Emerging technologies, micro-fulfilment centres and more diversity to define 2020
DHL believes these are the key trends that will transform logistics and supply chains in 2020
DHL Supply Chain has shared the three supply chain trends that will have the greatest impact on operations in North America in the coming year. These are increasing adoption of emerging technologies, increased workforce diversity and building and deploying smaller fulfilment centres close to the customer.
“We know the supply chain is continuing to become more complex,” said Scott Sureddin, CEO, DHL Supply Chain, North America. “As we enter a new decade, we are seeing a maturation and expansion of many technologies, and applications we could not have imagined even three years ago. In many ways, these technologies, combined with a new generation of talent in the workforce and less separation between brands and consumers, are contributing to the evolution of the supply chain. We will be able to be more productive and more efficient, while providing an even higher level of value to our customers.”
Emerging technologies go mainstream
The past decade has brought technological advances at a breakneck speed, from autonomous vehicles to Big Data to robotics. As 2020 approaches, those technologies are maturing and being more widely adopted. What were once niche technologies are now becoming available to companies of all sizes across industries.
Companies are eager to pilot new technology in their facilities and are now faced with the task of determining which technologies will not only deliver the greatest return on investment, but also integrate most effectively into their existing operations. With 5G on the horizon and the pending rush of even more data, now is the time for companies to ensure they have a strong data management foundation so they are well positioned to collect and, more importantly, mine the data to derive actionable insights. Those companies already at the forefront are applying insights to solve a variety of challenges including levelling out the traditionally disruptive spikes of peak season.
“As we go into 2020, we’ll see artificial intelligence getting more accessible, robots becoming more sophisticated, and predictive modeling becoming even more accurate,” said Sureddin. “This maturation will allow us to apply technologies in even more ways to drive efficiency and create value for our customers. The last decade introduced us to these technologies and the next decade will make them commonplace.”
Putting the product close to the consumer
The distance between consumers and the products they want will continue to shrink in 2020. The new decade will bring growth of micro-fulfillment centres, especially in the grocery industry. Micro-fulfillment centres will continue to make sense for companies who need to quickly and efficiently fulfill online orders.
These micro-fulfillment centres, often in urban areas, are changing the image of a traditional distribution centre. DHL believes it will soon become just as likely for a distribution centre to be in a high-rise in Manhattan as it will be in a sprawling facility in a rural area, allowing consumers to receive their purchases with greater speed and efficiency. These micro-fulfillment centres sometimes take the shape of so-called ‘dark stores,’ automated, mini-warehouses or distribution centres to help fulfill online orders. Dark stores often look like actual stores, but without the customers. Although dark stores themselves aren’t new, the next year will bring more widespread adoption of them.
Gender diversity makes its mark in the supply chain
While labour challenges have captured all the headlines, a more subtle transformation is occurring in the workforce says DHL. Women are entering the logistics industry in greater numbers than ever before. DHL noted that women now make up 32% of its new associates. A variety of factors are influencing this shift including a greater emphasis on STEM in both early education and campus recruiting efforts. The integration of more technology has also minimized the importance of physical strength in traditional warehouse roles.