Harpreet Singh Malhotra, Chairman and Managing Director, Tiger Logistics India Limited

Recent years have seen massive uptake of key technologies and information and communications technology (ICT) solutions across the logistics sector in India. Companies are increasingly deploying smart solutions such as tracking systems and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to improve business efficiency and enhance customer experience. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, blockchain and augmented reality, among others, are increasingly making inroads to the sector and are redefining the way logistics companies carry out warehousing and supply chain management (SCM). That said, lack of trained resources poses a big challenge, creating hurdles in the widespread adoption of these solutions. Harpreet Singh Malhotra, Chairman and Managing Director, Tiger Logistics India Limited, discusses the evolving technology landscape, challenges and the future outlook for the sector…

How have ICT requirements of companies in the logistics sector evolved over time amidst growing digitalisation?

Today, in the world of digitalisation, 4G services, unlimited diversified applications, GPS technology, blockchain, ML, AI and IoT have changed the scenario of everything around us. For the logistics industry, ICT has improved the market by providing more infomation for better visibility into our supply chain. Communication technologies allow all members of a logistics network to collaborate easily, leading to a potential reduction in costs. Improved technology has also increased productivity in the supply chain, minimising costs as well as errors. These advances benefit all areas of the logistics industry – trucking transportation, international transportation (ocean and air), SCM and shipment tracking.

The combined use of mobile computing, analytics and cloud services, all of which are fuelled by IoT, is changing the process of delivery and fulfilment. Companies are leveraging these for their cold chain operations. One of the important aspects to upend cold chain management is asset tracking, which gives companies a way to totally overhaul their supply chain/ blockchain and logistics operations by giving them appropriate tools to make better decisions and save time and money.

How are technologies such as blockchain, IoT, AI and ML transforming the sector? Can you highlight some of the emerging use cases?

The most popular method of fulfilling deliveries today is through third-party logistics (3PL), which involves any company that provides outsourced services to move products and resources from one area to another. A 3PL service may comprise a single service such as transportation or a warehouse, or a complete system that maintains the entire supply chain. Much like inventory and warehouse management, these solutions use GPS and other tracking technologies to gather data in real time on locations and operations of their vehicles. IoT is powering the transformation process of enterprises, consumers and governments.

Emerging tools and technologies like smart speakers, ML and 4G are enabling efficiency, resulting in huge gains and more control at home and workplaces. AI- led automation in the form of self-driving forklifts, automated sorting, self-managing intelligent inventory systems and autonomous/driverless ground vehicles are revolutionising warehousing, logistics, distribution and inventory management. Intelligent software solutions are enabling better supplier selection, product design, audits, evaluations, production planning and B2B sourcing.

Internet-connected trackers use long- range networks such as low power wide area networks to let companies track specific items throughout their delivery journeys. In the same vein, satellite trackers provide location data on an item almost anywhere on the planet, even in areas that do not have cellular coverage. Bluetooth tags and beacons offer tracking data in smaller, more confined areas, and companies most often use them in retail stores to monitor customer traffic and offer marketing messages to customers. Finally, near field communication (NFC) tags, based on RFID standards, allow workers to use their mobile devices as readers for the NFC tags.

What are the key ICT solutions deployed by your organisation?

Data analytics, technology sharing platforms, application-based portals and telecommunication processes have improved a lot in the logistics space and are still improving. IoT and cloud computing have provided strength to our sector. Robotics technology, automation processes and drones are expected to be massive change makers when fully implemented in all processes.

Consumers are demanding faster logistics with more options. It has become essential for service providers to use technological innovations to utilise the maximum space, manpower, warehouses and vehicles with effective control on wastage and fuel charges.

What are the challenges faced while deploying these new-age technologies? How do you plan to address them?

I personally believe that IoT and AI have made our lives and businesses easy. I must say industry growth and market penetration are not as big as people are expecting it to be. There should be no barrier to IoT and AI implementation at present and in the future.

What technology trends are set to disrupt the logistics sector in the near future?

Contextual intelligence provided by technologies such as intelligent robotic sorting and AI-powered visual inspection are transforming warehouse management, shipping, tracking, logistics,  packaging, and so on. Supervised learning, unsupervised learning and reinforcement learning technologies are facilitating real-time decision-making, enhanced fraud detection and predictive insights. Companies and even governments that operate a large number of vehicles are more frequently using connected fleet management solutions to make the system more efficient. The continued growth of IoT and adoption by the industry is going to be a transformative force across all organisations.

The need to deliver on rapidly evolving customer expectations and simultaneously ensure profitability are driving businesses to rethink the way they have been executing supply chain and logistics operations. Achieving these twin objectives is not easy. To address this, savvy businesses have been experimenting with multiple disruptive technologies for quite some time now, thus opening doors to solutions driven by technologies such as ML, IoT, automation and data analytics among others. By integrating all our modern-day devices with internet connectivity, the IoT market is on its way to grow to over $3 trillion annually by 2026.