Consumers are demanding more from the modern supply chain. They expect transparency and faster order fulfillment. This has led to major developments in logistics to fill that need, whether that involves robotizing the warehouse or implementing augmented reality systems.
Retailers, shippers and distribution centers need these technologies to deliver the level of service that consumers expect when shopping online.
Uber-like Trucking Platforms Increase Transparency
Before Uber, rides were not easily available or accessible. You would’ve had to find a bus or taxi and wait longer to get to your destination. Today, you can easily contact a nearby Uber driver, track their route and ETA. Location data and mobile technology are creating new solutions for old inefficiencies, and the same thing is happening in logistics.
The need for better transparency has driven companies to explore Uber-like on-demand trucking platforms. Apps and services like Cargomatic and DashHaul, for instance, seamlessly connect shippers and carriers to a real-time mobile logistics network, making truck capacity and load availability more accessible.
This kind of technology not only lets shippers track freight in real time, but it also helps truckers grow their businesses, as shippers can connect with them instantaneously without a broker. These on-demand trucking platforms eliminate paper, phone calls, faxing and price haggling.
“My goal is to bring transparency to the market and provide a platform where users make the prices,” said Roseanne Stanzione, CEO of LaneHoney, a marketplace for trucks on demand. These innovative platforms give shippers better control and visibility over the supply chain, in addition to convenience, automation and price transparency.
Automated Warehouses With Robotic Systems
Amazon has set the standard for fast fulfillment and delivery. When Amazon acquired Kiva Robotics in 2012, they chose not to renew contracts with competitors and retailers that relied on these robots. Instead, Amazon decided to use these robots solely for their warehouses.
Amazon’s dominance in ecommerce logistics proved the need for automation in the warehouse. These robots not only cut operating expenses by 20%, but also sets Amazon apart from the competition. Today, Amazon has 30,000 robots in their distribution centers, picking up goods and reducing the distance human workers have to cross in order to find products.
While it has taken 4 years to catch up with Amazon, several startups and robotics companies are finally ready to replace Kiva and fill in the need for an automated warehouse. For instance, GreyOrange Butler robots help automate the picking process by bringing shelves directly to the pickers.
Companies like Fetch Robotics and Harvest Automation develop warehouse robots that follow workers around, catching items they pick off the shelves. A whole generation of robots are being developed to automate and simplify the picking process, making the worker’s job easier and less strenuous.
In a few years , we will see an increase in the use and adoption of robotic technology in more warehouses. Other types of robotic systems are currently in development across the globe, and more are being created to make the logistics industry run more efficiently.
Augmented Reality to Transform the Picking Process
Augmented reality could be the next big wave in logistics. Digital displays and AR systems have been proven to optimize inventory picking in warehouses. In fact, DHL recently concluded a pilot project that tested the use of smart glasses in the warehouse. The result? A 25% increase in efficiency during the picking process.
Today, many warehouses still use a pen-and-paper approach to order picking, which is inefficient and likely to cause errors. Traditionally, a picker would receive a list of items they would need to pick for an order. But with augmented reality, the picker can keep their hands free to pick items as the list is displayed digitally within their heads-up display.
Similarly, as each item is picked, the technology can verify the product using optical readers to scan barcodes, and the display calculates the next most logical item to be picked. AR can determine the most efficient path through the warehouse, so the employee can move faster with greater efficiency and safety.
A number of companies, such as Knapp, SAP, Vuzix and Ubimax, are developing “vision picking” augmented reality systems that offer real-time object recognition, barcode reading and data integration within their warehouse management systems. This technology enables hands-free order picking and greatly boosts productivity.
These advancements are shaping the future of logistics, building a faster, cheaper and more effective supply chain. Whether you are drop shipping or managing your own warehouse, you should have a global view of your fulfillment operations, making sure that orders are picked accurately and efficiently, and that all your systems and processes ultimately deliver an excellent customer experience.