Innovation in logistics must combine organization, information and technologies to optimize customer service, streamline processes and improve operational efficiency. In particular, the logistics of next decade will be characterized by technological innovation with high automation standards.
3D printing, online Bots as sales assistants, self-driving cars, augmented reality, the Internet, in addition to Industry 4.0 and the delivery of products using drones, in fact, are now a reality and no longer simple imagination.
For these reasons, managers are preparing the company's economic resources to face these changes, to realize faster, cheaper and more reliable logistic services and to develop a vast and detailed distribution network.
What is logistics and what are the advantages
In the economic and industrial sphere, logistics is the set of activities of people disposing, managing the procurement of goods, storing products and exchanging related information, as well as the distribution of resources functionally to company objectives.
In general, the advantages of traditional logistics are to allow correct acquisition, handling and management of materials and to ensure timely supplies. Logistics services are, for example, the receipt of orders, the picking and preparation of shipments. According to an inter-functional systemic vision, however, it is more correct to speak of integrated logistics.
In this vision, logistics is therefore both a process for planning, creating and controlling the flow of products and related information, as well as a system for governing all phases of the production process.
Finally, modern logistics can be considered a strategic part of management, whose main advantages are to improve distribution processes, to allow the efficient transport of goods, within the foreseen deadlines and at the lowest possible cost, and to optimize customer service.
Innovation in logistics
Technologies must allow the evolution of logistics, increasing the machine intelligence of transport and warehouse processes, with the best cost-benefit ratio. In this regard, the most innovative technological solutions in the logistics field make it possible to integrate the activities among producers, carriers, distributors and the logistics apparatus, and to increase visibility on the distribution processes.
All this is achievable using visibility systems, i.e. machine vision systems. These are technological platforms that provide up-to-date information on the progress of transport, allowing the control of vehicles and the tracking of deliveries.
The technologies for digitizing paper documents and the Mobile Logistics Apps are also very important because they significantly improve the traceability of information. For example, the carrier can take over the goods from the manufacturer by reading the barcode relating to the journey thanks to the app integrated with the travel planning software Tms (Transport Management System) of the logistics operator.
At the same time, the manufacturer sends the barcode identifying the shipment to the distributor. This code is the same that the carrier will then read upon acceptance of the delivery, generating the Pod-Proof of Delivery, meaning the proof of delivery, instantly available to the distributor and the logistics operator.
Recently, two new add-on modules have been created, such as Workflow scheduling for Tms and Load building for the software to plan Wms (Warehouse Management System) order picking activities, in order to better manage resources in distribution centers and calculate the volume of the orders. The most requested smart devices in the logistics field are sensors for weighing goods, monitoring the status of products and vehicle performance and RFID tags inserted in handling vehicles.
The usefulness of RFIDs is to check the completeness of orders leaving the warehouse, to increase the efficiency of the reception and shipping activities and to improve the activities of the trolleys during storage and picking. Finally, logistics service providers are increasingly showing interest in Field Force Automation, such as handhelds to manage billing and smartphones to update delivery status in real time, and for smart glasses that provide additional product details, useful in the disposal and palletization of goods.
Automation is the set of technical means created to eliminate direct human intervention in the performance of certain processes, made automatic by using automatisms. These devices are capable of self-regulating and reacting automatically to the occurrence of certain conditions. The use of automation in the logistics field is achieved, in particular, by using robots and control automation systems, to manage products during transport and delivery, and for the storage of packaging, tht is a decisive economic solution for company competitiveness.
Furthermore, by integrating robots into automation platforms, traceability, palletizing and transport of products in warehouses and distribution centers are optimized. The development of e-commerce, in particular, is transforming the management and needs of logistics, thanks to the significant and rapid increase in orders for individual goods, especially small ones, and related deliveries. In this regard, the use of robots is able to simplify the processes of picking up and moving products, both for loading and unloading vehicles.
Artificial vision in the logistics of the future
Currently, machine vision systems are used for logistics management of production, to automate production facilities and for automatic, non-contact, high-speed quality control equipment, in order to optimize logistics processes and significantly reduce costs.
In addition, the visibility systems increase quality standards by allowing in-depth and repeated checks of products and their components. Specifically, machine vision is a complex of processes that recreate the real world starting from two-dimensional images. Its most common applications in logistics are barcode reading, robot guidance, OCR character reading, image processing, and color and shape recognition.
These visibility systems also allow you to measure the volume of shipments, to improve sorting, storage and distribution procedures. Employing machine vision in the logistics of the future will help overcome current strategies for many businesses, improving timelines, increasing profits and decreasing costs.
These visibility systems used, for example, in the preparation of mixed packages, will be able to position the goods autonomously. Among the most awaited technological solutions is the integration between different visibility systems, to support the planning, control and efficiency of business processes and transport and warehouse activities.
Emerging digital technologies are capable of significantly improving the timeliness, quality and efficiency of distribution processes because they are increasingly equipped with machine intelligence. Consequently, in the coming years, these technological innovations will have a huge impact on employment, creating millions of new professionals and eliminating those no longer in demand from the labor market.
In this regard, the taxation of robots proposed by Bill Gates and the citizenship income promised by politicians, will allow the unemployed to face economic and social transformations and to project themselves towards the new "leisure economy". Hence, job opportunities will arise, in particular, in tourism, on the Web and in education.