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How Today’s Technology Innovations May Change the Future of Supply Chains

transportfolio-technology-innovation-07-2015Most of the time I think predicting the future should be left to fortune tellers and meteorologists. But every once in a while it’s fun to think about how the great strides we’re making today could impact our future. We’ve already seen an evolution in things like the telephone, once a novelty shared by entire neighborhoods, now a critical component for businesses and individuals alike. Let’s imagine how supply chains of the future might look in the years to come thanks to the technology changes we’re making today.

How will today’s supply chain innovations and experiments—like autonomous vehicles, drones, and “the Uber approach”—impact the supply chains of tomorrow?

Not So Scary Autonomous Vehicles

You may remember the “Johnny Cab” from Total Recall, or KITT from Knight Rider, but I can assure you that autonomous vehicles are more than a quirky sci-fi concept. In fact in his post last week, Steve Raetz talked about how autonomous vehicles for commercial use are already here, and they’re sure to have a huge impact in the future of supply chains. If you think about it, driverless tractors could be the answer to several of our industry’s largest challenges—from driver shortage to Hours of Service (HOS).

Today autonomous is not yet synonymous with driver-less, but what if it was? If trucks drive themselves in enough lanes, we reduce or even eliminate the driver shortage. HOS becomes a thing of the past—after all a computer won’t get tired driving 3,000 miles in one go—which could reduce delivery times. Carriers could employ fewer drivers, and that may lead to lower healthcare costs, better insurance rates, and less struggle with the driver shortage.

Debate about Delivery Drones

We all know today’s consumers have the “I want it now!” attitude of Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Drones may be the answer.

The one square mile around my house is home to over 60,000 people. Think about how many people order goods online every day in that one square mile alone. Is it half? A quarter? As people’s lives get busier, the convenience of shopping online—especially when fast shipping is an option—will continue to grow in popularity.

Just like autonomous vehicles, the safety and feasibility of unmanned drones delivering goods (primarily small parcel) is still under scrutiny, but implemented the right way, drone technology could significantly reduce traffic congestion, minimize CO2 emissions from trucks idling at the curb while drivers drop off boxes, and improve delivery speed.

Applying Uber’s Approach

Uber and Lyft are probably the best examples of crowdsourcing the transportation of people since the development of public transportation. What if a supply chain ran the same way? John at the dock has freight ready to haul, he pulls up an app on his phone, marks what type of equipment he needs, and gets a list of who’s available in the area and their pricing. He can then select a driver and the truck arrives within minutes. Like drone technology, this may be most effective for home deliveries. Rather than a commercial vehicle driving in and out of neighborhoods, it’s your best friend’s mini-van or the soccer mom’s sedan from down the street. Ultimately I think this technology could cause the most extreme shift from how today’s traditional transportation works.

No matter where today’s technology changes take us, ease of doing business is going to play a monumental role in whatever evolution we see. And I for one look forward to watching technology change and adapt to our supply chain needs.


Shawn T Burns

This guy is a genius. He is really thinking about how to improve chr. Also, he made a great decision in selecting his wife, my daughter Shaelyn.



Dominick Hernandez

The logistic/supply chain technology that is indirectly and directly related to autonomous Vehicles will revolutionize the industry for RFIDs.

The same transmitting and receiving wireless network infrastructure that is used with autonomous Vehicles can be easier expanded to help support RFID technology. Creating a RFID infrastructure that associated costs are absorbed, combined, or spread across an other value added activity, RFID cost become more attractive. The cost absorption by autonomous Vehicles combined with Moore's law will reduce the over all cost of the RFID technology to were implementation should be finally affordable.

A fully integrated FRID supply chain management system will find cost savings opportunities and efficiencies that are otherwise unattainable with current technology. The holy grail of a holistic real time farm to fork RFID supply chain management system is closer than we think.



Brendan Rogers

Mr. Annunziata makes several salient and important points. The future of logistics is bright with intelligent men like him championing the industry.



Todd Collins

Thanks Dan! On the freight sales side, First Freight CRM is a cutting-edge technology that is quietly disrupting the industry. With an industry-specific approach, we are beating generic dinosaurs sold through resellers like Salesforce, MS Dynamics, etc.
KWE (Kintetsu World Express) is our latest subscriber and I would be happy to arrange a demo for you soon! Shoot me your email and I will send slides and info. Thanks for a great blog!




With respect to Uber's approach. Today there is a host of load boards where shippers, 3PL's and carriers post their loads / shipments and carrier's post their available trucks. It may not be too long until an effort may be made to consolidate the load boards. A consolidated solution may provide advantages to both shippers and carriers by ensuring rates are competitive while at the same time improving carriers utilization rates. Driver shortages and green house gasses or even regulatory changes could also be drivers of this type of change.



Dan Annunziata

Thank you all for commenting. The future is bright for the supply chain industry. I am excited to see where innovation comes in.




Great ideas for innovation in the supply chain.
I'd like to add the point about the manner in which such innovations can be enabled across, for example, the point of arrival, i.e. a port, where delays in the handling of goods is a major factor in efficiency before the goods even get to the driver.
Ports are now considering how to become more efficienct with due regard to the increasing size of vessels but infrastructure changes required can be prohibitive. Creating a smart hub is a large undertaking and that requires the digitisation of processes, including for security reasons.
Replacing or extending the digital infrastructure usually requires hundreds of miles of cabling, disruption to the site as construction work is undertaken, all at great cost.
A time and cost efficient, as well as labour-saving, alternative, that is successfully used on tankers, OSVs, Reefers etc by some of the largest shipping and cruise companies has enabled the future-proofing of infrastructure upgrades through the use of industrial-grade, frequency-variable powerline IP networking. See more



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