Today’s global logistics industry was worth $4.92 trillion in 2021, with that number set to increase to a staggering $6.55 trillion by 2027. Supply chain professionals that want a bigger share of that financial opportunity are searching for innovative solutions to deliver on time, every time. Industry giants like Amazon have dedicated as much as $1 billion toward industry innovations. For logistics providers of all sizes, an improved supply chain technology stack is the key to improved freight visibility, operational efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.
Most tech buzz (and investment) in the logistics industry focuses on three fast-growing sectors:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Self-driving trucks
- Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
With an eye toward the must-know information for shippers, we’ve dug into three fast-moving supply chain technology trends for today’s logistics professionals.
In its 2022 industry report, MHI, a supply chain industry group that studies supply chain technology trends, found that 17% of logistics providers are already using AI in daily operations, and 45% expect to be using AI within the next five years. For these shippers, AI isn't so much Arnold Schwarzenegger-like killer robots and explosions; instead, it's a vital component of a daily supply chain technology stack.
To understand how AI is helping shippers deliver on time every time, we first need to turn to another initialism: IoT (or the Internet of Things). The Internet of Things refers to the vast network of communication between the devices populating an increasingly internet-enabled world. That connection between your Smart TV and your iPhone? It's IoT in action. Another example: Your 5G juicer's connection with a WiFi-connected refrigerator.
For shippers looking to refine their supply chain technology stack, the IoT is becoming increasingly essential: smart trackers can integrate into freight visibility software, and ocean freight visibility platforms can communicate freely through APIs and other software. However, these supply chain technology trends need to operate human-free to deliver the efficiency they promise.
With AI, IoT devices can communicate seamlessly without human workers interrupting essential operations. "The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to connect everything from courier drivers wearing smart uniforms and smart watches to driving smart vehicles on smart roads with intelligent signage where every container, pallet, package are all AI and IoT-sensor connected," Forbes noted in 2021. "These new capabilities are changing how decisions are made, what routes to take, how fleets are managed, and where packages, products, and cargo flow."
As the global logistics industry continues to build connections, AI allows increasingly complex networks to communicate on behalf of customers and logistics providers alike.
Self Driving Trucks
One of many supply chain technology trends under the broad umbrella of AI, self-driving trucks are an often-discussed solution to an ongoing driver shortage, expected to reach 160,000 drivers by 2030. And investors are taking note, with big-name entrepreneurs like Warren Buffett purchasing controlling stakes in self-driving shipping companies. As Bloomberg writes, reporting on Buffett-owned Berkshire Hathaway's purchase of self-driving startup Kodiak, "This investment is a significant validation by Berkshire Hathaway [...] that driverless trucks are on the cusp of being a reality."
Although fast-growing startups like Embark, Kodiak, and Aurora offer their customers a wide variety of self-driving freight assets, there are a few key features that most self-driving trucks have in common.
Although trucking is typically associated with long hours alone with the open road, self-driving trucks rely on integration into a shipper’s active network. This means that self-driving trucks, which have the advantage of 24/7 operations, can be easily accessed by a rotating team of human operators through cloud control.
Reliance on Sensors
Self-Driving trucks rely on a broad array of sensors to act as their eyes and instincts:
- Radar sensors can help locate the position of other vehicles on the road.
- Cameras can read signage and track pedestrians as they cross intersections.
- Lidar sensors can ensure that trucks stay in their lane and measure the distance between moving objects.
Without these sensors, all connected through a central AI "brain," a self-driving truck would be driving blind.
While self-driving trucks are often considered a solution to the ongoing driver shortage, today’s self-driving trucks are dependent on human drivers, whether in the cab or able to take remote control at a moment's notice. Due to strict regulations placed on the trucking industry, it’s unlikely that we’ll see fully autonomous vehicles on the road in the near future.
Although self-driving trucks could be an exciting addition to a shipper’s supply chain technology stack, it remains unclear, as with many supply chain technology trends, when they’ll see broad implementation across the logistics industry. What’s clear, however, is that self-driving trucks are here to stay, with a recent study from the University of Michigan predicting that self-driving trucks could replace up to half a million truck drivers in the coming years. For self-driving trucks, it’s not a matter of if they’ll revolutionize the logistics industry, but when.
Though perhaps less glitzy than artificial intelligence or self-driving trucks, software innovation is at the heart of recent supply chain technology trends. Forming the core of any tech-forward shipper’s supply chain technology stack, the majority of these software innovations consist of advancements in API.
Ultimately, an API improves real-time freight visibility throughout a shipper’s operations. By allowing applications to communicate with each other, a cloud-based API gives shippers vital freight visibility accessible through a single platform.
Before API, shippers had to contend with messy information systems and inefficient manual processes. These complex processes — dependent on filing cabinets and spreadsheets, faxes, and phone calls — resulted in unending supply chain slow-downs.
Through the integration of multiple applications into a single freight visibility source of truth, an experienced, API-enabled logistics partner can help shippers simplify logistics operations from a messy pile of disparate data into a single, refined source of truth. Container tracking, intelligent ETAs, and automated exception alerts are now instantly available to logistics providers throughout a shipper’s supply chain. With an API, shippers can streamline their supply chain technology stack and access the flexibility they need in a fast-moving global logistics marketplace.
Unprecedented Times Require Unprecedented Innovation—Partner with OpenTrack Today
Facing an unpredictable industry, today’s logistics professionals are desperate to improve ocean freight visibility through innovations like A.I., self-driving trucks, and API-enabled software innovations. But not all technology providers are the same. Shippers need a trustworthy freight visibility partner.
Today's logistics professionals face an unpredictable industry and are desperate to improve ocean freight visibility through innovations like AI, self-driving trucks, and API-enabled software innovations. But not all technology providers are the same. Shippers need a trustworthy freight visibility partner.
By partnering with OpenTrack, a leading cloud-based ocean freight visibility API provider, shippers can access the latest in ocean freight visibility and innovation. OpenTrack's industry-leading freight visibility software gives shippers access to automated exception alerts, real-time ocean freight visibility, and easily integrated customer interfaces. Book a demo with OpenTrack today, and access unprecedented ocean freight visibility through unparalleled innovation.