Meheriar Patel, CIO, Jeena and Company

In recent times, there has been a rapid uptake of new-age technologies by enterprises in the logistics sector. Companies are increasingly deploying technologies such as internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, which are set to disrupt the sector. These technologies are revolutionising the logistics sector  and are predicted to be the harbingers of growth as they will streamline supply chains, operations and warehouse management, leading to higher efficiency and productivity. Industry leaders share their views on the evolving technology landscape, the challenges faced in deploying new-age solutions and the future outlook for the sector…

How has technology transformed the Indian logistics sector? What are some of the key digital trends?

The Indian logistics sector is successfully adopting technology to reshape and create supply chain processes that can meet up­coming challenges. Technology has redefined the fundamental aspects of the logistics sector across the globe and India is the front runner in this area. A major innovative technology transformation has been in the area of supply chain automation, whi­ch has helped create environments that facilitate more agile and effective solutions to cope up with this fast changing world, thus allowing the formulation of unique business strategies.

Another aspect of technology that has impacted the logistics sector is the smartphone/app-driven support. More than ma­king the product available at the customers’ doorstep, it is important to realise the delivery of products on time, managing on-site requirements with centralised data points in real time. Here, mobile technology has for­med the backbone for managing inventory as well as keeping suppliers, distributors and other relevant parties connected.

Some key digital trends in logistics and supply chain are driven by the increasing use of big data, collected through billions of IoT-connected devices, which helps in AI-driven predictive analysis. IoT implementation has shown to help double the return on in­vestment as it enhances in-transit visibility, thus offering real-time tracking and up­dates, and facilitates a consistent connecti­on between vehicles and production fl­oors. As an extension of IoT- and AI-driven pr­o­cesses, warehouse automation, especially in large set-ups, has also started using ro­botic operations for accuracy and efficiencies.

How are the trends of supply chain, warehouse and transport management expected to shape up in the digital era?

A recent survey reports the world data sphere is said to hit 175 zettabytes by the year 2025. This is mainly because of the in­c­rease in the number of engagements at social platforms, along with IoT data, which is doing predictive analysis each day th­rough billions of embedded and conn­ec­ted devices. IoT-implemented tech devi­ces, with AI are on the path to creating a trillion-dollar business value and lead to billion hours of worker productivity.

In terms of logistics, this would mean enhancing the supply chain and warehouse management efficiencies through AI and automation-driven operations that are increasingly driving adoption of gree­ner or sustainable practices across su­pply chain net­works. Effective tech adoption, mainly through IoT and hy­brid cloud adoption, has also facilitated customisati­on, risk management and resilience, to build agile systems, increase visibility and transform linear supply chains to circular networks. Fur­ther, real-time visibilities, data relevance and analysis, and adoption of industry best practices will lead to enhanced cus­­tomer experience and thus strengthen ven­dor and customer relationships.

What are the key use cases of new-age technologies such as AI, IoT, robotics, blockchain and AR/VR in the logistics sector? How are you leveraging these solutions?

The IT and digital transformation industry is witnessing exponential growth in the use of cutting-edge digital technologies such as blockchain, 5G, AI, automation, robotics, cybersecurity and IoT. We at Jeena are using some of these technologies since the past few years and have been fairly successful in adopting some of these tech-enabled solutions to address challenges and enhance our operational capacities. Some of our use cases have 100 per cent efficiency.

Further, our hybrid cloud set-ups have a capacity to operate up to 95 per cent and are also benchmarked in adoption, to ope­rate at low costs. Our effective data strategy has led to business intelligence solutions, which have helped our client organisations to take critical decisions in real time, while raising our bar to compete and make substantial inroads into new territories.

Mobile First is another area that has helped us create a customer-centric momentum where we have developed customer data portals for single-window visibility. Our warehouse operations are carried out on hand-held devices and QR code operations for real-time view and speed to operate.

What are some of the challenges encountered while deploying new-age solutions?

Modern-day businesses are increasingly focused on increasing their efficiency and maximising profits. So, confronting digital transformation challenges and winning over them is not just a choice but a necessity for all CEOs and CXOs. Successful digital transformation requires not only the right set of tools but also the right ex­pertise and guidance to drive the process in the right direction for the best results.

Businesses that are not accepting/ res­ponding to the needs of digital transformation in the current market are set to fail miserably. Although organisations find it challenging to match the pace of digital transformation, especially the ones that are following traditional operational methods, trying to handle the multiple ex­pectations without proper planning, overall cooperation and lack of flexibility can lead businesses to face several avoidable challenges and crisis.

The transformation impacts not just businesses and their employees but also the sta­keholders associated with the brand. Tra­­nsforming any business digitally should be executed with extreme care and diligence and the importance of digital transformation needs to be communicated to all internal stakeholders in order to make it more effective. However, the reality is that digital transformation is not just about technologies. It is also about your organisation’s ability to adapt to these changes.

What is the future of drone delivery in India? What are your views on Logistics 4.0?

It would potentially take about five years before last-mile operators can truly experience the benefits of drone delivery syste­ms, especially in terms of cost optimisation. Drones not only address the real possibility of reducing return time cycles, but also ease and shorten the supply chain, as one will not have to go to the post office to drop off packages. Early days are already promising, with pioneering logistics companies being able to adopt drones and dra­s­tically reduce transportation expenses related to truck capital expenditures such as maintenance costs, fuel, insurance and more. As more and more last-mile deliveries are enabled through drones, deliveries will no longer be picked up from warehouses and put on a carrier’s truck and sent through traditional channels to a customer. Instead, at the click of a mouse, the system will arrange for the drone to pick up the order, load it and head directly to the consumer. As with any emerging technology, many aspects of drone development are still in the works. Right now, drones do not have the range to effectively handle all logistics needs of a company. But going at the current speed of innovation and adoption, this will soon be­come a reality.

Logistics 4.0

Just as the modern factory is adding new, intelligent technologies to create connected, interoperable workflows, the modern supply chain is also rapidly becoming smarter, better networked and more technologically advanced. Although the so-called fourth industrial revolution gets most of the attention, there is another revolution occurring simultaneously within the world of logistics and it is changing the way that products make their way from production facilities to customers. This would be Logistics 4.0.

Logistics 4.0 operates on the principles of simple points in which inefficiencies are identified and addressed. It specifically makes use of “smart” containers, ve­hicles, pallets and transport systems to create a fully networked supply stream that offers supply chain managers, shippers, freight forwarders and other related stakeholders visibility to route transport and perform other operations and tasks in an optimal way. A supply chain manager, with access to data from an IoT-enabled warehouse, might be able to detect, based on heat and light conditions, if a particular product or group of products is likely to get damaged. Even if it is too late to pre­vent the damage, merely knowing ab­out the problem would enable the warehouse to send out an order to replenish the da­maged (and presumably discarded) sto­ck. While dema­nds on businesses hoping to adopt smarter logistics workflows are not to be taken lightly, when compared to the scope and potential in which Logistics 4.0 can add value, its risks and high dema­nds can be accommodated.