Reflecting on 2015 . . . and Looking Forward to 2016 This Holiday Season

December 18, 2015

Before things get too busy during the heart of the holiday season, now’s a good time to take a few moments to reflect back over the past 12 months from an industry perspective as well as anticipate those industry developments to watch and monitor in the new year.

Christmas card 4Sight-AAES - HR print - ENBut first, all of us here at 4SIGHT Logistics Solution want to sincerely thank all of our customers for your confidence and support this past year. We’re certainly looking forward to building on our highly-valued customer relationships in 2016 and beyond.

2015 was without a doubt an eventful year for the logistics and supply chain industries. In a new article just published in Material Handling & Logistics, the publication highlighted its Top 10 Supply Chain Innovations of 2015 which we found intriguing to say the least. Several caught our attention, including the ever-growing concept of 3D printing.

Topping the list under the category of Additive Manufacturing is Airbus’s use of 3D printed flight parts to increase supply chain flexibility. Airbus is using 3D printing technology to produce more than 1,000 flight parts for its A350 AWB aircraft. The 3D printed parts are being used in place of traditionally manufactured parts to increase supply chain flexibility. The parts are 3D printed using thermoplastic resin certified to an Airbus material specification.

Look, No Hands!

Pertaining to Fleet Management, MIT’s Computer Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is developing a robot dispatcher to help truck drivers avoid disruptions and traffic delays. This automated travel advisor would help truck drivers choose the optimum routes to their destinations for increased efficiency.

Regarding Motor Carriers, Daimler tested its self-driving truck under real traffic conditions in Germany. The truck is equipped with smart systems, including front-mounted radar, cameras and active speed regulators and works without a human driver, although someone has to be in the driver’s seat to take the wheel if necessary! The truck, fitted with the intelligent Highway Pilot system, traveled about nine miles on the A8 motorway with a driver in the cabin but his hands off the wheel.

For Warehouse Management, various divisions of global logistics company DHL have been testing a method of replacing handheld scanners and paper job orders with wearable smart-glass devices outfitted with WMS software. The technology enables hands-free order picking, helping workers to find the fastest route to pick products. It can also read bar codes. In early 2015, DHL completed a pilot project testing smart glasses and augmented reality in a warehouse in the Netherlands.

Looking forward to 2016, technology is definitely going to continue to have a significant impact on the logistics and supply chain industries. In a recent article in Supply Chain Management, Sigi Osagie, a leading expert on effectiveness in Procurement & Supply Chain Management, points out that SCM is one of the areas of enterprise activity seeing the biggest impact from technology.

By leveraging technology in different domains, significant benefits are anticipated in operational performance, organizational capability and cost efficiency. Key applications include e-commerce, 3D printing, supply chain analytics and ‘big data’, cloud-based software applications as well as human factors, as some conventional SCM job roles are already being supplanted by technology.

4SIGHT’s Expectations

At 4SIGHT Logistics Solution, we agree wholeheartedly that the continued forward momentum of the logistics and supply chain industries will require all companies involved to press forward and embrace changes in technology. However, as important as the current technology shift is to providing a competitive edge, finding additional ways to cut costs, become more efficient and increase profitability are even more pressing concerns for companies in the new year.

Automation unfortunately produces the all-too-familiar stigma that congers up images of robots replacing people and job loss. The important point to remember here is that it’s better to migrate skilled personnel to jobs that people can do, and let automation do what it can do best.

Robotic lift trucks, AGVs (automatic guided vehicles) and ASRS (automated storage and retrieval systems) are prime examples of such robotic capability that have revolutionized the way forward-thinking and technology-embracing high volume warehouses are conducting their daily operations. Companies are even exploring building efficiencies into moving manufactured goods between plants and warehouses on private roads via driverless semi-trucks.

Aside from growth in technology, the ongoing shortage of truck drivers will continue to impact the logistics and supply chain industries as well. According to the latest data from the American Trucking Associations, the industry is down 48,000 drivers while one industry analyst thinks the driver shortage is much higher at 100,000.

Fortunately, with more than 3 million long-haul truckers working America’s highways, the current shortage hasn’t been big enough to disrupt shipping too much, but it is dampening growth. As a result, companies are now responding with higher pay, signing bonuses and improved schedules that will allow drivers more time with their families.

As we bring another year to a close, all of us here at 4SIGHT Logistics Solution wish you and yours a very enjoyable and meaningful Christmas holiday season as well as a Happy New Year 2016!

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