Automation: Logistics’ new technological ally.
For any logistics company; efficiency, fastness and accuracy are extremely important. Any error can cause a problem in the flow of supplies or add unnecessary costs. For this reason, many companies have become interested in automating their transport and supply flow processes. Automation is defined as the technology with which a process is done with the least amount of human intervention. Generally, these innovations occurred on fields like manufacturing and industrial production, but recently logistics has seen an excellent opportunity to adopt new technologies to improve its processes and services.
Until a few years ago, the fields of logistics and supply chain had serious obstacles due to automation having problems to adapt to companies’ needs. The industry still has important challenges like managing a large workforce that performs specific and manual tasks at a slow pace with the chance of making mistakes. Besides, most companies spend a lot of money and time on keeping proper documentation, monitoring and tracking of their inventories and goods, giving the chance to errors due to lack of communication and understanding.
But thanks to new technology developments in the automation field in recent years, the way of performing logistics processes has been reinvented. Gary Forger states on an article at the Supply Chain Management Review “new capabilities will allow automation to adapt to changes in the supply chain. In fact, technologies not previously considered part of the story are rapidly becoming central to its success.” The constant advancement on automation has allowed the use of new technologies to enhance workers on their performance and speed the flow of supplies of the benefit of companies and their clients.
Among the new technologies that exist to help improve supply chain and logistics processes we can find:
Warehouse automation: E-commerce has revolutionized the way in which we purchase, but it has also made harder the classification and sortation of products. Companies find a bottleneck in this section of their goods flow because it is a process done mainly by humans. But the recent introduction of warehouse robots with the ability of picking and classifying products has facilitated classification and categorization, as well as decreasing the distances employees have to walk at the warehouse.
Artificial Intelligence: The use of artificial intelligence in supply chain has improved task and process management in the same way robots do. Current algorithms cross-reference arrival and shipping records to forecast when it will better to receive or deliver order, decide transport routes or lead autonomous sea shipments.
Augmented Reality: Another improvement is the use of augmented reality that allow users to identify and search inventory and goods on a warehouse in a much faster way. Cameras, digital contact lenses and computers function as gadgets that are currently replacing paper printed records and manual searching.
Autonomous transport: Autonomous transport innovation has given companies the opportunity to deliver goods in a much faster and efficient way. Right now, there are warehouse autonomous vehicles support employees on several transportation tasks. Also, even though it is on its initial stages, driverless autonomous trucks will be able to move goods while decrease the probability of accidents and mistakes.
In sight of this promising future, Wolfgang Lechmacher, Head of Supply Chain and Transport Industries at the World Economic Forum, said “Capturing the full potential of the automated supply chain requires rethinking entire logistics systems. There will be an evolution from the fixed “collect in the evening and deliver during the morning” approach to a fluid system of continuous movement and supply.” All the mentioned examples reflect what it is known as augmentation strategy, where humans augment their performance with the help of machinery and algorithms.
Automation enhances logistics companies like Woodward Logistics to fulfill the needs of their clients in a very competitive environment where costs and times must always be reduced. For this reason, we are determined to adopt new technologies that improve the services we provide to our clients.
Duguid, R. (2018, Setpember 07). How Automation Is Transforming the Supply Chain Process. Retrieved from Manufacturing.Net: https://www.manufacturing.net/article/2018/09/how-automation-transforming-supply-chain-process
Forger, G. (2017, September 17). Supply Chain Managment Review. Retrieved from NextGen Supply Chain: The new look of supply chain automation: http://www.scmr.com/article/nextgen_supply_chain_the_new_look_of_supply_chain_automation
Lehmacher, W. (2016, September 16). Supply Chain 247. Retrieved from Are Fully Automated Supply Chains Almost Here?: https://www.supplychain247.com/article/are_fully_automated_supply_chains_almost_here
Singh, S. (2016). Future Of Logistics: Five Technologies That Will Self-Orchestrate The Supply Chain . Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarwantsingh/2016/09/22/future-of-logistics-5-technologies-that-will-self-orchestrate-the-supply-chain/