Beyond Horizons – Five Game Changing innovations in Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Breaking down the walls around and moving beyond the horizons is a venture that only becomes possible through innovation. Innovation by its very nature is disruptive and is often faced with resistance at initial stage, and later appraised and widely adopted after its proven success by few who dare to try/adopt it at its early stage. The journey from conception of innovation to its actualisation in reality has now been shortened through the help of technological advancement. One must remember however, that innovation is dependent upon human imagination, which assisted with technology is leading to the best in class practices in all aspects of life and businesses; including Logistics and Supply Chain Management (LSCM).

Figure 1: Five Game Changing Innovations in LSCM

Innovations in LSCM:

With the rise in technological advancement and knowledge, many innovative approaches have surfaced to assist in optimising effective and efficient operations for LSCM. Figure 1 presents the five key game changing innovations that are reshaping the field of LSCM in today’s world. Below is a brief overview of them with some examples of their use in LSCM.

Drones:
A small size unmanned, electric, easy to operate and efficient mode of transportation for small goods. Drones initially thought to be used only in military activities to capture images and to launch attacks, have now become an important asset to be used within the production facility as well as outside to deliver products. Amazon, Dominos, DHL are among many examples that use drones to deliver packages.

Mobile/Electric Devices:
Mobile phones, initially used just for calls and sending text messages have evolved to assist almost like mini computers, controlled through voice or touch. Mobile phones and other electronic devices are utilised to capture data of real time inventory, delivery and location of the goods. Also it has eased the process of routing and planning in real time, remotely.

RFID:
Radio Frequency Identification, although not a very recent development it has and is playing a revolutionary role in the era of LSCM. A small RFID tag helps to optimise the operations that took hours, to seconds. Inventory’s movement, identification, data-recording and transfer are some of the key benefits that can be achieved without ever opening the package and in the matter of seconds.

3D Printing:
From storing goods to producing (printing) them on demand is one of the key features that 3D printing brings. While its mass adaptation is not seen at present, businesses must not ignore the fact that it’s actually just around the corner. It will significantly impact the LSCM aspect of business as the whole supply chain of businesses will be disrupted and the demand pattern will change, requiring new ways of sourcing the product and its materials.

Augmented Reality (AR):
A recent development to provide a completely new way of seeing and managing the operations of any business. This efficient and effective technology is impacting different fields including medicine, production, LSCM, training, documentation, etc. Many gadgets are being developed to assist the use of augmented reality, such as smart glasses, smart lenses, head-mounted displays, handheld devices including smart phones, stationery systems, and spatial augmented reality systems.

Following are a few key benefits that LSCM can achieve by adopting AR:

  • Optimise the space utilisation within the warehouse as well as trucks
  • Efficient navigation of the products within warehouses and delivery vehicles
  • Avoid pick-up errors and damage to goods
  • Save time by providing step by step guidance for all users, including new workers; resulting in efficiency and accuracy of output as well as saving the cost of training employees.
  • Save time by optimising the freight loading process

Summary:
Technological advancement and its utilisation in day to day business is vital for the successful operations of any business, including LSCM. The innovative technologies of drones, mobile/electric devices, RIFD, 3D printing, and augmented reality are massively helpful in assisting the users to maximise their potential and minimise the possibility of error and loss within the operations of LSCM. Although the adaptation of some of these technologies is slowly progressing, the days where such approaches will be a necessary element for businesses of all sizes are not far away. Overall it would be correct to say that innovative moves in the era of LSCM are opening the gateways beyond horizons, setting new rules of the game and providing competitive edge to their adopters.

You can find out more about innovations within Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Logistics and Supply Chain Week 2018.

Simon Peter Nadeem – PhD Candidate, University of Derby

Simon is an ambitious, emerging researcher in the era of Circular Economy, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, and Business.