The COVID-19 pandemic affected many industries. One of the most affected is the logistics and supply chain industry. When the COVID-19 outbreak first hit, lockdowns interrupted global supply chains. But recently, more relaxed protocols have been implemented One by one, more companies are starting to resume regular operations.
To work efficiently, the industry needs to change its processes and apply digital solutions. In a recent survey, 76% of logistics managers said they are willing to invest in technology as a result of the pandemic. Digitization will help the logistics and supply chain industry regain its lost business in the past few months. New technology will also future-proof the industry and make it safer to work in. Here are some forms of technology that should be used:
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT generally refers to everything that is connected by the internet. For example, a home with a virtual assistant device and smart appliances is an IoT home. It has a multifaceted, internet-connected system of devices. And all can be controlled remotely using a handheld device, like a smartphone or a laptop, through the internet.
IoT can be used in the logistics and supply chain industry. For example, companies use RFID or radio-frequency identification. RFID chips are placed in shipments. They allow traders and consumers to track shipment location in real-time, without the need for human intervention. The technology also allows order pickers and warehouse managers to get accurate inventory records by scanning products. This eliminates the need for manual inventory. So people can work more efficiently.
Advanced Machine Learning
Machine learning or ML is a function of artificial intelligence. It’s used to process and analyze information for different purposes. There are many possible applications of ML on logistics and supply chain management. For example, information about delivery routes will be entered into a machine. It will “learn” the data provided and identify patterns. Managers can use this information to optimize and improve delivery routes. And fast delivery means happy and loyal customers.
With enough data, machine learning algorithms can also be used to find areas of improvement. For example, ML can identify common errors in inventory tracking so that warehouse managers can find a better alternative. Also, it can analyze patterns in delivery and offer suggestions. For instance, using tailgate trucks can take a lot of time in both cargo loading and unloading. So ML algorithms may generate a list of curtain side trailers for sale as a personalized suggestion. These trucks open at one side instead of the back. Their contents are easier to access, thus eliminating the problem.
One of the famous trends in the era of digitization is automation. It’s not “new” technology. But some companies hesitate to automate processes because of the upfront cost of acquiring the needed equipment and software. But in the long run, automation will save them a lot of time and money.
Using automation means minimizing human intervention in processes. This will reduce human errors. For example, automation can be used in customer service in the form of chatbots. During the pandemic, more people are shopping online to avoid going outside. This shift has increased online purchases in several categories by around 6% to 10%. This increase in online shoppers comes with more customer inquiries regarding the availability of items and order tracking. Chatbots can accommodate these simple queries. The automated responses will offload repetitive tasks from customer service agents so that they can take care of the more urgent concerns or escalated issues instead.
Cloud computing is the use of remote servers hosted on the internet to store and manage data. This technology benefits logistics and supply chain management by eliminating most if not all manual records. Employees no longer need to spend hours scouring through boxes of documents to retrieve only one file. They can simply search for the document in their server with a few clicks. This technology can also help companies improve logistics processes. These include inventory management, route optimization, and tracking.
One process that often comes with cloud computing is data analytics. It involves processing and transforming data in a server and then be used to make decisions. For example, data analytics can help managers monitor their metrics and key performance indicators. This monitoring can help them forecast if the KPIs are achievable in a given timeframe. And if not, managers can intervene quickly.
By using IoT, machine learning, automation, and cloud computing, companies will improve their processes and reduce errors. These benefits mean satisfied customers and more business. These forms of technology are also time-efficient and cost-effective. These benefits only emphasize that the logistics and supply chain industry should shift to digitization.