The transportation and logistics markets are growing, not only in size, but also in complexity. The intricacies and inner workings of our industry are further compounded over time by the acceleration of e-commerce, shifts in trade and increased legislation. 

Long story short: any new additions into our crowded pipeline need to make our lives easier. 

New tech must be necessary. This means, if it isn’t making your work more efficient or growing productivity, it should be increasing workforce accountability. There’s no room for ‘innovation for innovation’s sake.’

According to a PwC survey conducted in 2018, 68% of transport & logistics CEOs expect that changes in core technologies or service provisions will be disruptive to their business. Another study lists more than half of CEOs citing artificial intelligence (A.I.) as the next technology they’re planning to implement. 

What these studies didn’t demonstrate was the exact products which would do this – it’s all very well saying A.I. is the next big thing, but unless you can demonstrate a specific product or process, it’s all just hot air.

There’s certainly big talk: artificial intelligence and machine learning are often cited as ‘the next big thing’ alongside blockchain. But if you follow up with questions about specifics, such as ‘how will companies will train their workforce to understand and utilise these technologies?’, ‘how might they manage the skills gap?’, ‘how long will this investment take to become profitable?’ and ‘how it might futureproof a workforce’s jobs without making them feel alienated?’, then the answers soon become a little more vague. 

I am a huge advocate of the digitalisation of our supply chain, and of the introduction of technology where it makes lives and jobs easier. But it seems easy for business owners to get carried away with launching a new app or introducing VR training or wearables in their workplace, without considering the usability of these products.

Automation software feels like an excellent option if we’re considering next steps. There is a multitude of automation programmes, platforms and databases available that cater for logistics businesses in all parts of the supply chain. Automating processes saves time, minimises the risk of error, improves accuracy and productivity, and has even been shown to increase employee satisfaction, by removing the mundane, repetitive tasks from the working day – inventory checking in warehouses is a great example of this. Even getting a little more complex and thinking about pick-and-pack robotics in warehouses – an excellent example of purposeful technology.

Optimise the services you already provide. Shave time off your operations and ask your employees whether there’s anything they want. It may begin as something as everyday as an IT software upgrade which would make the biggest impact, or new hardware which can shorten processes. If there’s a choice between introducing wearable technology such as gloves which can scan barcodes, or upgrading your current IT software so that accounts navigation becomes more efficient, I’d say it’s a no brainer.

Change is good. Purposeful change is better.

Sarah O’Connell, Senior Editor, FORWARDER magazine