Technology is rapidly changing logistics in maritime industry

Published: Monday, December 19, 2016

Technology will shape the shipping industry in three main ways – the reduction of physical human intervention in logistics, the integration of the internet of things and disintermediation.

Technology continues to transform logistics in the maritime industry.

Companies now utilize all kinds of drones, robotics, etc., for seamless delivery purposes.

The industry is filled with new technology and innovation. Before 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), drone delivery and augmented reality ideas were known to be integral parts of science fiction world.

But now, the shipping industry is embracing these advanced technologies to provide faster, cheaper, more reliable and sustainable delivery process.

In an email interview with Air Cargo Update, Mr. Nigel Moolenaar, SCS Implementation Head at Kerry Logistics, UK, notes that the shipping industry is on the brink of seeing futuristic technologies, such as the use of robots, which is now becoming mainstream.

“At Kerry Logistics, we have noticed the pace of technological advancements accelerate in many key areas. A lot of the significant trends we see centre on automation; aspects such as loading and unloading becoming automated and robotics appearing in the supply chain”.

Real time data

In the same thread, customers and organisations are looking for more and more real time data. This data is the key to implementing automation and speeding up process improvement.

“With this information at our fingertips, we can make quick decisions, and process improvement need not wait weeks or months. We are in an age of increasing personalisation within shipping, and thus, this value add increases customer satisfaction,” said Moolenaar.

“Data integration, allowing data to be passed between partners in the supply chain, results in a more personalised service for the end consumer. For example, some delivery companies are able to tell their customers how many deliveries their driver has that day, and where in the queue they are, so the customer can better plan their time,” he added.

When data sharing improves the service value along the chain, customers are more accepting of the practice and logistics becoming an important part of the value proposition to consumers, the executive stressed.

Major trends

Technology will shape the shipping industry in three main ways – the reduction of physical human intervention in logistics, the integration of the internet of things and disintermediation, according to Kerry Logistics UK.

“The reduction of human physical intervention embraces robotics and automation as a replacement for the human labour in the supply chain to bring down cost, fulfilment times and capacity for human error,” according to Moolenaar.

He further explained that as the age of the Internet of Things races on, ever more of the devices around us are connected in some helpful way to the internet.

For instance, a refrigerator may automatically reorder your milk and cheese when it senses there is none left.
This provides a greatly enhanced customer experience – the effort on their part on placing the order is zero!
The shipping landscape will need to address the challenge of these constant automated requests.

“Disintermediation addresses the question of how to reduce the steps in our supply chain, and improve efficiency and fulfilment times. Enhanced and new business models such as Airbnb, Über and Deliveroo have leant naturally toward a reduction in intermediaries as a way of reducing time and cost,” said Moolenaar.

“By linking manufacturer to end consumer, we also improve personalisation, as well as drive down mark-ups which happen in between. For those who remember, DELL computers were the pioneers of this model.”

Big data

Big data is translated into easily accessible knowledge, for better sharing. A summary of what that data means, along with a conclusion of what this means for us, and recomm-endations for improvement, are of much more use than large spread-sheets full of numbers.

“The shipping industry must begin to interpret and present data in a more intelligent way. This is how we can effectively communicate our value add,” said Moolenaar.

Through automation in warehouses, packing and loading, the main players in the shipping industry already see quicker fulfilment of orders and reduced D2D times. Several online retailers of white goods, fashion items and other consumer goods already enable customers to receive their goods the next day when they place their order any time till midnight the previous day.

In September 2015, Kerry Logistics became the first 3PL in Asia to adopt robotic butlers and the company already has six fully-automated and programmed robotic butlers at their flagship facility PC3 in Hong Kong. The integration of these robotics has, without a doubt, improved efficiency and reduced fulfilment times.

“Our butlers can pick 280 items per hour compared to an average of 50 when using human labour, making the pick time more than five times faster. Orders are transmitted to the butlers in real time via our proprietary warehouse management system (WMS), and the designated shelf is then picked and packed.

“We can already see robotic forklifts automatically offloading a vehicle and allocating items directly to their correct place in the warehouse. In theory, you could have a driverless car arrive at a warehouse, a robot offloading, and then another robot picking, sorting and loading items onto a drone which takes off from a nearby helipad,” explains Moolenaar.

Connecting businesses

Automation in the shipping industry will see each step of the supply chain becoming more and more integrated with the other. Planning for auto-mation involves all partners in the supply chain with similar objectives working together.

“Ideally, all planning to reduce costs and time scales will put the shipper and their clients at the core of the conversation, as the developments ultimately will be dictated by their requirements.”

Start-up ventures tend to be very efficient at reducing fulfilment time, as they are considering their supply chain for the first time, from a fresh perspective and with no pre-conceived ideas of what it should look like.

“They drive cost out of the supply chain as a result of not holding onto stock and disintermediation, so we see not only reduced time and client satisfaction but price advantages across the board,” explains Mr Nigel.

Future trends

The focus on corporate social responsibility will continue. Many industry developments have the common goal of reducing carbon emissions (CO2), and there is consensus for some time now that this has become the responsibility of the shipping industry to address these issues.

“At Kerry Logistics, we run our green facilities across the globe. We increasingly use renewable energy, and several of our sites in Hong Kong are LEED certified,” said Moolenaar.

The cost of reducing carbon emissions and embracing renewable energies has reduced so drastically in the last five years that any tech-nological advancements worth their salt will take these consider-ations on board.

“Technological developments within the supply chain are all about adding value to the products being shipped while, at the same time, reducing cost and time. Consumers will notice it becoming increasingly easy to find the exact products they want, customised to their requirements, available to order 24/7 and able to be shipped even during extended holiday periods,” Moolenaar concluded.

About Kerry Logistics

With head offices in Hong Kong, Kerry Logistics employs a far-reaching global network that stretches across six continents including the largest distribution network and hub operations in Greater China & the ASEAN region.