Prateek Joshi,Head Information Technology, India Infrastructure and Logistics Private 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 Prateek Joshi, Head Information Technology, India Infrastructure and Logistics Private 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?

The evolution of technology is  pushing  the boundaries and changing how the world does business. Improved technology has also increased productivity in the supply chain, minimising costs and errors. These advances benefit all areas of the logistics industry – truck transportation, international transportation (ocean and air), SCM and  shipment  tracking. Here are three major technology advances that are changing the future of the logistics industry.

Tracking systems

Previously, customers booked shipments, received an estimated delivery date and then were left in the dark, unless they decided to make a phone call. Enhanced GPS coverage has enabled tracking of shipments across the country on a real- time basis. This has helped customers immensely in planning their logistics and monitoring their shipments on real-time basis and also improving hauls through access to updated traffic data.

RFID

RFID technology, which has been in use for a few years, is a popular labour-saving method that companies use to track their inventory. A tag or sensor is placed on the product and radio waves are sent  out.  The data is then received and processed centrally. Today, many companies are using RFID tags in their distribution warehouses to monitor containers.

Self-driven vehicles and drones

Autonomous cars are already a reality, with trucks not too far behind. Tesla and Uber have already made long hauls using autonomous trucks, with Tesla releasing a truck this year. Amazon has announced a new service called Amazon Prime Air to deliver packages to the doorstep by using drones,. Deliveries by drones are still a few years away due to regulatory measures and associated costs, but the value addition that this technology can provide in distribution is truly amazing.

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

The emergence of technologies such as AI, ML and blockchain has transformed the fragmented logistics market. The capabilities of AI are enhancing the sector’s efficiency in demand forecasting and capacity planning, thus making them more proactive. Meanwhile, big data analytics allows logistics companies to accurately forecast outlooks and optimises their resources better than ever, besides improving data quality. The availability of clean and structured data immensely helps in real-time decision-making on availability, inventories, personnel and other logistics areas.

Further, technologies such as blockchain help in seamless information flow among heterogeneous systems and networks, thus increasing efficiencies and reducing costs.

What are the key ICT solutions deployed by your organisation?

Recent technological advancements such as blockchain, cloud computing, social networking and wireless communication have improved the methods by which data is distributed and the way supply chains are structured. For us it is very important to ensure our operation deliverables are strong for our existing customers. India- Linx has deployed a host of technological solutions to provide our customers real- time information on their shipments and are also integrating with our partners’ supply chain, using a host of integration systems, thus enabling bidirectional information flow on customers’ shipments. Better forecasting of demand and lead times by making efficient analysis of historical data has helped in better utilisation and planning of assets and personnel.

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

The use of ICT is unevenly distributed among major stakeholders. The irregular distribution of ICT among various stakeholders can be primarily attributed to:

  • Resistance to change among transporters
  • Smaller size of business and thus insufficient resources to invest in ICT systems
  • Lack of user-friendly ICT systems
  • Reluctance of large transport businesses to prevent information sharing with smaller players in the supply chain due to the use of proprietary systems, thus preventing real supply chain integration.

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

Technology is poised to be a game changer for the logistics industry, helping it shift from redundant processes and manual heterogeneous systems towards becoming an efficient and agile machine. Below are a few technologies that have the potential to rapidly transform the logistics industry.

IoT – the future of logistics

IoT can significantly disrupt the logistics industry with its ability to provide real- time alerts and notifications, and automated data collection. IoT can easily track the health of various systems, carry out inventory tracking and replenishments, provide better visibility in cargo shipments, and regulate temperature in sensitive cargo.

Blockchain logistics in supply chain

As a distributed ledger, blockchain helps in secure and transparent transactions across multiple partners in a seamless way on a real-time basis. With blockchain, logistics firms will be able to provide their customers with better transparency and visibility about shipment, while avoiding any data counterfeiting, leaks or breaches.

Robotics in warehousing

Currently, advancements are being made in robotics to automate and fast-track a wide gamut of warehousing function. includes programming the robots to pick and pack, load and unload, perhaps also deliver. The use of robotics not only fast- tracks processes, data collection, record keeping and inventory management, but also eradicates the scope of human error in the equation.