Today, automation and digitalization are being implemented in almost all areas of human activity. Logistics is no exception.
The past year has shown how vulnerable global logistics is, and how everything in it is tied to a person: during a pandemic, the need to minimize the coexistence of people to a minimum paralyzed the industry: there was no opportunity to carry out loading and unloading, borders were closed.
The second factor that has become key on the path to digitalization of logistics has become the very “human factor”, which is so much talked about, and which digitalization is designed to eliminate. We are talking about the recent disaster in the Suez Canal. It has been proven that a banal operator error led to the blocking of Evergiven by the court. As a result, the “traffic jam” in Suez resulted in billions of dollars in losses. At the same time, if the navigation of the vessel was carried out by automation, with a high degree of probability Evergiven would calmly pass the channel, and its name would remain unknown to the world community.
These are just a couple of examples where a lack of automation has affected global logistics in general. And, of course, digitalization can radically change the work of each logistics company separately.
What are the advantages of digitalization in the context of an individual company
Modern automation tools and the capabilities of computer systems are amazing. They are also actively developing in logistics. And the prospects for using digital solutions can already be identified:
- Accounting for the work of each employee of the logistics company
Digital solutions for organizing personnel accounting and control are today used even in the smallest firms, and within large enterprises, for example, the same seaports, it is needed like air. Control of working time, accounting of work performed – all this can be done automatically.
- Remote execution of operations
If last year became a test year for logistics managers and showed that it is possible to successfully perform their functions not only in the office, but also from home, then automation for remote control of logistics processes for port workers is still a novelty. At the same time, digitalization helps to reduce the burden on staff, provide them with a more comfortable and safer working environment and increase productivity.
- Accounting for cargo and containers
This is perhaps the only area where automation has been used for a long time. And with the development of technologies on guard of warehouse accounting and control, accounting has become even more accurate.
- The ability to provide customers with the so-called customer experience – that is, the choice of delivery options in automatic mode
- Control of all processes in real time
Such solutions are convenient both for the company itself and for its customers, who can track the movement of their goods online.
- Search for clients and partners
It is also much more efficient to implement with the help of digital solutions. At first, online freight exchanges set the tone for this direction, today the trend is gaining momentum and shifting towards special applications that will allow interaction with the counterparty remotely and in digital mode.
What do we get as a result?
The implementation of digital products and solutions in logistics has a lot of advantages:
- Savings on the number of personnel and, accordingly, on remuneration.
If a couple of operators and digital equipment that is programmed and controlled remotely can handle the loading of containers in the port, you will not have to pay a salary to a large staff of loaders and stevedores.
- Environmental component
Innovation, including the introduction of green energy, reducing air pollution by using electronics instead of gasoline engines – all this benefits the planet as a whole and plays an asset in your reputation as a responsible and modern representative of the logistics market.
- Operation speed
Automated processes are always much more accurate and faster than human work. And this is also worth considering. For example, last year’s collapses in world ports showed how critical delays in the implementation of logistics tasks are. And automation will help solve them.
- Reduced corruption
If on a global scale this advantage is not one of the most important, for the Ukrainian reality it is a fact: if the processes are carried out automatically, according to clearly defined algorithms, there will be less corruption schemes in logistics and its relationship with government agencies.
- Optimization of work processes
Everyone who is engaged in logistics has at least once faced an emergency: lack of transport, delays on the way, personnel errors – all this can start a chain, the result of which will be untimely or poor-quality provision of logistics services. By using digital solutions, such risks are minimized. Of course, any automation can fail, but according to statistics, failures of automatic processes occur much less often than human errors.
As you can see, digitalization is an inevitable process, which, moreover, brings a number of significant benefits for logistics companies.
But won’t automation replace the entire staff?
In fiction, a plot where production or infrastructure is completely controlled by machine intelligence is not uncommon. In practice, we can say that humanity is unlikely to come to such drastic measures in the near future.
Yes, there are excellent successful port digitalization cases – for example, automatic loading and unloading of containers in the ports of Rotterdam, Qingdao or Long Beach.
But despite all the scale and incredible capabilities, in the end, control over the implementation of port operations rests with a person. It is in this connection – the execution of processes by automatic devices under human control – that digitalization can achieve maximum efficiency in logistics.
What technologies can be put into service in logistics?
We have already mentioned the successful practice of automating the loading and unloading of containers in ports using automated cranes controlled by an operator behind a computer monitor, rather than from a cockpit.
But there are several more technologies that are already being implemented or will be introduced into logistics in the coming years for its digitalization:
- Internet of things
If all major devices, from cranes or forklifts, to the computers of operators and warehouse workers, are part of the “Internet of things”, that is, they are networked, have remote control and programming capabilities, then the implementation of the supply chain will be much more efficient.
Example: DHL case. The carrier improved its operational efficiency by 87% simply by using an application for scheduling employees that applies the principles of the “Internet of Things”.
- Delivery by autonomous transport
While it looks fantastic, the use of drones, automated forklifts and, in the future, self-driving cars for logistics purposes will help simplify all the processes.
- Robotization in everything
Not only port complexes can use automatic cranes. Robots can help with warehouse work, moving goods along short routes.
And these are just the obvious technologies that digitalization in logistics is already using. In general, modern high technologies can be used at deeper levels – for analytics, forecasting, management.
How will they be used in Ukrainian logistics? The answer to this question depends only on you and me.
Victor Berestenko, President of the Association of International Freight Forwarders of Ukraine, specially for CTS