Technology adoption in the Indian logistics industry had not been at par with international standards until recently. That has changed dramatically in the last few years. Trends in logistics, coupled with explosion in e-commerce and needs of customers, has forced the industry to adapt.
The digital revolution of social, mobile, analytics, cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the landscape. Leaders in logistics will be those who not only have expertise but are also able to adopt newer technologies.
The digital space has multiple components, but mobile is one area that has brought in a quantum change. The apps provide not just dashboards, analytics and customised business information, but also last-mile delivery information, geofence, speed, among others.
Technology has further helped create new value-added product lines such as delivering a new shipment and picking up another item from the customer. Interlinked processes call for quality and quantity parameters being in line with the system processes, and product-wise check by the delivery person. Without mobile devices, this was earlier not possible. Technology has helped convert last-mile delivery to first-mile pick-up.
The e-commerce industry has habituated users to assume that every shipment in the country can be tracked through a scan. This was true only for courier and small shipments, and not for express parcel shipments. Now there is 100 per cent package level visibility using mobile technology. Corporate customers have derived exponential value through this service. With sensor costs falling, in the near future, each package could be tracked through sensors, eliminating the need for package level manual scans. This will lead to tremendous improvement in the way the logistics industry operates.
Another trend to have emerged from consumer demand is elastic logistics. Due to spikes in business, especially during festivals and sale promotions by e-tailers, volumes can jump up manifold, and shrink back quickly, requiring the entire organisation and technology platform to scale up and down on demand. With multiple service providers for pick-up, delivery, line haul, warehousing and other services, an integrated technology interface with multiple service providers will become the key to scaling up.
It is imperative to create an architecture that has a scalable environment tightly integrated with analytics, IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning and security, to meet the demands of elastic logistics.
Another trend to emerge is fixed time pick-ups and deliveries, which is a solution customised not only for the customer, but also for the customer's customer.
Between the Lines
The amount and speed of data being generated - not only of the key transactions, but also of the thousands of vehicles, machine movements, customer interactions and supplier side activities across the country - creates huge information. Analytics has become the buzz, and there is tremendous value in each segment. In fact, the industry is moving towards predictive logistics.
While robots in warehouses have been put to use by a few large e-tailers, adoption across the industry is very low at this juncture. The adoption of backend Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has, however, begun. It is transforming customer service, and minimising customer support agent operations as it provides complete updates at each stage to customers and also the necessary internal process of action as per the rules defined. It can support customers in selecting the right products based on turnaround time and price, and finally they can place pick-up requests without human intervention. Using RPA readings and customer interactions can be automated for faster response.
We are at the tip of a revolution wherein technologies like blockchain, drones, autonomous vehicles, smart glasses and 3D printing are going to bring about huge advancements in the coming years. When will this happen in India, is anybody's guess.
The author is Deputy Managing Director, Gatia