Big data analytics, RPA and advanced traceability: key technologies in the new post-COVID logistics
Wednesday, 14 October, 2020

Logistics has played a leading and influential role in recent months. The sector has been obligated to cope with new challenges when adapting to a reality that requires high doses of innovation and a clear commitment to business digitization and the use of new solutions and new technologies. 

In this setting, UNO, the Logistics and Transport Business Organization, and everis presented the pioneering report today, “Post-COVID-19 tech trends in the logistics sector”, whose aim is to help companies to identify challenges in the sector and the key technologies and operations for handling them.

To this end, the document details seven quick-win technologies, meaning those with a fast return on investment. These technologies, with reasonable outlays, will have an immediate impact on daily operations and will also ensure a quicker return on investment. On this list, the top three are Big Data, RPA (Robot Process Automation), and IoT and advanced traceability solutions.

These and other conclusions drawn in the report were publicized at the event The Revolution of Logistics 4.0, held at the Madrid Chamber of Commerce training center. The opening address was given by Mercedes Gómez, the managing director of Land Transportation at the Ministry of Transportation, Mobility and Urban Agenda; Ángel Asensio, president of the Madrid Chamber of Commerce; Rafael Barbadillo, president of the Transportation and Logistics Council of the CEOE (Confederation of Employers and Industries of Spain); and Francisco Aranda, president of the UNO business organization.

The challenges the logistics sector faces

The UNO and everis report first identifies the main challenges that the logistics sector has today, some stemming from the impact of the pandemic and others caused by the evolution of business, consumption and society.

The most notable challenges include managing omnichannel to provide the best customer experience, regardless of the channel employed, for operational and delivery safety, guaranteeing zero contact; and developing a smart supply chain, based on maximal automation of the processes involved in the supply chain. This must all be done without neglecting one of the most important challenges that society has ahead of it that is of particular concern to customers: sustainability and environmental friendliness (green logistics).

Winning technologies in the new post-COVID logistics

How can sector enterprises handle these challenges? Making decisions about which areas to invest in to develop and improve capacities is always tough.

To provide certainty, the authors of the report analyzed nearly 20 technologies, choosing seven from among them that have the best relationship between the investment required, the impact on daily efficiency and return on investment. These are the quick-win technologies in the new post-COVID logistics:

  • Big data analytics: mass analysis of data has endless advantages for logistics companies, letting them reduce costs, optimize resources, gain efficiency, minimize environmental impact and better manage demand forecasts.
  • RPA (Robot Process Automation): by automating administrative processes, companies can drastically reduce operational risk and become much more agile in managing processes.
  • IoT and advanced traceability: IoT devices and traceability systems have enormous possibilities, ranging from preventive maintenance and fleet monitoring to cold chain management and stock control. Thanks to these technologies, businesses can have complete real-time control of their supply chains.
  • iBPMS (Intelligent Business Process Management Systems): these types of low-code systems are focused on smarter and more optimized management of business processes via automation and prediction. For example, these systems let the order delivery process be digitized from beginning to end, with ensuing cost reductions of between 10% and 20%.
  • Augmented reality and image analytics: the combination of both technologies in the logistics sector has multiple practical applications, such as guiding operations, improving efficiency in the picking process and being able to provide interactive training to operators for complex activities, as well as increasing their safety.
  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning, chatbots: artificial intelligence can help us improve the sizing and distribution of warehouses and stock, automatically optimizing last-mile delivery routes and improving information for end users (chatbots, WhatsApp channels, etc.).
  • Gamification, simulation and virtual reality: via these technologies and practices, sector companies can provide dynamic and interactive training plans, motivating employees and increasing the safety of operations.

The COVID-19 crisis has made the sector evolve five years faster with regard to innovation and digitization. Efficiency has become an obligation to ensure business viability and, in this scenario, innovation and digitization are absolutely essential,” stressed Francisco Aranda, UNO president.

For his part, Cristóbal José Agüera, director of everis Initiatives, pointed out that “detecting the challenges we have ahead of us and the consequent definition of investment strategies in innovation is a key task for mitigating the impact of the crisis and, in parallel, achieving significant progress in the sector.”