Logistics Automation

Automation in business processes is becoming the norm. Owing to the advancement in multiple technological fronts, logistics businesses now ensure the same day delivery. While on-demand delivery services remained the buzzword of current decade in courier industry, the upcoming decade is set to witness more logistics automation technologies. It is just the time to sneak-peek into the logistics means of near future.

There are multiple sources informing the public about the latest inventions. They may or may not be authentic considering the amount of fake news propagating over various media channels. Observers hear about many innovations that never arrive. However, there are recognized sources with a proven record of announcing promising technologies.

CES and TED are primary sources of DelivAgent to pick the innovations and advance research. This article presents three hypothetical models which carry the greatest potential to transform delivery industry through the logistics automation market. Before sharing these concepts, it is worthwhile to review the challenges of logistics industry.

Urban congestion remains the primary concern of courier companies.

In essence, following list highlights the challenges in a nutshell.

  1. Drastically rising traffic is creating significant problems for logistics. The same day delivery service is the chief victim as delivery agents often find themselves stuck in the middle of an urban road.
  2. Higher delivery costs keep a considerable percentage of people from using on-demand services. Although on-demand economy brings costs down, yet there is no significant difference in the logistics industry. The costs rise even further if the customers seek delivery in suburban and remote areas.
  3. Courier services are usually unavailable in regions with poor roads network. For instance, 85% of towns in Sub-Saharan Africa remain without roads. Thus, these areas constantly lack health services. Supply of medicines in events of epidemic diseases is impossible.
  4. Apart from delivery costs, the ground means of transportation are intensely expensive for urban administrations. The development and maintenance of road networks are constant elements of budget in every country.
  5. The inventory managers need to keep duplicate inventories in various locations to deliver as soon as customer places order. This duplication is an inefficient approach which consumes more resources.
  6. The current logistic systems are leaving a massive ecological footprint. Governments around the world are striving to find transportation ways which prevent the destruction of biodiversity.

Keeping in view these challenges, innovators are coming up with multiple exciting ideas.

Matternet and Hyperloop Transportation are the most promising logistic ideas.

The Internet is inarguably one of the best inventions of recent decades. It can serve as a role model for the courier industry. It carries information in the form of data packets by using both fibers and electromagnetic waves. Couriers carry packages too — the difference between the two lies in the medium of transportation. Unlike the internet, courier travels through vehicles.

This comparison indicates that courier package transportation is roughly half a century behind data package transportation. In this age of high-speed connectivity, why should the courier reach destination in hours or even days? The urban administrators can implement the same model for logistics as internet.

Matternet to the Rescue

Suggested by Andreas Raptopoulous, one of the TED Talks speakers, Matternet is a connected logistics infrastructure. Drones are already commercialized for surveillance and aerial photography. Researchers are testing the delivery credentials of drones for years.

Drones work wonders in the remotest regions where ground aid takes hours to reach. Zipline – a Silicon Valley company – is one of the logistics automation companies. It introduced a nationwide first aid delivery service in Rwanda. Prior to this service, people remained without primary health due to poor health infrastructure. These drones travel up to 50 miles in only 30 minutes. The service distributes blood packages, and drones are capable of carrying a payload of more than 10 kgs.

These drones fly only occasionally when the regional doctor makes a request for assistance. However, this concept can serve densely populated urban locations by creating a mesh of drones operated from a centralized location. Primarily, the matternet consists of three components including:

  1. Autonomous, connected, electric, and shared drones. These flying vehicles will carry the package from source to destination.
  2. Charging stations to recharge drone batteries. They may also serve as pickup and delivery locations if the administrations disallow home delivery.
  3. Network software. This centralized station operates the entire mesh by ensuring route optimization.

Apart from Zipline drones, many companies offer more efficient products. The drones used during Haiti earthquake rescue services carry a lesser payload of 2kgs. Nevertheless, they are highly economical covering 10km in only 24 cents. The speed is almost the same as Zipline.

Ambitious Hyperloop transportation

A package encapsulated in an aerodynamic flying machine can reach destination tens of times faster than contemporary methods. When Elon Musk forwarded this idea, the ambition was to reduce the traffic congestion on roads. Originally meant to transport people, this logistic automation system can serve delivery industry more than commuting.

As narrated by supply-chain executive Alan Amling, such a capsule can fly between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes. Since the battery powers this machine, the cost is significantly lower than traditional delivery means. Moreover, the scientists project further enhancement in speeds because courier transportation does not need to consider breathing problems as in the case of passengers.

With such speeds, the managers will not need to keep duplicate inventory. Consequently, the businesses will be able to save space besides ensuring warehouse automation highly efficient aggregate planning. The reduction in use of ground vehicles will also boost the efforts toward biodiversity preservation.

Start Building

Despite an extensive road network in the US spanning over 40 million miles, urban regions are suffering from frequent traffic congestion. The underdeveloped countries with poor ground lines of communications are unable to ensure quick health. Building a road network at the current pace in Africa requires 50 years to meet the demand.

Thus, the utilization of drones for a large-scale delivery process is all but to start. The developed countries are placing the requisite infrastructure and devising a regulatory framework for automation in logistics. These countries will not take more than a year from now to allow such services.

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