Logistics companies invest in advanced technology for simple reasons: customers demand it and find value in it. In the modern logistics industry, one could argue that the value we bring to our customers is heavily dependent upon great technology.
“Logistics technologies are already giving customers better and more valuable information to drive their decision-making and increase efficiencies”
As the Chief Commercial Officer of one of the largest privately-held logistics companies in the world, I see three technological trends that are providing—and will provide—real business value to our customers: increased access to meaningful information, adoption of technologies that more closely connect shipments with people, and the integration of data into predictive analytics.
Increased Visibility for Customers
There are a number of ways that logistics companies are making information available more quickly and in more useful forms than in the past. At BDP, one of the technologies we have employed to give customers greater visibility of data about their shipments is Platform as a Service (PaaS). Adoption of PaaS has allowed us to quickly add unique application services to our cloud stack and focus on enabling or transforming the actual business. We incorporate data and functionality from various third-parties–essentially creating a “network” for our customers–and our platforms can help orchestrate information delivery in a differentiating way.
BDP’s customer-facing systems allow our customers to see the status of current interactions with us, slice and dice information related to all past interactions with us, and track ongoing activity within their own operations teams. Our next generation version of these logistics solutions will include what are now one-off solutions for our customers, such as advanced analytics, predictive analytics and scenario planning, Monte Carlo simulations, advanced compliance calculations and the like. We’re constantly finding ways to increase visibility for our customers, even with something as simple as using mobile apps to scan arrival times and signatures to provide highly accurate real-time receipt information. The pervasiveness of mobile technology, the availability of PaaS solutions, and the emergence of advanced analytics solutions are collectively changing the way we can help our customers think about logistics management.
Connecting People and Shipments via Technology
Emerging technologies are always of great interest in managing complex supply chains. Take wearable technology for example. Wearables have the potential to speed up processes and create a clear competitive advantage for customers.
Take the following three areas as an example:
1. Real-time transportation, delivery, and status information:
Information is the currency which makes logistics happen, and wearable scanners offer another tool for providing information to companies and shippers. In conjunction with enterprise adoption of advanced sensors, cloud computing, and real-time data analysis, wearable scanners can offer an important real-time data stream of cargo location and condition.
Wearable technologies such as smart glasses and integrated voice speakers give warehouse workers access to hands-free information, letting them do their jobs unencumbered. Wearable technologies may also help warehouse team members navigate through these enormous spaces through connections to GPS mapping systems thus keeping the team members from getting lost and saving additional time.
The exoskeleton, already in development for use in the construction industry, is another wearable technology with possible application in warehousing environments. These suits are designed to offer a mechanized ability to handle heavier loads with ease as well as to perform physical tasks for a longer time and with fewer injuries.
3. Transporting Hazardous Materials:
BDP is an industry leader in coordinating the transport of chemicals to some of the world’s largest companies around the globe. For any carrier moving chemicals or other potentially hazardous materials, safety is the foremost concern. Wearable technologies for drivers-such as biometric sensors which monitor vitals-can help quickly identify health problems or fatigue which might adversely affect safety.
As self-driving vehicles become more mainstream, wearable peripherals which interact with these vehicles will also benefit the transportation of dangerous materials. For example, BMW’s Mini division has tested a prototype of smart glasses specifically designed to work with its smart car. The glasses communicate with the car via Wi-Fi when the driver gets in and provide a heads-up display for the car’s navigation system and other functions. This sort of technology could provide additional safety information for carriers and their drivers, and could have a positive impact across the logistics field.
Wearables can also provide security enhancements for valuable or hazardous shipments. Products are being developed which use individual biorhythms such as heart rate to add new levels of identity recognition and encryption.
Predicting the Future
Logistics technologies are already giving customers better and more valuable information to drive their decision-making and increase efficiencies, and cutting-edge developments like wearables will continue to connect shipments and people in more useful ways. The final trend—one which we’re just seeing the beginning of—is predictive analytics.
With the increase and integration of information across the supply chain, we hone our abilities to help customers more accurately predict how their shipments can move most efficiently. If we can help our customers plan for how their shipments will be affected in the future, then they can budget and plan for controlling their transportation costs.
I know from my years of experience in marketing and sales that having great technology has no intrinsic value–it comes from how that technology is used to provide benefits to our customers and great productivity to our employees. Listening to customers and thinking about how emerging technologies can address their needs will help companies like BDP make a difference.