Emerging technologies are transforming global supply chains and the logistics industry at a rapid pace. 3D printing, drone delivery, autonomous vehicles, robotics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just some of the technological developments making the industry smarter and more efficient.
The IoT is essentially the practice of connecting everyday objects to the internet; you may have heard about how 2017 could be the year hackers target your fridge. These connected objects are able to collect and store data, and communicate with other objects and humans. IHS forecasts that the IoT market will almost double 30.7 billion devices by 2020 before leaping to 75.4 billion in 2025.
IoT and logistics
The IoT will enable logistics providers to track each cog in the supply chain; they will be able to collect real-time data on all of their assets across warehouses, roads, seas, skies; even people. The explosion of data and intelligence resulting from this connectivity could drive more efficient operations and more accurate decision-making. Indeed, according to DHL and Cisco, utilisation of the IoT in supply chains and logistics could generate $1.9 trillion in value for the industry over the next decade.
The trucking industry is one area of focus for environmental sustainability efforts around the world; in the U.S., all big trucks must cut emissions 25% by 2025. IoT technology in trucks could track fuel efficiency not only of the truck, but of the route and the driver. Potential oil leaks and tyre pressure issues that lead to decreased fuel efficiency could be quickly identified; real-time GPS data could then be fed to roadside rescue teams to reduce downtime.
One company, TruckTel, is even integrating IoT technology into road-freight parking ports to monitor temperatures, unanticipated movement, and “check-out” times to reduce downtime.
Efficiency savings will not just start in transit; “smart” warehouses can utilise the IoT to drive improvements across the supply chain. In the U.S. alone, forklift trucks cause over 94,000 injuries every year. If warehouse employees were connected to machinery via IoT sensors they could be warned of nearby vehicles, and forklift speed could be regulated in areas of high congestion; thus improving employee wellbeing and avoiding thousands of potentially costly accidents every year.
Connected devices such as wearable technology and remote sensors could also provide employees with real-time data on the location of items in a warehouse, meaning orders could be processed more efficiently. This is particularly relevant in a world where the “Amazon effect” has taken hold; people want their goods fast, really fast.
The future of the workforce
The transformation of business models and skillsets by disruptive technologies is not a future issue; it’s happening as you read this and will continue at an unprecedented pace.
While technology can empower the worker it can also pose a threat as increasing automation displaces traditional jobs; if goods can be tracked in a warehouse, robots can be programmed to collect them. According to a report on robotics in logistics 80% of existing warehouses are manually operated with no automation; so the industry is ripe for disruption.
Business leaders in transportation and logistics must have the foresight to understand how technology will transform the nature of work in their organisation and the new skillsets required. The explosion of data resulting from the IoT, for example, will be useless if the right talent is not developed to interpret it and turn it into meaningful action. Leaders would be well advised to take action now to build a workforce with skills fit for the future; so technology can be an enabler rather than a displacer of people.
For the logistics workforce, technology may offer them a chance to rid their day of more mundane tasks; truck drivers can develop new skillsets and become ‘logistics managers’ whilst their truck autonomously drives them to the next destination.
With big data comes big responsibility, and the IoT is no exception. Connectivity and constant monitoring opens innumerable opportunities to mitigate risk across the supply chain.
However, the more devices you have connected to the internet, the more vulnerable you are to hackers and system failure. In October 2016, one company’s IoT video recorders and cameras were hacked, creating a legion of infected devices that caused disruption across Amazon, Netflix, Twitter and Spotify.
Logistics companies must identify, assess and prioritise key cyber risk sources against their business objectives and embed this practice in existing risk management protocols. While manifestation of these risks could have serious financial implications, it is also imperative to understand the potential impact on brand and reputation.
No company can ensure freedom from cyber breach, but being able to prove that the necessary protective systems were in place will help under the stark glare of media scrutiny post-attack.
The Internet of Things has opened a world of opportunity that can fundamentally transform business models, operational efficiency, risk mitigation and the way we understand work.
With every opportunity comes associated risk. According to our Transportation Risk Index, executives in the logistics sector rank ‘increased security threat from cyber and data privacy breaches’ and ‘lack of skilled labour’ in their top 10 risks for the coming 10 years. Informed strategies around people and risk will therefore be crucial for logistics providers looking to seize the transformative potential of the IoT.
Mark Prowting has worked in the insurance industry for 33 years and joined the Willis Transportation Practice in December 2009. Focussing on servicing clients in the transportation sector, Mark has a wealth of experience in designing insurance programmes, including complex Non-Conventional and Pan-European Motor Fleet and Liability solutions as well as Direct Writing and Protected Cell Captives. Mark is responsible for the organisation and delivery of the annual Willis Transportation Forum, aimed at operators in the Haulage, Logistics and Distribution sectors.
Sam Mason joined TruckTel Ltd. in early 2015 and as Head of Research is in charge of identifying the ideal locations for TruckTel’s modular secure parking solution. He has an in-depth knowledge of the movement of high-value road freight across Europe, as well as the risks the road freight industry currently faces.”