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. Aditya Vazirani, CEO, Robinsons Global Logistics Solutions, 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?
Logistics and SCM, especially in India, have evolved considerably over the past decade. From dingy, dilapidated structures without adequate lights, the godowns of yesterday are transformed into smart warehouses with extensive capacity, well-laid-out racks and an automated warehouse management system (WMS). Today, logistics and SCM companies rely heavily on ICT for simple tasks such as keeping inventory, scheduling despatches and freight forwarding, managing documentation, handling employees, providing effective customer service as well as for adequate and timely handling of special shipments or cargo, such as pharmaceuticals and F&B. The opening up of global markets has enhanced the import and export opportunity, further enhancing the evolution of the sector. The simultaneous rise of the digital global economy, from cryptocurrency, fintech, e-commerce, e-grocery stores, and e-pharmacies have all led to the transformation of the logistics sector, which has adapted rapidly to technology.
How are technologies such as blockchain, IoT, AI and ML transforming the sector? Can you highlight some of the emerging use cases?
Just like in other businesses, emerging technologies such as logistics IoT, AI and ML are disrupting logistics and the SCM sector as well, and that too at a fast pace. From the introduction of robots and chatbots for customer relationship management (CRM) and WMS, to the use of automation in tracking and updating freight movement, AI and IoT have been extensively deployed and are successful. With the increasing thrust on sustainable and green SCM, replacing manual practices with automation is also driving efficiency and growth. From effective stacking and piling algorithms, automated temperature and humidity control areas, as well as robotic assistants for loading and unloading of cargo in trucks, new-age technology innovations have made their presence felt across the SCM spectrum.
What are the key ICT solutions deployed by your organisation?
As a new-age logistics and warehousing company, we focus on integrating relevant technology for our internal as well as external processes. Warehousing is a focus area of business. As an ecologically conscious company, we are deploying technology to create sustainable warehousing and a greener supply chain. In addition to this, we have also introduced smart WMS for our clients that seek special storage conditions, including temperature-sensitive warehousing and transport for pharma and F&B. Apart from these, we follow the latest technology for the digitalisation of our HR and customer service departments, including CRM and other digital processes.
What are the challenges faced while deploying these new-age technologies? How do you plan to address them?
While disruption in the sector through technology is inevitable, the equivalent availability of trained human resources is one of the biggest challenges faced in the implementation of ICT by most logistics companies. From managing temperature-controlled warehouses and cold supply chains to the effective use of WMS, most resources are either inadequately trained or completely unaware of the significance and the technical nuances of handling tech-enabled processes.
Apart from human resources, implementing or setting up new technology often comes at a cost, especially since most of them require integration into the existing system, which may or may not be feasible for all logistics service providers. These challenges further hinder logistics service providers from leveraging the technology to its full potential. Investing time and effort in training human resources extensively for handling the latest technology is the first step. Second is a proper selection and implementation of tech-enabled processes in the system. Done in this order, one can already have a skilled workforce to handle a next-generation technology-enabled system and leverage the innovation to the fullest, to become a truly futuristic logistics company.
What technology trends are set to disrupt the logistics sector in the near future?
There are a lot of innovations that are already being tested in the logistics and SCM segments. However, some of the most disruptive technology developments for the logistics sector are set to be in the areas of warehousing, last-mile delivery, and integrated services by 3PL and 4PL players. These would include IoT for managing performance of people and machines, monitoring energy consumption and tracking inventory; AI for production and delivery as well as chatbots for customer service, 3D printing for virtual warehouses, last-minute shipping and storage and replacement of parts; drone delivery for asset tracking, monitoring risk hotspots and locating employees/ shipments; and driverless vehicles for accident-free, fast and efficient last-mile delivery.