presence, and, correspondingly, recognise its absence. At this point, real-time tracking is an industry necessity and will continue to be so, well into the future.
Unlike the other additions to this list, regulatory compliance isn’t so much a trend as it is a must. It’s essential that all companies within the transport and logistics industry remain compliant with governmental regulations, the consequences are evidently severe. It is why fleet managers place so much emphasis on ensuring that it is an unwavering constant throughout their cohort. This regards, for instance, regulations such as those for safety and overtime.
This point should serve as a reminder to always monitor and keep up-to-date with the adoption of new, and the changing of, current regulations. This has a growing level of relevancy because the world, let alone the industry itself, is becoming ever more globalised. Which, as a consequence, necessitates the need to be informed as to individual countries’ laws and regulatory practices.
Some elements may remain the same, it is, however, apparent that the transportation and logistics industry is undergoing seismic shifts which will have transformative impacts. Chiefly, these changes appear to be quite positive for fleet managers especially. This is, by making their occupation less demanding, all while virtually reinvigorating the role’s potency in the areas of sustainability, cost reduction, productivity, and security & safety. It’s impossible to say what 2023 holds for us, but these trends give us a good indication of the direction we’re heading in. Improvements in efficiency, convenience, and even a slightly somewhat worrying reduction in the need for a physical workforce. There’s a lot to take into consideration, and adaptation for survival isn’t a lightweight task. Nevertheless, it’s plain to see that these are exciting times of advancement.
In order to stay ahead in the industry, it’s vital to look at the current and future trends. However, this isn’t all you need to do to generate a competitive advantage over rival companies and businesses. We at MICHELIN Connected Fleet know that the best move is to go beyond simple tracking and interconnectivity. Instead, you must make use of a solution that provides the tools and information which fleet operators and managers require to easily manage their fleets on a daily basis and transform their operational efficiency. If you’re interested in such a specialised solution then you can make an enquiry today.
Written by The MICHELIN Connected Fleet team
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