Au­ton­o­mous trans­porta­tion

Bar­loworld’s KAMO­GELO MMUTLANA looks at dis­rup­tions that will im­pact on goods de­liv­ery

The Witness - Wheels - - TRANSPORT - • Kamo­gelo Mmutlana is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bar­loworld Lo­gis­tics.

AC­CORD­ING to re­search firm Frost & Sul­li­van, lo­gis­tics global spend is ex­pected to reach $10,6 tril­lion by 2020, with trans­porta­tion ac­count­ing for the ma­jor­ity of the spend­ing at 65%.

Cer­tain trends will be shap­ing ev­ery as­pect of this mar­ket. Chief among these are the emer­gence of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, 3D print­ing, big data, blockchain tech­nol­ogy and on­line mar­ket­places.


Frost & Sul­li­van pre­dicts most mov­ing ve­hi­cles within lo­gis­tics — from fork­lift to de­liv­ery fleets — will be semi-au­ton­o­mous and some fully au­ton­o­mous in the not too dis­tant fu­ture.

For the sup­ply chain, au­ton­o­mous lo­gis­tics will trans­late into pla­toon­ing trucks, self-steer­ing ships and au­ton­o­mous drone de­liv­er­ies to name a few. Ex­ist­ing and pro­posed projects in this space in­clude the DHL Parce­lo­copter, Google’s Project Wing Drone and Ama­zon’s Prime Air.


Data is the new oil for ev­ery type of busi­ness. Daily anal­y­sis of struc­tured data will un­doubt­edly lead to en­hanced ef­fi­cien­cies and quicker, cal­cu­lated de­ci­sion-mak­ing within the sup­ply chain.

Grow­ing ac­cess to data will also mean that an­a­lyt­ics will move from re­ac­tive to pre-emp­tive to an­tic­i­pa­tory. Ama­zon, for ex­am­ple, through its an­tic­i­pa­tory ship­ping model, will know what you want even be­fore you know you want it.

For the wider in­dus­try and lo­gis­tics stake­hold­ers, pre­dic­tive and pre­scrip­tive an­a­lyt­ics are al­ready pre­sent­ing a num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions. These in­clude route op­ti­mi­sa­tion in real time and prod­uct track­ing data.


With re­gards to bro­ker­age-re­lated ser­vices within the sup­ply chain, it is pre­dicted that two key plat­forms will dis­rupt the sta­tus quo: mo­bile based and on­line mar­ket­places.

The emer­gence of on­line mar­ket­places within the sup­ply chain will in­volve the closer in­te­gra­tion of all par­ties to in­clude all stake­hold­ers — namely sell­ers, buy­ers, freight for­warders and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, all con­nected to each other through an open, on­line plat­form. No­tably, mo­bile­based freight bro­kers are seek­ing to outdo tra­di­tional bro­ker­age firms by of­fer­ing higher as­set util­i­sa­tion and ex­pe­dited rev­enue al­lo­ca­tion.


Al­though it is a term more fre­quently associated with fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy busi­nesses, blockchain tech­nol­ogy is poised to im­pact key func­tions within lo­gis­tics.

This plat­form ver­i­fies dig­i­tal trans­ac­tions on the net­work and is ar­guably set to be­come the new op­er­at­ing sys­tem for sup­ply chain and lo­gis­tics glob­ally.

By in­te­grat­ing this tech­nol­ogy, the blockchain can en­able a strong and se­cure ex­change for shared lo­gis­tics, co-or­di­nat­ing a vast ar­ray of ac­tiv­i­ties from shar­ing unutilised space in a ship­ping con­tainer or ware­house, to op­ti­mis­ing truck fleets and driv­ers. Blockchain tech­nol­ogy can also yield im­por­tant ben­e­fits with re­gards to B2B trans­ac­tions — such as cross border pay­roll pro­cess­ing and smart con­tracts.

This tech­nol­ogy is al­ready in use in a plat­form called Ethereum, a de­cen­tralised plat­form that runs smart con­tracts. These are con­tracts steered by ap­pli­ca­tions that “run ex­actly as pro­grammed, with­out any pos­si­bil­ity of down­time, cen­sor­ship, fraud or third party in­ter­fer­ence”.

For lo­gis­tics stake­hold­ers, the Ethereum plat­form is set to fa­cil­i­tate in ne­go­ti­at­ing prices and mon­i­tor­ing in­ven­tory lev­els that will re­sult in min­imis­ing trans­ac­tion costs and build­ing more agile sup­ply chains. In ad­di­tion, the ap­pli­ca­tion can ini­ti­ate more se­cure forms of trans­ac­tions and fa­cil­i­tate shared lo­gis­tics op­por­tu­ni­ties in near real time.


A tech­nol­ogy that has long been wait­ing in the cor­po­rate wings, 3D print­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties are im­prov­ing daily with vast po­ten­tial in terms of free­dom of de­sign. It can also lower pro­duc­tion costs by up to 50% — trans­lat­ing from low cost homes printed within a day to ex­pertly cus­tomised med­i­cal im­plants and pros­thet­ics.


In the near fu­ture, each in­di­vid­ual 3D printer could be able to print sev­eral dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als us­ing mul­ti­ple pro­cesses in mul­ti­ple, de­cen­tralised lo­ca­tions.

As a re­sult, lo­gis­tics and sup­ply chain man­age­ment could be dras­ti­cally trans­formed — to only ser­vic­ing nim­ble, in­no­va­tive, garage-sized in­dus­tries.

While these tech­nolo­gies and trends are ar­guably still in the de­vel­op­ment stage, they are forc­ing busi­nesses to shift their ap­proach and to strongly con­sider and em­brace trans­for­ma­tion by ex­plor­ing pos­si­ble ap­pli­ca­tions.

For sup­ply chain man­age­ment and lo­gis­tics stake­hold­ers, we at Bar­loworld Lo­gis­tics be­lieve that the emer­gence of these trends serve as both in­spi­ra­tion and mo­ti­va­tion to be­gin the process of fu­ture­proof­ing and im­ple­ment­ing sus­tain­able pro­cesses, right now.

With­out a doubt, only the agile and re­spon­sive will sur­vive to­day in or­der to thrive tomorrow.

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