The logistics and supply chain management industry is one that is constantly evolving and optimizing, and because of the competitive nature of the industry, innovation is key for success. Modern technologies have not only aided in the streamlining of supply chains and company processes, but have also set the industry on a technologically advanced path that many could not have even imagined fifteen or twenty years ago. From robotics in warehouses and autonomous ships and trucks, to computerized shipping and tracking, technology has changed the industry for the better and has provided new levels of visibility.

With the aid of technology, supply chains of the future may be a bit more complex, but will certainly be more efficient and less expensive. A few of the technological advancements that have changed the game for the logistics and supply chain management industry are:

Computerized Shipping and Tracking 

Modern technology has drastically impacted the shipping industry and has made for more efficient and accurate tracking. With a wide array of different supply chain management software programs on the market, logistics and supply chain professionals and their clients are able to keep an eye on their shipments during every step of the supply chain journey. With every second being crucial in the world of supply chain management, the ability to provide complete transparency to clients in terms of where their packages are and when they will arrive is something that is extremely valuable.

Computerized shipping and tracking has also largely reduced the amount of time spent shipping, receiving, tracking packages and compiling shipment data, as all necessary data can be stored in one easy-to-access place. And in this case, saving time means saving money. Being able to digitally organize data and monitor shipping and tracking information also reduces the opportunities for human error. With digital records there is no longer a worry that sloppy handwriting or a misplaced piece of paper will throw a wrench in a shipment being delivered on time, or to the right place.

“Futuristic” Autonomous Vehicles 

A big technological push in the industry right now is the advancement of autonomous vehicles, electrification, use of solar power, and energy storage, all of which will be used across the board to both reduce cost and increase efficiency. Right now, energy and transportation make up more than half of total supply chain costs and labor accounts for a little less than a third of costs. With further technological advancements, the transportation and labor aspects of supply chains will eventually cost very, very little compared to what they do today.

The eventual implementation of autonomous electric vehicles, which can be programmed to use the most efficient routes and run throughout the night without a driver, will drive down the cost of labor and increase capacity on the roads. Autonomous vehicles will also address the growing concern of truck driver shortages throughout the industry.

Also on the very near horizon is the use of autonomous ships. Autonomous ships would address the issues of piracy, talent shortage in the ocean shipping industry and accidents caused by human error.

Big Data 

Logistics and supply chain management professionals live and die by data. A recent study by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals shows that 98 percent of third-party logistics firms and 93 percent of shippers feel that data-driven decision making is key to supply chain activities. Technological advancements have made it extremely easy to gather and analyze key pieces of data.

Data surrounding shipping times, cargo weight, weather patterns, traffic routes, and more can lead to greater transparency, optimized routes, greater reliability and automated supply chains. Having a team that is able to accurately interpret big data is key to success, and will likely save a company both time and money. There is a reason UPS drivers don’t make left turns. Someone on the UPS team analyzed large amounts of data, which is now available thanks to technology, and determined that eliminating the majority of left turns would use 10 million less gallons of fuel, emit 20,000 tonnes less carbon dioxide into the air and help deliver 350,000 more packages every year.

Technology is something that is hard to predict and often difficult to wrap your head around, but the logistics and supply chain industry is benefiting from every new technological advancement in our field. The supply chains that we are working with today will be drastically different in five or ten years’ time, and almost unrecognizable in twenty or thirty years. Technology has made supply chain management more efficient, transparent and cost-effective. It is important to have members of your team that are willing to embrace new ways of doing things and that are able to stay up-to-date on new forms of technology. This industry is constantly changing, and in order to be successful you need to be willing to change along with it.

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