After more than a year of widespread disruptions, supply chain and logistics operations are starting to regain pre-pandemic productivity. About 72 percent of executives surveyed by EY say Covid-19 had an overall negative impact, so the year ahead will be one of rebuilding and growth. It’s the perfect opportunity to improve logistics for any company.
The past year and a half have revealed where many supply chains’ weaknesses lie. New technologies have likewise shown the way forward. Here are five ways you can use technology to improve your logistics.
Increase visibility with IoT and blockchain
A lack of transparency is one of the most significant obstacles logistics operations face today. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can provide needed visibility, letting companies track products and their condition throughout the supply chain. This includes monitoring factors like temperature and vibrations remotely to ensure product safety.
Similarly, blockchains provide a way to verify products’ identity and origins. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals alone generate $200 billion annually, but blockchains offer an immutable record of where a shipment came from. This transparency can let suppliers and customers ensure they only deal with genuine products.
Implement robotics in the warehouse
Another helpful way to improve logistics operations with technology is through robotic automation. Warehouses are ideal use cases for robotics since they typically feature slow, repetitive manual workflows. Picking and material handling are tasks robots can perform far more efficiently than people, freeing employees to focus on other jobs.
Robots are an excellent way to expand warehouse workforces during peak seasons. When demand starts picking up around holidays, you can turn to robots to help employees with the extra workload. That way, you maintain high productivity without slow seasonal hiring processes.
Automate routine tasks with RPA
Automation can apply to more than just physical tasks like moving and loading. Robotic process automation (RPA) uses automated software to handle repetitive data-based tasks like paperwork filing and administrative work. When you automate these processes, employees will have more time to work on value-adding tasks, improving productivity.
RPA is ideal for compliance-related tasks since it’s often more accurate than humans with data-heavy work. Misunderstandings in regulatory definitions and requirements can lead to legal complications, so accuracy is a must with these filings. RPA is the ideal solution.
Monitor for cyberthreats with machine learning
Major cyberattacks like the SolarWinds hack have brought new emphasis to the importance of supply chain security. Technology can help in this area, too, most notably through machine learning-based monitoring and response. Machine learning models can learn from past data breaches to look for and address similar attacks in a supply chain’s network.
Continuous monitoring helps spot and contain potential breaches faster, but doing so manually is expensive and challenging. Machine learning algorithms are more affordable and can identify threats far quicker. Machine learning improves as it gathers more data, so the longer you use these systems, the better they become.
Use data analytics to review and optimize operations
Similarly, you can use machine learning models to analyze supply chain data and suggest improvements. If you want to boost logistics operations in any meaningful way, you’ll have to embrace continuous improvement. Using data analytics reveals where your paths to ongoing optimization lie.
Machine learning models can find where you’re falling short and predict which fixes would be most beneficial. After making any changes, the same systems can analyze results to indicate if they’ll generate positive returns on investment. These technologies have shown so much potential that the European Union has started a three-year project applying them to customs improvements.
Technology provides many ways to improve logistics operations
As supply chain activity picks back up, you have an ideal opportunity to improve logistics operations. Technology, from machine learning to the blockchain, is the way forward, and there are many paths to progress within it. No matter your specific situation or needs, you can capitalize on new technologies to optimize your logistics.