The logistics industry has had a rough few years. COVID-19, the Ever Given, and other hiccups have led to large-scale supply chain disruptions, confusing new rules and restrictions, and tumultuous shifts in customers demand.
Of course, the logistics industry keeps moving forward. We’ve gotten through the worst phases of the global pandemic – and industry leaders are planning to enter a new era, with new technologies, practices, and standards to carry it.
So what are the major logistics trends that could redefine the industry in 2022 and beyond?
The Logistics Trends That Could Redefine the Industry
These are just some of the driving forces pushing the logistics industry forward:
1. Cloud-based systems and integrations.
First, we have the ongoing development and distribution of new cloud-based systems and integrations, allowing logistics businesses to streamline their workflows, store and transfer information quicker and more securely, and even have better control over their finances. Some financial service providers have stepped in to assist carriers with custom technology integrations – and help them get paid faster. Ultimately, that means businesses get to save time, save money, and benefit from smoother internal processes.
2. Autonomous vehicles.
Tech enthusiasts have been talking about the future promise of autonomous vehicles for many years, but in many ways, these robotic transportation systems are already here. Autonomous trucks are already beginning to run under “supervised autonomy,” and it’s only a matter of time before that supervision becomes unnecessary. If they are appropriately designed and tested, autonomous vehicles have the potential to be safer, less expensive, and easier to manage than manually driven vehicles. In turn, that makes operating expenses lower, keeps the roads safer, and allows vehicle operators to find new, higher-level positions in their respective companies.
3. 3D printing.
It may seem like 3D printing is a technology reserved for manufacturers, but logistics giants are already starting to take advantage of this rapidly-improving platform. Why spend a week transporting a product across the country when you can deliver that product instantly with the help of a connected 3D printer? The supply chain will soon become much faster and more closely connected thanks to 3D printing, forcing logistics companies to adapt.
4. Real-time analytics and tracking.
Thanks to the help of RFID chips and other advanced technologies, managers and industry leaders have access to better real-time analytics and tracking than ever before. They can tell customers exactly where their products are and how long it’s going to take to receive them. They can identify and anticipate problems (and resolve them faster). And they can even pinpoint disruptions in productivity or efficiency, helping them to sculpt the perfect company from the ground up.
5. Efficiency in last mile delivery.
Last mile delivery is always a challenge for logistics companies, presenting a high degree of complexity and high costs (often more than half the total cost of shipment). But we’re on the verge of seeing major breakthroughs in last mile delivery, such as the deployment of autonomous drones to deliver packages to individual recipients and overhauls to supply chain models.
6. AI and machine learning.
Logistics companies are also eager to integrate more artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to the systems, reducing the need for human hours and increasing both efficiency and total capabilities. With the right tech tools in place, business analysts can quickly evaluate productivity, shipment speed, customer satisfaction, and other important variables – and routinely self-improve to boost profitability.
7. The blockchain.
Thanks to the blockchain (the technology behind cryptocurrency), the logistics industry is benefitting from decentralized ledgers and smarter inventory management. Blockchain technology, while difficult and expensive to implement in many cases, has the power to increase security, efficiency, and reliability of all forms of tracking and data management. Because blockchain technology is so flexible and still growing in terms of capabilities, its future potential seems almost unlimited.
The Trouble With Predictions
That said, it’s hard to nail down solid predictions for the logistics industry because the variables in play are too many and too complicated. Plus, there’s always the possibility of a “black swan” event on the horizon – something sudden and unexpected that completely disrupts our lives or changes what is “normal” in a given segment of society.
No one could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2018 or 2019, and similarly, the logistics industry could end up on a totally different course in 2023 because of something that’s going to completely blindside us.
But even considering the possibility of major disruptive events, it’s undoubtable that the logistics industry will keep advancing – and integrating new technologies to make their companies even more efficient. If you’re looking to compete in the logistics industry as a business owner, you’ll have your work cut out for you.