Transportation and Logistics
The transportation and logistics industry has traditionally been defined by HGVs and infrastructure, but over the past few years, technology has commenced to change that. The use of mobile computers, GPS solutions, electronic tolling, and electronic vehicle logs have reformed logistics. Other new technologies are poised to have just as a bigger effect, and the future of logistics will be marked by new developments. It’s important for transportation companies to stay up-to-speed with these developments, even those that may be a few years away from widespread implementation.
While there are a number of new technologies that will have an effect on the transportation and logistics industry, here are some critical ones to keep on your quiver.
Telematics and Fleet Management
Logistics companies have been using GPS systems to keep a track of the location of their trucks for decades. What has changed is the number of new features and functions that GPS-based fleet management systems now offer. Adding upon seeing truck locations, managers can now set up geofences to enable alerts when a truck is approaching its destination (or has veered far out of its service area), optimize routes using real-time traffic data, improve vehicle operation, and automatically track driver hours and fuel tax reporting information.
The telematics functions of these system also make it possible to track vehicle maintenance needs (scheduling serviced based on miles driven), and generate alerts if the engine causes a trouble code. This can help avoid breakdowns and improve the life of the vehicle. Finally, companies can track speeding, harsh braking/acceleration, excessive idling and other conditions that will reduce fuel consumption, save costs, and improve safety. In addition, few insurance companies now offer discounts for fleet operators that use these solutions.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT involves using sensors and network communications to link machines to the Internet. This makes it possible to monitor equipment, remotely control devices (like printers or home security systems) and receive alerts when machines need a service. IoT is an extension of the types of telematics information that has already been provided. This can start further up-stream in the ordering, manufacturing and warehousing chain. Smart machines will broadcast their needs for new parts or consumables before running out. With clearer demand signals, the supply chain will have to be more receptive.
During transport, trucks could monitor temperature, vibration and other elements that affect the condition of the cargo. Not only will information about the truck and environment be captured, but IoT monitors can stay with a shipment across multiple international transportation methods, from shipping to truck to rail to steamship to yard storage to rail to truck to delivery. In this way, logistics companies could provide better insight for shippers and receivers. This type of data is critical for cold chain or produce applications.
The availability of low-cost sensors and Bluetooth wireless technology will make it easier to add trucks to this burgeoning online network of supply chain data, providing last-mile visibility that was previously unfeasible.
Cloud-Based Computing and Business Analytics
Often, people think of technology as firmly hardware, gadgets, etc. However, the significant increase in abilities and augmentations in architecture for cloud-based computing and business analytics also dramatically affects the transportation industry. For years, telematics and RFID and other technologies provided plenty of data that could be used, but companies rarely were able to capture and organize that data, let alone harness the value of analytics. The complexity of software and data architectures now allow all the data to be efficiently controlled and manipulated to generate not only detail status of activity and process flow, but predictive and suggestive advice to proactively improve operations and stop problems before they occur.
Then, providing operational alerts and management advice in a timely fashion to users’ mobile devices keeps them productively active and in the field instead of tied to a spreadsheet or mountains of paper printouts, wondering “What does that mean?”
The transportation and logistics industry should prepare to embrace these modifications and innovations. Doing so will increase their competitive position and enable them to meet the future needs and demands of their customers.