CEO Blog: Big data and digitalisation will revolutionise our sector

August 20, 2020

“For some time UKWA has been signposting to members that they must embrace the new digital world, otherwise be left behind.

The changed logistics landscape post-lockdown has brought this imperative into sharp relief. Online shopping and home delivery has accelerated massively, and one of the key take-aways is that reliability, not speed, is of the essence.

Only by using data effectively can 3PLs fully understand the international supply chain of which they are part, manage inventory accurately and reliably predict delivery going forward. Information and communication have become the new customer service, and data-driven technology in the form of IoT (Internet of Things) will facilitate this.

As retailers and manufacturers look to streamline their fulfilment capabilities, 3PLs will be able to meet expectations through effective use of IoT, which extracts data at every point in the supply chain, not only improving visibility and operational efficiency, but enhancing revenue opportunities and supporting better informed decision-making too.

To support members on this digital journey, UKWA is collaborating with Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing on a project looking at how to create an IoT and WMS integrated platform, where real-time data from the Internet of Things will be combined with static operational data to illustrate the efficiencies and increased productivity that could  be gained as a result. Our aim will be to demonstrate that IoT data can be seamlessly integrated with 3PLs’ existing operational systems, delivering operational benefits without major disruption.

IoT connects the warehouse upstream and downstream, improving supply chain intelligence. With IoT powered systems, inbound as well as outbound shipment tracking can be achieved, down to individual item. In the warehouse, human and machines can collaborate effectively with the help of IoT – for example, robots with built-in cameras and QR readers that allow products to be quickly identified and accurately picked. Similarly, vehicles and individual drivers can be tracked and monitored, giving a more transparent view of arrivals both at the warehouse and for final mile delivery. With real-time information about the route and the traffic fed into the operational system, deliveries can be planned to optimise fuel saving and reduce carbon impact, while customers enjoy up to the minute advice on the status of their consignment and a more accurate delivery window.

The real-time granular data that IoT can deliver is paving the way for smarter and more efficient warehousing and logistics. Soon, this big data technology along with 5G, will become the industry standard.

Of course, the major operators are already all over this and, as usual, Amazon is leading the way. UKWA’s message to members is that 3PL SMEs will have no choice but to follow suit.”

Peter Ward, UKWA CEO.