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The concept of automating processes and activities is a major sticking point for supply chain and logistics. Supply chain and logistics automation allow companies to refocus their efforts on tasks requiring human hands, and redundant tasks can be automated through robotics, as well as technologies designed to assist human workers. Shippers need to understand the top supply chain and logistics automation trends to watch for in 2019.

Changing Regulations Will Make Drivers’ Jobs Easier

According to John Paul Hampstead of Freight Waves, a new regulation reached by the Federal motor carrier safety administration will allow drivers to use cameras as a substitute for two rear-view mirrors. This level of supply chain and logistics automation will use technology embedded within video analytics to offer drivers an extra hand in the course of duty.

The Uberization of Trucking Will Allow More Companies to Move Freight Both Short and Long Distances without Contractor Overload

Another factor of automation will involve the Uberization of trucking, but it will be more comprehensive, including the use of autonomous trucks, AKA “driverless trucks.” The Uberization of trucking also holds great promise in fully automating the freight scheduling process. Shippers can log into the app, select the details for their shipment, and continuous operations. In reality, this is similar to what a third-party logistics provider does, and it is the same capabilities that exist within a transportation management system, such as the Cerasis Rater. However, 2019 will see more companies develop like freight tendering and scheduling systems that will allow companies to streamline logistics management.

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Robotics in the Warehouse and Loading Docks Will Streamline Order Fulfillment and Reduce Delays

The use of robots in the warehouse and unloading docks will help a company streamline order fulfillment as well. Robots are incredibly efficient, using data to ensure product barcodes are precisely what a consumer selected. In the age of two-dimensional barcodes, such as QR codes, that can contain up to 2000 characters of information, the opportunities for efficiency improvements using robotics are almost endless. More importantly, robots can work continuously and do not require extra benefits associated with labor resources, such as health insurance. Meanwhile, robots moving throughout the facility, and on the loading dock will reduce risk to the company workers and reduce delays.

Wearables and Augmented Reality Will Increase the Efficiency of Warehouse Workers and Accuracy in Orders

According to Supply Chain 24/7, the use of wearables and augmented reality can provide an overlay for human pickers and warehouse workers. Augmented reality is similar to virtual reality, but it involves an overlay of virtual reality on the existing landscape. Imagine using a pair of goggles to determine where exactly a product is located, and seeing the information for the order in front of you. This is augmented reality, and it will become more commonplace throughout 2019. Meanwhile, wearables can be connected to an overarching warehouse execution system, giving employees a heads up on complex orders, reducing delays and effectively monitoring walking time. Although it may not seem like much, monitoring employee movements throughout the warehouse will have the net effect of reducing the time spent traveling without an actual order entering the container.

Connected Sensors and Trucks Will Empower Shippers With Fuel Consumption and Safety Data, As Well As the Performance

The use of connected sensors and trucks systems, including the electronic locking devices, will give shippers more information to review operations and ensure logistics are moving appropriately. The use of an ELD automates the HOS tracking, which can be used to reduce risk throughout the entire company further. Also, knowing more about a trucks movements and driver actions and power shippers to say on fuel consumption costs and even insurance costs.

According to see CCJ, trucks North America has expanded the availability of the Detroit connect analytics to new truck models, which will allow more shippers to leverage information gained through IoT-enabled sensors and logs.

Integrated Systems for E-Commerce and Automated Fulfillment Activities Will Enhance Customer Service

According to nChannel, the use of integrated systems for e-commerce will naturally incur a level of automation, and this will have a significant boost for a company seeking to stay competitive with Amazon’s break-next delivery windows. Integrating systems, and using automation allow companies to fill orders faster and move them throughout the supply chain network. Meanwhile, the IoT-enabled sensors and product verification systems will ensure maximum accuracy on orders and prevent unnecessary delays. If the delay does occur, automated alerts to consumers and shippers will reduce the influx of consumer complaints and create a culture of visibility.

The Big Picture

Supply chain and logistics automation dramatically affect shipper costs, which translates into an effect on customer service and satisfaction. In the age of Amazon, the slightest change in logistics costs or shipping information could result in consumers abandoning their purchases in favor of Amazon or even Walmart. Shippers should understand the top supply chain and logistics automation trends of 2019, and they should align their current logistics strategy to reflect the advancements in the industry as a whole.