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How Technology can Improve your Logistics Operations

How Technology can Improve your Logistics Operations

Like most other industries, the logistics industry faces a gradual transformation towards adapting to the internet age. The advent of new technologies invalidates age-old approaches and processes, creating the need for modernization. And with the logistics industry being as massive as it is, it’s understandable that it can be notably lucrative. Between risk mitigation and automation, there are many ways in which adaptive technology can benefit this $4 trillion industry. With that said, let us explore just how technology can improve your logistics operation.

The significance of efficiency

Before delving into specifics, it is vital to note the undisputed value of efficiency in the logistics industry.

As mentioned before, this 4$ trillion industry is massive, and its interconnectivity with other industries is apparent. Thus, efficient logistics operations can yield considerable productivity gains across the board. Not only can they provide a competitive advantage, but they can also guarantee better overall operation cohesion. Logistics software can greatly enhance one’s control and oversight of supply chains, increasing response times to potential disruptions. After all, customers of all industries value a swift delivery of goods and services, as well as quality customer support. Such software can augment all of those aspects, ensuring that potential challenges are easier to overcome.

Shipment Tracking Systems and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

A technology that has already caught on, albeit to varying degrees, is shipment tracking. As customers would previously be unaware of their order’s status, shipment tracking systems have rectified this somewhat. With 24/7 access to shipment status information, customers can rest assured that their order is indeed underway. Some tracking systems even offer additional information and shipment notifications for additional insights and convenience. This solution can indeed improve your logistics too, no less than customer experience. Constant monitoring can save your time and money, as well as unclog your customer service channels.

Likewise, on the front of cargo management, RFID technology has also seen use in recent years. In essence, RFID tags or sensors allow companies to keep track of their inventory. Both labor-saving and cost-effective, RFID tags are often used in distribution warehouses as a means of monitoring containers. Such industries as the apparel industry are also using RFID technology for tracking purposes, with very notable success. Should you be contemplating how technology can improve your logistics operation, RFID solutions could be a reasonable step to take.

Automation and robotics

On the subject of warehouse optimization, then, technology has provided another asset; automation. Naturally, automation can yield many benefits to many industries, but logistics is unquestionably one of them. From increased performance to reduced labor costs, automation is undoubtedly a valuable asset.

Automation offers to improve operational efficiency in machines, and has already seen effective use in such trade hubs as Holland’s Port of Rotterdam. Namely, its use of fully-automated terminals allows it to reap the aforementioned benefits in terms of unloading cargo. It’s estimated that this approach increases overall productivity by as much as 30 percent – a very notable net benefit.

Similarly, robots have facilitated the rapid growth of online sales across many industries. While they are quite dissimilar from automation in many regards, they too can automate operations and thus decrease labor costs. Most notably, as far as e-commerce is concerned, Amazon has been innovative in this front. Its use of Kiva robots has reduced the company’s expenses by as much as 20 percent. A notable feat, enough so that other companies also seek to employ robots in their warehouses.

Drones and autonomous vehicles

In much the same way as automation and robotics, technology has provided logistics companies with drones and autonomous vehicles. Similar in function, both can be fine examples of how technology can improve your logistics operation.

Drones have seen surges in functionality in recent times, elevated from a niche solution to one with potentially global applications. This development was understandably followed by an array of eager high-profile adopters, such as UPS. A potential innovation in terms of product delivery indeed, drones can expand delivery options to both urban and rural areas. More fortunately still, their nature allows them to also improve logistics, by removing the factor of human error.

Likewise, autonomous vehicles can offer similar convenience. In part due to relatively lower regulations and easier testing, self-driving vehicles have been an accessible technological advancement for many logistics operations. Of course, it’s notable that this technology is currently mostly limited to warehouse management, such as autonomous forklifts and trucks. However, with rapid advancements, it may not be long before autonomous trucks can traverse the world’s highways. Both in their current and potential future forms, autonomous vehicles can quite possibly be a massive asset to any company.

Conclusion

As technology makes rapid strides, one can realistically expect vast logistics optimization potential. From warehouse management and monitoring to shipment tracking and delivery, the possibilities seem endless. When contemplating how technology can improve your logistics operation, both the present and the future hold much promise. And as supply chains expand and grow, it will be vital to adapt to such technologies to remain competitive.

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James Clarkson is a freelance web designer and author. He often writes analyses of the shipping and moving industries, and of the SEO needs of both. He’s a frequent writer for Verified Movers, as well as other companies.

supermarkets

From Physical Retail to Online Business: Marketing and Logistics Principles for Supermarkets

Supermarkets and retailers around the world began distributing goods via order channels over a decade ago, often as a future-oriented addition to a minor business segment, complementing standard services. As such, ordering online and receiving groceries via delivery is nothing new. Caught off-guard by the COVID-19 outbreak, however, supermarkets and food-retailers today are facing the challenge of switching their business model from physical retail to online order and delivery with unprecedented urgency. With physical distancing measures in place across entire countries, people increasingly prefer to avoid purchasing their groceries as walk-in customers to safeguard their health and well-being.

In this situation, the supermarket industry finds itself in a fundamentally altered market environment. The changes required from them are profound. Their typical infrastructure, such as buildings and storage centers, was strategically designed to walk customers through a supermarket, positioning products on shelves as per marketing and product placement logic, factors that become obsolete in an online retail world. What matters now is safe, reliable, and fast supply of customers’ online orders via dedicated distribution services. Logistics is at the core of addressing these challenges and the interface between marketing and logistics indeed becomes vital for fast implementation in the current scenario.

For a swift short-term switch, the prerequisites are two-fold: On the one hand, the supply of selected products needs to be covered either through local production or through available imports. On the other, a functioning online ordering front-end needs to be made available to customers. Yet, especially for supermarkets, it is the seamless and efficient operation of the “pick and packing” functionality that has now become the bottleneck.

This has several consequences that can be addressed: First, online supermarkets cannot provide the full portfolio of goods to their customers, at least for the time being. Sales analysis is required to meaningfully reduce the portfolio of products available online, and hence decrease the complexity of assembling orders later on. Amid the current circumstances, food and canned products will have higher importance than non-food items, and any of the latter to be upheld would need to be chosen sensibly. While customers may have less choice, portfolio reduction will help significantly in maintaining capacity for faster, more reliable physical delivery.

Second, shortened product portfolios can be divided into two categories: High runners and low runners. High runners are regularly purchased in high volumes, and their turnaround is quick. Low runners might be appealing in the physical retail world, but have less meaning in the current landscape. Third, high-running products within a simplified offering need to be stored differently for now. Usually, they would be placed decentralized along strategic points throughout the supermarket to attract attention. In a recalibrated setup, identified high runners need to be stored centrally in a dedicated area of the market where employees have unhindered access for fast “pick and packing”. Fourth, the commissioning time needed for workers to assemble an incoming order, needs to be kept as low as possible by minimizing physical distances required to walk.

Fifth, in packing the online orders received and getting them ready for dispatch, standardized package box sizes can be used to further reduce complexity. Just like in a game of “Tetris”, utilizing uniform cubic sizes will allow for packages to be stored in delivery vehicles in the most effective fashion. This is particularly relevant for food retailers that do not rely on third-party logistics providers for reasons of quality and food safety assurance.

Sixth, physical delivery of the commissioned orders should be prioritized and planned in a calculated way. Typical linear concepts such as “first order in, first delivery out,” will not be efficient under the current circumstances. Seventh, because of the reduced product portfolio, the products offered should not be static, but optimized on a regular basis. In other words, the now required short-term shift should not limit the industry to short-term thinking. Requiring customers to order in excess of minimum order amounts, imposing high delivery charges, expecting customers to accept long delivery times, accepting the jamming of orders, amongst others pitfalls – all of which we are currently witnessing internationally, can be avoided by emphasizing the outlined marketing and logistics principles.

While it is clear that supermarkets are at the heart of consumer goods supply during the current pandemic, it would not be reasonable to compare them with established online giants such as Amazon and others. Their business model and logistical setups are different, from the outset. This naturally calls for customers to exercise patience and good-will with their supermarkets for a while. Supermarkets are logistical hubs, run by people, for people, through people, even if for the time being, they may appear as an anonymous online screen only.

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Frank Himpel is a faculty member of the Engineering Management and Decision Sciences division at College of Science and Engineering at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar. Prior to moving to Qatar with his family in 2018, Frank served as a professor of business administration and logistics in Germany, where he also received his academic degrees. His research into aviation and air transportation management has taken him to several countries around the world.

 About Hamad Bin Khalifa University

Innovating Today, Shaping Tomorrow

Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development (QF), was founded in 2010 as a research-intensive university that acts as a catalyst for transformative change in Qatar and the region while having global impact. Located in Education City, HBKU is committed to building and cultivating human capacity through an enriching academic experience, innovative ecosystem, and unique partnerships. HBKU delivers multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate degrees through its colleges, and provides opportunities for research and scholarship through its institutes and centers. For more information about HBKU, visit www.hbku.edu.qa.