Just like any other industry, logistics is feeling the effects of advancing technology and globalization. Changes in the industry mean that companies have to keep up with how everything is shifting if they want to make sure they don’t fall behind. There are new technologies to consider, as well as the skills to go along with them. If you own a logistics company or work in logistics, it’s essential to be aware of how things are changing if you want to be successful. You need to know which skills are in demand or what sort of talent you should be looking for. You should anticipate how forthcoming tech could have an influence in the next decade or so, as well as how it’s changing the industry now.
On the Road
Obviously, one major concern in the logistics industry is the world of transport. It’s important to be aware of how vehicles are changing and what that means for businesses and for the job market in the logistics industry. The big topic of the moment is self-driving cars, when they might be available, and just how they could be used. Currently, self-driving vehicles are being developed and tested, but it’s going to be a while before they’re seen on the roads. When they are available, the logistics industry, and not just private drivers, is sure to be affected.
Recently, Tesla has sought to test driverless trucks on public roads. They are working on developing electric trucks that can drive in groups, following a lead vehicle. Other companies are working on developments in this area too, including Uber and Waymo. If driverless vehicles do become a reality soon, this could certainly cause concern for the job market in the industry. Autonomous vehicles don’t require drivers, which could lead to a reduction in the workforce. For logistics businesses, however, it could mean higher efficiency for deliveries. However, how exactly autonomous vehicles might work on the road in terms of legality and regulation is not yet clear, and they won’t be on the market for a while.
Perhaps a more pressing development to consider is the electric truck. Tesla’s first electric truck will be unveiled in late 2017, and there are already all-electric trucks on the road. With several countries announcing plans to phase out cars that run only using gas or diesel, hybrid and electric vehicles are the future. Their popularity has grown, and they have become more efficient and more affordable. Electric trucks are more environmentally-friendly in terms of being zero-emission, although there are some other concerns about their manufacture and makeup. As the use of electric vehicles grows, it will also become more cost-effective.
Other technology within vehicles is also changing the industry. It’s not just major changes like autonomous or electric trucks that make a difference. For example, delivery tracking is something that is becoming more sophisticated. GPS technology makes it easier to track vehicles, whereas current tracking methods often involve simply scanning deliveries when they reach different points in the delivery process. Electronic logging devices also help to track drivers and record driving information to improve safety and efficiency.
Technology Off the Road
It’s not just technology on the road that is making a difference to the logistics industry. Tech used back at the office, in warehouses and other locations is making waves too. Autonomous vehicles might not yet be on the roads, but autonomous robots are being used in other areas. For example, BMW is developing Smart Transport Robots, and they’re trying out autonomous tugger trains. Robots can already be seen in many homes and businesses, performing jobs such as mowing lawns, vacuuming, or even maintaining security. They could take over a range of warehousing tasks. Much like autonomous vehicles, they could be cause for concern when it comes to the logistics job market. However, they don’t necessarily have to replace people, but rather assist them instead.
Inside warehouses, the “Internet of Things” is making a big difference too. Everything is becoming more connected, so different areas can communicate with each other. It improves efficiency by making it easier to know when items are low in stock, what’s selling and what isn’t, and what has arrived or is leaving the warehouse. This type of technology uses sensors and wireless tech to report changes, as well as mobile devices and software to view and manage data. It can help to collect plenty of data too, which is useful for examining what might need to change and what’s working well.
Something else to consider that’s related to delivery but technically off the road is the rise of drones. Drones can be used to deliver smaller packages by air, cutting out the need for other types of transport and making deliveries quicker. Amazon has been testing out unmanned drones for deliveries, and they soon want to expand. They recently submitted a patent for “multi-level fulfilment centers”, where they want to house their delivery drones. There have been various other patents filed related to drones too. However, how many of these design concepts could actually become a reality is yet to be seen. Drones would also reduce the need for delivery drivers, but there would be an increased need for people to manage drone deliveries and maintain drones too.
All these technological changes in the logistics industry mean that it is becoming much more globalized. It’s easier to connect with the rest of the world when technology makes it seem not so far away. In logistics, globalization means more areas to trade in and opportunities to turn your business into a multinational company. It can mean being able to access more affordable resources and make deals with diverse business partners, clients and suppliers. However, globalization also comes with its challenges. Logistics companies need to be able to anticipate market changes and keep up with trends, especially when considering things on a global level. There can be many barriers to expanding into other countries, from legal and regulatory compliance to understanding local markets, cultures, and customs.
It’s important to keep an eye on how things are changing to keep up with the effects of globalization in the logistics world. Watching the shifting and forming of global trade deals is essential. For example, Canada recently made a deal with the EU. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, they will be looking at forming trade partnerships with various countries and trade blocs independently. When it comes to choosing logistics companies, many multinational companies want those with the best local knowledge. They also want companies that are up to date with a range of things, from communication and information technology to the use of data. Globalization means that logistics companies need to be prepared to compete with others to get noticed if they want the big contracts.
New Skills Needed
All the new technologies and trends within the logistics industry mean that there need to be changes in people too. When it comes to talent acquisition in the logistics industry, people need to start thinking differently. There are some roles when people might be starting to think that the number of jobs could soon be in decline. With technology taking over a range of tasks, it might mean fewer warehouse workers or even drivers are required. However, for now, most companies in the logistics world will still need these people. Only the largest businesses are experimenting with things like robots in their warehouses, and this type of technology won’t be affordable for smaller businesses for a while. Still, it’s a good idea to consider how your skills might need to be built on. For example, being able to work with various tech in a warehouse could give you an advantage as an employee.
Jobs and skills required at various other levels of seniority and in different departments are shifting too. With everything going digital, many people need to work on their digital skills if they want to have a chance of surviving in the industry. It’s always important to watch what employers are asking for, and even which new roles are emerging in your industry. Some jobs start to appear that didn’t exist before due to new trends and the use of new technology. Not too long ago, most companies didn’t have a digital content manager, but now many of them do. Whether you want to start your career in logistics or you already work in the industry, it’s important to keep your skills up to date. Having great IT skills and technical literacy is becoming more important in the industry today and for the foreseeable future.
However, it’s not just job seekers and employees who should think about building skills. It’s also up to businesses in the industry to think about training their staff, so they have the skills required. As the need for certain skills grows, the talent pool to select from doesn’t necessarily keep up. It’s often better to make the best hires you can without all the required skills and offer extra training to new recruits. If the potential is there, don’t get too hung up on the right qualifications, certificates or even experience. They can always learn what they need to know.
Keeping Up with Other Companies
Any business owner in the logistics industry is likely to worry about how they can keep up as things change. It’s perfectly understandable that you might be concerned as things seem to be changing faster than ever. Keeping up with competitors and ensuring your company doesn’t fall behind isn’t easy. It’s especially difficult for smaller companies that don’t have the same funds and resources as the huge multinationals. However, even though your business might not be making huge innovations or leading the way, it doesn’t mean that you can’t follow. Your business can make an effort to keep up with changes in the industry.
The first rule of keeping up with changes in the industry is simply to be aware of them. If you don’t know what’s happening, you certainly won’t have a chance of following. There are plenty of ways to stay informed about what’s changing, especially as the internet makes it extremely easy. Regularly consuming news and analysis of the latest events will help you stay up to date. You can read newspapers, both online and offline, as well as blogs by industry experts. Use social media to listen in on and take part in conversations about the industry.
You can even make sure you get the latest information delivered straight to you with Google Alerts and subscriptions to blogs or magazines. Getting involved with business communities and forums is useful too, in addition to attending trade shows, conferences and other events. Networking with people in person, talking to people in the business, and listening to what the experts have to say is important.
Knowing what’s happening in the logistics industry is an essential first step, but you also need to know how and when to take action. It can be difficult to know which trends in the industry you should be following. When you don’t have as much money as some much larger companies, you need to be careful not to spend your budget on the wrong things. It’s often best to wait for other companies that can afford to take larger risks to try out new things first. Once you can see what they have success with, and perhaps watch some smaller companies follow them, it could be time for you to do the same.
Of course, even then, you shouldn’t do anything without taking a close look at how it’s going to help your business. If it’s a change that everyone around you has already made or is making, it probably makes sense for you to make the same change. However, sometimes you want to avoid falling for a passing fad that might not have any overall benefit for your company. So be careful about the choices you make to keep up with your competitors.
The logistics industry is changing, just like most others are. Staying informed is your best defense against getting left behind.
We wish to thank Friddy Hoegener, CEO and Co-Founder of SCOPE Recruiting for this article. Friddy has a Master’s degree from HULT International Business School and extensive background in the Supply Chain and Recruiting Industry. Friddy started his career in Supply Chain Management with a Fortune 500 company before transitioning into the recruiting world.