In 2021, the maritime logistics industry can scarcely afford to ignore its environmental impact. The transportation industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s no surprise that sustainability has become a key trend in logistics. Fortunately, the future looks bright with innovative solutions and emerging technologies that promise to lessen the ecological footprint and boost performance. Here’s a closer look at some things to keep a look out for, going forward.
Whether it’s alternative fuel use, the clever incorporation of 3D printing or even AI, the future of logistics looks high-tech. One emerging trend is for automation and digitalization, which relies on large scale robotics. The really exciting development is for robots that employ machine learning algorithms, helping them to gather and synthesize data, learn from it, and adapt by virtue of intelligent decision making. Freight forwarding will always have an element of unpredictability, but these new approaches will allow for a truly versatile response, increasing efficiency and reducing errors that could negatively impact the environment.
Anomaly Detection Software
Sophisticated new software has been developed to identify unexpected data points in a set and, comparing it against a baseline of normal behavior, raise an alert for further action. This can save logistics companies enormous amounts of time, money, and waste; by optimizing on everything from shipping routes to fleets, for example by helping you prevent empty ships. Any unexpected deviation from normal performance could at worst be a sign of oncoming emergency, or at best be an indication of changes happening inside the business – changes which can be optimized and exploited if you’re aware of them.
Avora claim that, “A well-constructed anomaly detection model that learns from a specific company, for specific metrics, allows humans to not manually monitor for changes around the clock, but to leave it to a system to tell the signal from the noise, and focus on what really matters.” This frees up staff for other tasks, while keeping your ear to the ground where it matters.
There is seemingly no end to the potential of tech that allows the storage of information on a shared digital database, i.e. the blockchain. The virtue of the blockchain is de-centralization. Blocks of information are stored identically across a shared network, and so cannot be corrupted or changed by a single node. Data stored in this way is accessible to all, transparent, and easy to verify. Understandably, such a resilient recording mechanism would revolutionize the logistics industry. In future, expect far less information distortion or loss, miscommunication, and disruptions to supply chains with multiple intermediaries. And this means higher energy efficiency and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
Emphasis on Higher-Order Employee Skills
One could wonder how all this technology and automation impacts the human beings currently employed in logistics. In the past, job roles in this sector may have focused on the ability to follow instructions, but in future years, experts are predicting that employers will be expected to be more tech savvy and more able to manage complicated data. This will require a flexible, learning mindset and the ability to not just execute protocols, but have deeper insight into them. Business owners, on the other hand, will also need to evolve, and focus more on innovation and leadership, expanding insight and awareness to the entire supply chain, and offering genuine value to customers in an increasingly competitive market. An important part of this big picture thinking is clarity around upgrading to greener, more responsible business practices.
Internet of Things to Streamline Logistics Chains
The “internet of things” trend essentially allows devices and objects to stay connected and communicate with one another, and we can expect to see more of this in years to come. The benefit is that routine decisions are automated, as the devices can gather, store, exchange and act on data to execute decisions without human intervention.
Within logistics, vehicles, shipping containers and pallets can all be connected into a single global network to reflect updates and changes in real time. This means a swift switch to an alternative route and updates across the chain to allow better planning and coordination – and less environmental damage.
Though these technologies are still in the early stages, many predict that within a decade they will be ubiquitous, and help logistics groups smooth out irregularities, identify and respond to minor snags before they become big problems, and fine tune to ever more precise and predictable performance levels. One massive benefit of all this efficiency: lowered emissions and less waste.
The world is changing and it’s changing fast. It’s arguable that the combined trends for automation and sustainability will be more quickly adopted in logistics than any other sector, where they can have the most impressive results.