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Significant changes to logistics and supply chain management in recent years have changed the speed, scope, scale, volume and complexity of the manufacture, movement, storage and selling of goods. On the back of a global pandemic and amidst continuing geopolitical and economic uncertainty, supply chain organisations must be agile to navigate turbulence and plan for long-term success. So, what’s next for logistics? This blog examines the key trends likely to be impacting logistics firms in 2024 and beyond.
1. The use of big data and analytics
Vast amounts of data is consistently generated across the logistics industry, and analysing it offers logistic service providers massive potential to review and maintain operational standards and increase efficiency. So, what is big data and analytics and how is it impacting the logistics industry?
Big data is a term used to describe large, hard-to-manage volumes of structured and unstructured data. The logistics industry has swathes of it. Big data analytics examines big data to uncover insightful information, such as customer preferences, correlations, market trends and hidden patterns.
Critically, big data analytics can help businesses improve operations and performance, and predictive modelling helps to spot new opportunities, and potential obstacles so they can be averted.
The potential for big data and analytics in logistics is tremendous. Every supply chain step has transported items and multiple systems, where information can be collected and stored for evaluation.
It means logistics providers can get a real-time overview of the existing situation in warehouses or in transit. Using collected data, things like delivery times, inventory levels and customer behaviour can all be analysed and optimised.
Insights into weather, road maintenance, fleet, and personnel schedules can also help organisations adjust swiftly and remain agile.
The pandemic and geopolitical tensions worldwide have caused untold disruptions, and many logistic firms went bust. Big data and analytics are more crucial than ever to help logistics companies adapt, predict, build resilience and thrive. This will only increase as we navigate our ways through the 2020s.
2. Enabling agility with supply chain software
Logistics organisations must embrace supply chain software to optimise the use of big data and analytics. Traditionally, organisations have relied on spreadsheets, paper, pens, and phone calls to run various aspects of their supply chains, making data much more challenging to collect and analyse.
Now, supply chain management software is essential for managing the flow of goods, data, and finances across supply chain networks. Streamlining and optimising inventory management, procurement procedures, order processing, warehouse management, demand forecasting, and transportation management helps to control and reduce costs, as well as mitigate risks.
Supply chain management software is no longer a nice to have; it’s essential. With insights easily gleaned, companies are much better placed to respond to market changes and support a responsive, fluid, and informed supply chain.
Through digital innovations, supply chain managers can now:
- Gain a better understanding of external factors
- Explore potential supply chain disruptors
- Optimise the use of big data and analytics
- Monitor, assess and adjust all processes as necessary, therefore becoming more agile
3. Remedying skills shortages with automation
Automation is another critical resource in warehousing that is helping to reduce costs, drive efficiencies and circumnavigate labour shortages. Few good things can be said about the pandemic, but it did drive warehouse automation growth – the market grew by 28 per cent in 2021!
The most prevalent warehouse automation investments include:
- Warehouse Automation Systems, including ASRS / OSR with associated conveyor lines, and product to person picking systems
- Automated Identification and Capture – RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, for example, can be read without human interaction
- Autonomous AI-guided driverless vehicles
- Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems
- Wearables, such as wireless headsets
- IoT Sensors
Alongside automation technology, pallets and pallet boxes are being deployed to ensure storage and robotic handling of goods happens seamlessly and hygienically. The GoPalletBox 1311S 3R from goplasticpallets.com became a crucial ingredient in GA Pet Food Partner’s ambitious £80 million project to create a fully automated warehouse. Read the case study here.
4. Next-generation connectivity with IoT
IoT has an immense influence on logistics, enabling assets (goods) to be monitored in real-time. IoT can track shipments and monitor container temperature, relative humidity, and other real-time conditions. IoT sensors and devices continuously collect data, giving logistic planners and managers critical information for decision-making.
IoT can automate inventory management via RFID tags and shelving sensors. Some pallets, pallet boxes and sleeve packs can also include RFID for tracking, such as goplasticpallets.com’s CabCube 1612, manufactured by our partner Cabka.
The technology also provides data about emerging issues, identifying patterns for predictive maintenance and revolutionising route planning. As technology continues to develop at a rapid pace, becoming more cost effective and accessible, we can expect more businesses to adopt these innovations.
5. Sustainability is a must for logistics companies
Sustainability is a hot topic across all industries and is something logistics companies can’t ignore. A McKinsey survey found that 66 per cent of respondents consider sustainability when they make a purchase. A separate study found consumers are also wary of ‘greenwashing’. As consumers are becoming increasingly eco-conscious, businesses must respond accordingly.
In logistics, organisations can take many actionable steps across processes, including procurement, inventory management, distribution, warehousing, transportation, packaging, pallets, and risk management, to ensure they meet sustainability goals.
Take warehouses as an example since they actively contribute to environmental pollution due to their energy-intensive operations. There are many ways warehouses can reduce their ecological footprint and become more sustainable – from investing in energy-efficient equipment and incorporating renewable energy sources, to maximising natural light and optimising warehouse layout.
goplasticpallets.com is leading the way in creating responsible supply chains. 93% of the pallets we supply are made from 100% recycled plastic, whilst we have also recycled more than 1,452 tonnes of plastic via our pioneering recycling scheme.
Looking ahead, AI innovations will also play a key role in creating a more sustainable supply chain through demand forecasting, route optimisation and analysing data to find areas of wastage and inefficiency.
6. The increasing importance of cybersecurity
As the world of logistics becomes increasingly digitalised, it follows that cybersecurity is more important than ever.
Since supply chains have many potential vulnerabilities, logistics companies must protect sensitive data, safeguard cargo from theft and prevent cyberattacks that threaten operations. Multifactor authentication will become the norm in 2024, and firms must invest in end-to-end data and access-security solutions.
7. Building a transparent supply chain: blockchain technology
Logistics is becoming increasingly complex, with many parties involved directly or indirectly in the supply chain. Communication and visibility pose challenges, which blockchain technology can help to solve.
Data from transactions throughout the supply chain is often stored individually, making it impossible to have a complete overview of activities. Blockchain enables distributed and secure data storage without the individuals or companies involved having to establish a relationship of trust beforehand.
Blockchain is a shared database which updates individual ledgers in real time. The technology creates an encrypted digital record to track goods throughout the supply chain.
The technology enhances transparency and traceability, ensures security and authenticity, minimises complexity and improves operational efficiencies. It also helps with provenance validation and quality assurance – if a product is damaged, for example, it can be traced back to the original supplier.
In addition, blockchain helps with inventory tracking, minimises cargo loss and fraud for shipments across borders, and simplifies international payments. Buyers can also verify the authenticity of product origin securely.
The blockchain landscape will continue to mature in 2024, including Blockchain as a Service (BaaS).
8. Last-mile delivery
Last-mile delivery is the most complex and expensive part of the supply chain. It is also the most crucial aspect of the shopping experience for consumers. Businesses are now looking at ways to maintain customer expectations by making the final leg of delivery more efficient and cost-effective.
Same-day delivery services have gained traction recently and offer substantial expansion opportunities to manufacturers and retailers. According to US market research firm Allied Market Research figures, the global same-day delivery market was valued at $5.78 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $20.36 billion by 2027.
Major companies are forming working relationships with fulfilment partners.
Technologies like AI, IoT, and Machine Learning (ML) are being leveraged to streamline complex tasks. Route optimisation tools are one example. According to a recent report by Forbes, >self-driving trucks could enter real-world use as early as 2024!
9. It’s time to go plastic!
A sustainable and environmentally conscious supply chain fit for the future should incorporate recycled plastic pallets, boxes and crates that are strong, durable, hygienic and long-lasting.
Wherever possible, we’re encouraging our clients to move away from traditional wooden pallets and single-use pallets to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option – our diverse product offering aimed to reduce plastic waste.
With over 76,000 plastic pallets, pallet boxes, small containers, and trays to suit all applications, we have the perfect solution for your logistics needs.
Get in touch to learn more. We wish you good luck with your business in 2024.