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3 More Advanced Technology Trends in Logistics in 2016: Welcome to the Hyperconnected Logistics Industry

technology trends in logistics

The shipping industry of 2016 is a gross misrepresentation of what was considered “normal” shipping practices in the 1980s or 1990s. This is due in part to significant changes and improvements in how the logistics industry perceives and responds to the demands of a growing customer base. Although the use of transportation management systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, and robotics, is dramatically changing the logistics landscape, several other technologies will become key players in the logistics industry in 2016. After taking a look at the automation technology trends in logistics from our first post, take a look at how these technology trends in logistics will grow and what impact they will have for the industry.

Increasing Use of RFID-, AIDC-, & IoT-Based Technologies

It's easy to become overwhelmed when thinking about the Internet of Things (IoT), radio frequency identification (RFID), and AIDC technologies for improving the order fulfillment process. However, these technologies are becoming more popular and cost effective to use. As we talked about in the blog post explaining the hyperconnected era, these main connection technology trends in logistics are squarely focused on efficiency.

Once, RFID sensors were out of a reasonable range for most logistics providers and shipper to use throughout the shipment journey. However, the cost of RFID sensors has decreased exponentially in recent years, and shipping providers are able to take advantage of these technologies without necessarily increasing the rate of shipping.

Automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) technology will become more prevalent as RFID sensors and Bluetooth technologies are implemented throughout the logistics industry. Essentially, AIDC provides a non-human way to automatically provide updates to a shipment status as the shipment moves throughout the shipping process. This may be achieved through automatic, handheld scanners, as explained by Supply Chain Digest.

Automatic identification and data capture can be used to provide real-time insight into a shipment location, estimated time of delivery, explanation of delayed delivery, and many other factors. Furthermore, this technology will become increasingly used to help analyze current logistics processes and determine alternative ways of ensuring a given shipment reaches the destination at the prescribed time.

Similar to the technology in logistics trends, AIDC and RFID technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) will change in an unusual, profound ways in 2016. Previously, the IoT have been used to a lot of communication between different technologies and machines to improve the production and efficiency of shipping processes in the logistics industry. This has helped to reduce downtime and enhance the workflow of a given shipment and providers’ processes.  In 2016, the IoT will start to take a more proactive approach in the overall management of shipping processes. For example, the Internet of Things will communicate with RFID, Bluetooth technologies, and other AIDC devices to rapidly identify what parts of a given shipment need to be changed to meet the providers’ and consumers’ demands.  For some specific industries, such as those within the jurisdiction and governing authority of the FDA, may implement stronger IoT measures, such as temperature-monitoring, as explained in the white paper, "The Impact Of Supply Chain Intelligence and the Internet of Things." This specific example may also be applied to a new concept in logistics, tracking shipments with Bluetooth technologies. 

Increasing Use of Bluetooth Technologies

As the world has become increasingly aware of the Internet of Things, the idea of non-data-driven (a type of communications that do not require an internet connection or data package to run) communications seems irrelevant. However, manufacturers are starting to understand why a non-data driven device could hold significant promise as one of the technology trends in logistics for increasing accountability and quality control in logistics processes. Ultimately, the Internet of Things is still required for communication on a broad scale. However, low cost, low energy use devices, specifically Bluetooth technology, will further enhance logistics tracking and processing in 2016 too.

Bluetooth-enabled devices, which can be mounted on virtually any surface, such as on shipments, loaders, docks, and throughout the rest of the shipping journey, as explained by Logistics Beacon, can be used to relate information about a given packages proximity to the device. Ultimately, this will help increase shipment tracking and provide a real-time data update to the respective logistics provider’s tracking system, such as the transportation management system, which will help drive accuracy and timeliness in all logistics processes. For some specific industries, such as those within the jurisdiction and governing authority of the FDA, may implement these measures

Growth of eCommerce and Omni-Channel Solutions

In recent years, businesses have grown increasingly reliant on other businesses and consumers to increase their customer bases. Unfortunately, this is led to somewhat of a stalemate for businesses in the digital age. 2016 will see an increase in the number of business is working with other businesses as customers, otherwise as using B2B strategies, especially in the field of eCommerce. Of all the technology trends in logistics, e-commerce is not a new idea and has been prevelant in the B2C world for sometime. But, just now, are manufacturing companies seeking out more B2B options when it comes to commerce

For businesses who have opted to avoid embracing the millennial revolution, this year will represent a defining moment in logistics. According to Mark Johnson, CEO of Four51millennials will overtake baby boomers as the occupants of the largest section of generation-owned businesses by five percent. As a result, the demand for a strong online presence will grow. Additionally, if a business or other logistics provider has not already taken steps to optimize the organization's website, 2016 will be the year in which to do so.  

The use of APIs, or automated protocol integration, for eCommerce will become increasingly advanced. Similarly, the use of cloud-based platforms will become the common core aspect of any shipper's strategy to grow their customer base. The cloud is the fundamental resource that makes working on mobile-based devices and rapid data processing and analysis through the IoT possible and cost-effective.

Since eCommerce is a major force in an omni channel (all-encompassing) solution to drive business growth, businesses, especially logistics providers, must understand how the focus of technology will shift. For Omni-channel solutions, technology will grow more focused on the value of a product or service, not just the end product. Essentially, logistics processes will become more important in maintaining and guaranteed customer satisfaction.

Putting It All Together

Few industries can claim to have a level of technology to equal that found in the logistics industry, and based on this post's technology trends in logistics for 2016 and the trends in our first post, the year is set to reveal and generate some of the most significant technological changes in the industry throughout history. From the ability to automatically generate reports from RFID and Bluetooth-enabled devices to the increasing focus on an omni channel solution to acquiring new customers, technology in the logistics industry will continue to grow and improve in accuracy and function. Although some of these technologies have been around for a while, they are just now starting to be used to the best of their ability for the logistics industry in 2016.


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Adam Robinson
Adam Robinson oversees the overall marketing strategy for Cerasis including website development, social media and content marketing, trade show marketing, email campaigns, and webinar marketing. Mr. Robinson works with the business development department to create messaging that attracts the right decision makers, gaining inbound leads and increasing brand awareness all while shortening sales cycles, the time it takes to gain sales appointments and set proper sales and execution expectations.
Adam Robinson
Adam Robinson
  • Jim Hendrickson

    A thoughtful article but off on timing, in my opinion. It’s tempting to believe change happens overnight. Like Web Services and Services Oriented Architectures, key dependencies must be met, technological evolution must occur before we see the next generation of advances. Some specific thoughts:

    1. RFID – RFID has had a long life of adoption (given that the hype started in 2002ish) and is becoming more mainstream but not related to the original vision put by some of the “intelligent store”. Prices have come down but they are slow to create wholesale change the same way Web Services are not overtaking EDI but instead create new dimensions of omni-channel. Tracking via RFID at the case level is become more real on the downstream, fulfillment, side. If the adoption continues and they are considered for rolling stock visibility, for instance, prices will go up.

    2. AIDC, IoT, for that matter BYOD inside the warehouses etc. – I have been on a crusade, starting with myself, to ask technologists to be careful of superlatives. “Profound” is not a word I would use for 2016 for these and other sensor technologies. Incremental, yes, profound, NO. With respect, If it were, we’d have mandates from the FDA and Homeland to use sensors in-transit and in-port. We do not. The Container Security Initiative which began in 2002 does not rely on sensor technologies, risk management through tracking, etc. They use Radiation technology to do non-intrusive “scanning” of high risk containers. They don’t determine high risk from sensors or geo-location tracking but from physical inspection of the manifest. One can look at the Port of Long Beach (arguably our busiest port) and see they implemented security technology for vehicle and driver verification in 2007. This program continues to be voluntary. Most port and B2B security of shipments is doing using GPS. I agree that these technologies will come and ultimately come quickly. The lack of platform, effective integration, etc. will continue to create slow adoption much like RFID and it’s 15 year journey. Where I have seen value in integration of data sources (Big Data, I guess), GPS and eventually sensors is in products like A Supply Chain Control Tower developed by Elementum via their Situation Room.
    3. On the other hand, Adam, the author, I believe, is spot on when it comes to the increased use of Cloud Platforms and technologies and Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) that extend into omni-channel and Mobile devices. One of the reasons I suggest AIDC and IoT are in incremental states is because industries in general are just now evaluating and looking at how the cloud will ultimately (Emphasis on long term) play a role in their infrastructure. This would suggest these technologies are now BECOMING mainstream. Frankly, until cloud technology gets further into market maturity, sensors, IoT, etc for operational analytics, tracking, etc.. will still be early adoption at best. They, of course, will continue to be high in the hype cycle.
    All that said, Adam wrote a very thoughtful piece that is timely in terms of awareness and direction in terms of technology evolution. It’s very similar to what we wrote at Sterling Commerce in 2005 about omni-channel platforms which are now moving into late stage adoption. Change, no matter what we do, happens slower than we think (Tom Friedman, Hot Flat, and Crowded). That said, Cerasis has a lot to be proud of and is a company that is keeping its fingers on the pulse of technological change. I’ve got nothing but love for that and know from 30 years of experience that companies with that mindset end up winners.
    Thank you for the thoughtful article
    Jim Hendrickson
    Professor, Supply Chain and Logistics
    Department of Marketing and Logistics
    Fisher College of Business
    The Ohio State University

    • Jim, thank you so much for your thoughts on these matters. I am humbled by your words and grateful for you sharing your expertise! Anyone reading this is now better off having read your comment. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you continue to comment on this amazing industry! Adam

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