Better and broader interconnectivity, the use of digital platforms, and an approach based on data analysis currently drive digital trends in the logistics and transportation sector. These trends reflect a far-reaching digitalization of the industry. But what are the cornerstones enabling this digital shift? And what other technologies are being embraced in the wake of digitalization?
Digitalization: Data at the heart of transportation and logistics
Digitalization is a paradigm based on the creation and visualization of data systems, which are then used to build more effective, efficient, and sustainable processes and infrastructure. Typical tasks in logistics, such as unit capacity allocation, freight management, shipment tracking, storage, monitoring, and inspection, all require excellent data management. Therefore, digitalization is essential for the transportation sector.
Internet of Things
Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept of connecting any device to the Internet and other connected devices (IBM 2016). IoT allows vehicles to obtain and transmit information to the distribution center in real-time, allowing it to closely model the current state and disposition of the fleet. Thanks to this constant analysis, companies can track and prevent errors that cause losses. IoT also simplifies value-added logistics.
Telematics and IoT for fleet management
The most valuable asset for trucking companies is their fleet. This makes it vital to take proper care of it. To this end, next-generation fleet management incorporates telematics and Internet of Things technology. Telematics relates to tracking vehicles using GPS, logging data from sensors, dashboard cameras, onboard diagnostics (OBD), and similar tools and technologies. The upshot is that they send information from the driver’s console instantly to the fleet manager’s screen. This allows you to reduce fuel costs, improve safety, and plan better instead of just reacting to given circumstances.
Digitalization enables automated transmission of information and documents between multiple parties (e. g., shippers, shipping lines, port authorities, customs, terminal operators), which is crucial for the industry.
Warehouse automation is a key application. Here, a combination of technologies streamlines day-to-day warehouse processes, from receiving and putaway over storage and stock-keeping to picking, packing, and shipping. Robotics is another key enabling technology, for instance in the form of automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), automated guided vehicles (AGV), and robotic picking systems (RPS).
Overall, automation increases speed slashes error rates and reduces human intervention. As a result, warehouse efficiency and productivity improve even as logistics operating costs fall.
Big Data Analytics
Thanks to digitalization and cloud computing, businesses can now collect and analyze staggering volumes of data. Big Data analysis provides valuable information to improve warehouse, fleet, and logistics resource utilization. Data from position tracking, goods delivery, and fleet schedules help you optimize routes and delivery planning, reducing resource use. With more information on the transported goods, pricing, storage, and risk management reporting can all be optimized. Finally, advanced analytics can highlight irregularities which can then be remedied, for instance by providing accurate information for predictive maintenance.
Artificial intelligence (AI) provides machines with human-like intelligence. In other words, AI allows machines to mimic humans, automate manual tasks, and gain the ability to learn. AI systems already ensure smoother traffic flow on roads and highways. It is also a vital component of CAM technology, with autonomous cars, trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes already transforming the transportation sector. AI does not just make our lives easier, and processes more efficient, though — it also increases safety. Most traffic accidents are caused by human error, and AI-powered autonomous vehicles could cut these incidents in half.