long read tech and innovation

We are at the tipping point. Technology cannot be ignored – even in old, traditional industries. And while the logistics sector has been much criticised, and disruptors find it an attractive marketplace, in fact, there is a lot going on – in many different directions.

Do not underestimate the ability of this industry to adapt to new conditions.

A younger generation of managers expect greater use of technology; an older generation of managers can see the benefits in predictive analytics, big data, AI, blockchain, drones and robotics – to name but a few of the innovative initiatives on the market now.

For individual logistics firms, the very breadth of this activity is a dilemma. Few have the resources to deal with all of these elements, so they are forced to determine which strands to pursue and which to set aside.

For most, digitisation is the most likely initial target – customers increasingly expect this, it promises benefits sooner than artificial intelligence or drones, and it is the basis for a number of other avenues, such as data analytics.

Agility, for example, has founded Shipafreight, its own digital forwarding platform, fully integrated with its offline platform. It has, according to CEO Toby Edwards, become “more of a technology company that does logistics, that is embedding digital capabilities into its DNA.”

But it’s not just forwarders welcoming the digital world. IATA, the airline association, on behalf of its members is working to modernise the industry. Delivering standards has always been its core business – and data is key to that. But IATA has also championed new ideas – its Innovation Awards feted a Kenya-based traffic management system for drones; AI is high on the agenda; and it is holding an event in October with a drones lab, among other topics.

Paperless initiatives and supply chain excellence, two threads that are driving IATA, are also at the top of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’s agenda. Its Smart Cargo Mainport Programme is an industry-leading initiative designed to improve cargo flows. From flowers to forwarding documents, from data connectivity to drivers, it marks a “revolution”.

And then there is blockchain – the technology that lends itself well to supply chain management, security and data flows. And now it is the foundation for a ‘smart bill of lading’, and smart contracts. Developed by CargoX, it offers significant time and cost savings, and more secure transactions. Next up for the company is a smart letter of credit.

And have you met C3-XPO yet? The little robot can detect people and cars, fires and licence plates, so has roles in safety and security. And another XPO robot can handle up to 60,000 packages in a day, working at XPO’s Mars facility, picking and packing.

There is a plethora of innovation from across the logistics sector.

So don’t be discouraged by the headlines suggesting new disruptive companies will take over logistics. In fact, both old and new are working together to make logistics one of the most exciting industries to be in.

Find out more in our Loadstar LongRead: Technology and Innovation

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