Posted January 14, 2022

Technological Advancements Driving Changes in the Logistics and Supply Chain Industry

Technological Advancements Driving Changes in the Logistics and Supply Chain Industry
By Sarah Mehlert

It’s no secret that the logistics and supply chain industry is not the same as it was ten, or even five years ago. Technology has rapidly evolved, transforming the industry to be more efficient, faster, and productive. Consumers are used to lightning-fast shipping speeds, being able to track their shipments from beginning to end, and having that information at their fingertips at any given time. Technological advancements have changed the way companies operate and can be a major incentive for candidates to choose one company over another, depending on how the technology they utilize can make workers’ jobs easier and eliminate unnecessary obstacles. Advancements such as shipment tracking systems, autonomous delivery, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to be widely adopted by companies as they try to remain competitive in the market. One thing is for certain, technology will continue to evolve and influence the logistics and supply chain industry for years to come.

Shipment tracking systems have become standard in the industry, allowing customers to track their shipments 24/7, from the second they place an order to when it is delivered to their doorstep. The complexity of these systems varies from company to company, but it is hard to imagine a time when customers would place an online order and be completely clueless on its whereabouts until they received the package. With the recent rise of e-commerce, shipment tracking systems are more important than ever- not only because they enhance the customer experience, but also because they increase efficiency for the organizations that utilize them. The data from these systems can be used to ensure that companies are operating at maximum efficiency and that nothing slips through the cracks. Shipment tracking systems continue to become more sophisticated and greatly benefit both customers and employees alike.

Autonomous vehicles and drones are no longer a thing of the distant future, but a reality we are likely to see come to fruition soon. While autonomous cars have now been around for a while, large autonomous trucks are also beginning to be introduced and tested. Drones that deliver packages to your front door within hours of ordering are also being tested and will likely be regularly used in the years to come. Both of these technologies have huge potential to modernize and optimize the delivery process. While truck driving jobs are definitely expected to change, they aren’t going to become obsolete. For safety reasons, autonomous trucks will still require a driver to be in the cab and be able to take over if needed. This technology will reduce the manual driving required by truck drivers and be used more as a driver assist feature, which can be a great benefit. Autonomous drones continue to develop and be tested by a variety of companies, which could reduce shipping costs and get high priority items delivered faster, such as prescription medications.

Another technology that is revolutionizing the logistics and supply chain industry is the Internet of Things (IoT). All sorts of devices from cell phones to shipping containers and even raw materials can be fitted with sensors that have Wi-Fi capabilities, meaning they can all be interconnected and exchange data with each other. These sensors can monitor location, temperature, light levels, and much more. This technology has opened a world of possibilities for the logistics and supply chain industry, making it possible to track shipments in real time, monitor storage conditions, and overall make the supply chain more efficient. Delays in transit can be quickly identified, making it possible for shippers to create a contingency plan before it becomes an issue. Materials in warehouses can be more easily located and authenticated. Quality assurance is improved as storage conditions are continually monitored and can automatically be adjusted whenever required, and defects in products can be easily identified as well. Supply Chain Managers can be automatically notified at the exact time a shipment is received and exactly what is in the shipment, which makes it easier to automate other supply chain processes such as supplier payments. IoT technology is one of the greatest tools for the logistics and supply chain industry and will continue to be utilized to optimize operations.

With new technologies comes a steep learning curve. In order to successfully attract and retain talented employees, logistics companies must not only adopt the new technology, but also have a plan in place to properly train their employees to use it. According to Logistics Management’s 30th Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends, respondents said that opportunities for career growth and development was the second most critical factor in their ideal work environment behind compensation. While most companies typically recognize that adopting new technologies is critical to their market success because it gives them an advantage over their competitors, Logistic Management’s Study shows that it is also critical in attracting the best employees. 52.4% of respondents indicated that the costs and time required to train employees to use new technologies is high. However, the companies that do have proper training programs and employee development plans in place will provide the best chance for employees to succeed and advance in their roles. With 23% of respondents reporting that their organization does not have a formal training program or clear development path, this highlights an opportunity for logistics companies to do better by their employees and set them up for success, which will also help to increase their employee retention rates. No matter what new technologies or artificial intelligences arise, human talent will always be needed to continue innovating in the workplace and will continue to be a top priority for companies looking to do so.

The logistics and supply chain industry is undergoing great operational changes and technological innovation. With a greater understanding and newfound appreciation for the importance of the supply chain as a whole, companies are leveraging new technologies to automate processes, improve efficiency, and attract and retain the best logistics professionals. These advancements have the potential to improve not only sales and customer satisfaction, but also eliminate obstacles for employees and improve their working environments, therefore increasing employee satisfaction and retention. There is no telling what new technologies will take the industry by storm next, or even how the current technologies will continue to be utilized to further increase productivity and efficiency. It is clear that companies must implement new technological advancements in order to compete in the market, and also have a plan in place to train their employees, thereby allowing them to advance in their careers. While some companies may see this as a challenge, it is also a great opportunity to propel the industry forward.