In this era of technological advancement, it’s no wonder that e-commerce is poised to take over from more traditional methods of buying and selling. The global rise of a fast-paced lifestyle has led to an increase in mobile traffic — everyone is online these days and frankly speaking, most times you have to be! We’re not plugged into the Matrix yet, but many daily activities have us browsing on the internet. Work, school, play, shopping; you name it, and it’s being done on the web.

With mobile digital devices, people can now shop anywhere and at any time while on the move. Enter e-commerce, which is projected to become the biggest global retail channel by 2021. It is already outpacing sales through traditional channels like supermarkets, clothes and footwear retailers, independent merchants, etc.. Mobile buying and selling is now the new normal because the majority of consumers are mobile-savvy.

The growth of e-commerce has affected retailers on a range of issues which range from investments and organization to store planning and distribution. With the globalization of sales has come an ever-rising demand for delivery and shipping of products to a wide range of consumers. Logistics have become more complex, and retailers are faced with the need to develop effective strategies for transport management, to enhance their distribution capacity. Naturally, retailers are turning to technology to streamline the supply chain dynamics caused by high-traffic digital commerce.

Technologies Changing Transport Management

Various types of technology can be used by retailers to effect better warehousing and transportation management. Some examples of these are:

  • IoT (Internet of Things): This refers to WiFi and internet used to connect to almost everything.
  • RFID (Radio Frequency Identification): Sensors or tags which emit radio waves and can be used to capture data that provides tracking information.
  • Autonomous Trucks And Drones: These technologies are still in production but soon, are expected to change how freight is delivered worldwide.
  • GPS: This technology is quite common and enables tracking of vehicles and the monitoring of other traffic.
  • Logistics Safety Technologies: This includes using tech like backup cameras, lane assist functions, and in-cab cameras to improve safety.
  • Mobile Apps: This refers to using apps that can help with things like fleet/order management by accessing information on waiting orders, sent orders, miles driven, etc.
  • TMS (Transport Managing Systems): This is customized software for increasing shipping efficiency and cost savings.  
  • Robotics and Automation: This involves the use of robots for automated picking, sorting, packing, etc.
Industrial robotic gripping blue plastic box container put on conveyor for transport to storage on smart factory warehouse

Using data and analytics provided by a myriad of technologies has affected distribution logistics in several ways, enabling a productive, cost-savings oriented, and more efficient producer-to-consumer dynamic. Some of the ways technology has changed warehousing and transport management include:

Automation

Undoubtedly one of the most significant advancements to impact the logistics industry, automatic systems have greatly streamlined the picking and packing process in warehouses. With less human error to account for, companies can get packages out to customers much faster and reduce costs in paying staff. Also, especially for large companies with a high volume of products to deliver, better quality goods roll off the production line as the packages are scanned and analyzed by robotics equipped with machine learning abilities. But don’t worry; the machines are a long way from taking over!  

In addition, automated data capturing can be leveraged to improve warehouse processes, e.g. advanced shipping notifications, alerting to supply disruptions, and inputting master data on supplier lead time.   

Better Monitoring

With advancements in technology, the transportation industry has moved beyond basic track-and-trace data to an extraordinary level of supply chain visibility. Using GPS and RFID tags provides a labor-saving and error-free way to track inventory. For customers, that means using apps for easier tracking of packages from their comfy couches while they Netflix and chill. This way, they are assured their orders are on the move as promised, and they can be automatically alerted if their delivery is delayed, or arrives at its destination.

For the transport company, this will enable better monitoring of their trucks and drivers. Using data on temperature, movement, and other real-time factors collected by inbuilt IoT sensors on vehicles, drivers, and dispatchers can customize and control their delivery process better.

Increase in supply chain efficiency

When it comes to e-commerce, the order fulfillment process needs a structure that can sync across multiple systems. Retailers now use GPS-based fleet management systems which continuously gather data from moving vehicles to calculate how long they have been on the road and where they are going, as well as the best routes to take. This increases transportation efficiency by cutting down on idle driver time, improves safety, boosts fuel use, and automates documentation. Using optimal routes also shortens delivery time. The constant communication between the vehicles and the supervisory staff at the warehouses also helps with flexible planning, e.g. automatic rerouting or reordering of goods in case of the unexpected. It’s not ‘Optimus Prime’ level yet, but yes, we are ‘talking’ to trucks!

Business analytics and cloud-based computing

With data provided by RFID tags and other sensors, companies can harness the value of analytics. With this data, they can ditch the old mountains of paper and spreadsheets needed to understand how their business is doing. Business analytics can detail process flow, provide audits, generate predictive analytics of internal and external data, and provide precise forecasts to improve operations and stop problems before they even happen. We’re literally talking Oracle in the sky. How cool is that?

Using analytics for forecasting consumer demands is getting wilder every day too. For example, Amazon currently holds a patent for a type of predictive shipping—shipping out orders ‘before’ the customer places an order!

Ready to step into the future?

With the evolving trends in e-commerce, retailers should be ready to embrace innovation that will enable them to satisfy the present and future needs of their customers, and give both parties a stress-free selling and purchasing experience. At CRST STI, we provide customized logistics solutions that are technology-driven to optimize our clients’ response time to customer demands. We’re ready to help you enter a future where you will thrive in an increasingly global marketplace. Meet us there!