There is much speculation about the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on the transportation industry, though as yet there is not much implementation. The benefit of its application will be in filling the shortage of workers in the logistics industry. Now is the time to make a new strategy for distribution networks as part of the ongoing digital revolution.
E-commerce is extending into B2B transactions, nano stores are becoming popular and we now have a circular economy. Due to these factors, the flow of goods will gain speed, increasing in frequency and intricacy. Over the next ten years, packing density, which is the amount of order lines per meter cubed, will grow by five to ten times. The cost of transport or storage will not be the major influence on the organization of distribution networks. This will rely on how efficiently goods can be handled, and the logistics industry is changing due to developing technologies.
There are three such developments that will have a major impact upon distribution networks, they are: Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T), autonomous transport, which will transport goods over these networks, and the developments in warehousing technology.
TEN-T is a group of ten designated transport links which cross national borders which will be built and developed by the European Commission until 2030, and will include innovation over railways, roads and water. The objective is to firm up the transport infrastructure in Europe by implementing intelligent management systems to the transport network, in the hope that costs will come down. The new network will be safe and robust, and will carry goods uninterrupted and reliably along it’s corridors between Europe’s major hubs.
Autonomous transport in the form of unmanned trucks is becoming more possible with developments in AI. Wireless technology will be used to interconnect ‘road trains’ with a manually controlled truck at the front. They will need to have the capacity for enough volume and frequency; therefore distribution centers will need to be enormous in order for logistics companies to combine the flow of transport across chains in order to deliver more frequency & reliability.
Distribution centers are also becoming what is known as ‘dark stores’, where robots, RFID chips, automated case picking, GS1 pallet labels, dock & roll and pick by voice are the technologies which are combining to handle the increased intricacy and frequency of deliveries, and DC productivity has been increasing exponentially as a result of their implementation.