At its core, the logistics industry is an industry of information. Successful third-party logistics are based on controlling the flow of information. Properly managed logistics involve the careful coordination of various systems of organization and management to ensure things move from producer to consumer with maximum efficiency. When the technology those systems of information are built on undergoes a quantum leap, it’s up to the industry to keep pace.
Speaking in late 2015, Penske Vice President of Logistics Joe Carlier said, “Changes in consumer behavior and continuing to order things online [are] becoming more prevalent.” So 3PL providers are having to embrace new technologies to stay competitive, investing in “multiple aspects of the supply chain like infrastructure and the technology inside facilities to operate.” Let’s take a quick look at three key areas that are changing in the logistics world thanks to new technologies.
Agility Above All
As online commerce becomes the norm for many industries, and providers like Amazon continue to push the envelop of quick delivery forward, 3PL firms are increasingly relying on technology to keep track of everything flying in and out of warehouses. Same day delivery service for online retail customers like the kind Amazon offers relies on totally networked regional fulfillment centers.
These next-gen warehouses rely on a combination of robots and skilled human workers to fill orders quickly and accurately, while also managing inventory in real-time. By supplementing your staff’s abilities with new technology like augmented reality devices you can speed up formerly time-consuming processes and subsequently, achieve a faster turnaround on orders.
Connectivity is Key
Whether it’s automating compliance procedures to reduce supply chain management costs or deploying an RFID system to improve supply chain visibility, increased electronic communication between all the moving parts in your system is a must.
Additionally, the Internet of Things is coming to 3PL in a big way, helping all the links in the supply chain to better stay connected. Moving beyond the basics of EDI to more advanced systems can help providers stay competitive, and cloud based technology is the next step.
Developing electronic management systems for inventory control, ordering, and more was only the beginning. Now the time has come to make sure that all your internal systems speak the same language and can interact with each other to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. For example, RFID technology integrated within product packaging could ensure that those products that need to be stored in specific environmental conditions (frozen goods for example) could alert you electronically if they’re not in the right place.
Data Driven Logistics
Retail and consumer products now represent 18 percent of the logistics landscape, evenly matching manufacturing as the largest users of 3PL firms. These demands are increasingly driving the need for new logistics technologies in the warehouse like cloud-based WMS software to manage the flow of goods and data.
For several years now, analysts have been projecting the various ways that Big Data could be used to empower logistics providers to improve their operations. A fully connected supply chain is a constant source of valuable data that can be mined for insights into what’s working and what can be improved at every step from the docks to delivery.
If you need a partner to help you strategically manage and successfully move your products out of the port and onto their final destination, be sure to download our latest ebook — Speeding Time-to-Shelf and Cutting Costs — a must read for today’s logistics managers.