Disruptions in supply chains are unwanted, but can sometimes be unavoidable. New technology introduced to logistics functions has helped to lessen these disruptions, increase efficiency and responsiveness, and also meet the ever-growing expectations of customers. Since the affordability of these technologies has also increased, they are becoming more and more available to companies wishing to improve their logistics functions. Experts anticipate that over the next few years, the Transportation Management System (TMS) will become more heavily used, autonomous vehicles and drones will increase, and the use of robots will also increase.

Any effective logistics management operation should yield four key results. Revenue should increase as a result of using the system, performance should increase, operations costs should be reduced, and customer service should be improved. Automated functions have helped companies to meet all of these goals and have made them a critical component in logistics management. The TMS, for example, is a subset of supply chain management that evaluates inbound and outbound orders to suggest ideal routes. Because of its high cost, TMS was not typically utilized unless there was an abnormally large amount of shipments. However, the rise of cloud technology has allowed TMS to become more integrated and accessible for almost all parties. In the past, TMS was located on site and only capable of minimal levels of communication, so this is a vast improvement.

Drone use is also becoming increasingly common for deliveries, however, the technology is not quite ready to be introduced on a large scale. Since there is much left to do to improve the delivery times and ensure that drones are being used safely and effectively, many are turning to autonomous vehicles. In fact, a logistics provider in Arizona is already using the vehicles. These types of cars will help to address the current driver shortage in the transportation industry, and will hopefully help to minimize the potential damage from long-haul driver fatigue. Since there are still concerns of the risks associated with these self-driving vehicles, the insurance industry will play a crucial role in helping this technology to be utilized successfully.

Finally, robots in warehouses will be used widely throughout warehouses for loading, unloading, and delivery, especially in 2016. The Amazon Kiva, for example, is a robot that has typically been used internally for production. Other companies such as GreyOrange Robotics have created robotic systems that even bring the shelves to the pickers. Fetch Robotics Freight has additionally developed a mobile base and mobile picking robot that will make the physical workload of picking totes simple and less strenuous. As a result of using these robots, the preparation time prior to shipment will decrease, meaning that these companies can decrease their shipping times, increase the volume shipped, and in turn improve customer satisfaction.

None of these technological developments would be feasible without the growth of the Internet of Things. Continuing to develop and utilize these technologies will allow for benefits such as intelligent route planning and optimization, timely deliveries, increased transparency and accountability, reduced returns, and overall cost savings. In a time where two-day shipping has become the expectation, customers are judging companies based on logistics speed rather than product quality. Using these technologies will ensure that logistics functions are kept up to speed, and continue to drive further developments in the logistics industry.

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