“Resilience” has been a buzzword in the logistics world as supply chains and logisticians have had to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and challenges, including supply-chain challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and tight capacity in trucking and other freight transportation modes. A related term we’re seeing is “elastic logistics” — the ability of supply chains to expand or shrink capacity depending on ever-changing industry variables.
E-commerce and omnichannel supply chain strategies were already trending upward but accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Adobe Digital Insights estimates e-commerce has been pushed forward four to six years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of growing e-commerce, expanding urbanization also means more last-mile delivery demand.
The demand for warehousing also continues to grow, especially in urban areas, with some fleets expanding more into that business. Warehouse automation is increasing.
Cold chain logistics is increasingly in the spotlight. Even before the pandemic, cold-chain technology was advancing, and temperature-sensitive biopharmaceuticals were becoming more common. COVID-19 brought with it empty meat and milk counters at supermarkets and vaccines that had to be kept at precise temperatures. All these factors have led to increased demand in areas such as temperature-controlled transportation and refrigerated warehousing.
Intermodal freight transportation has been booming, but port congestion and problems getting enough containers and chassis to the right place at the right time are snarling logistics for many companies.
And there’s the question of how emerging technologies such as drone delivery and autonomous-truck technology will affect the world of logistics.
To help meet these challenges, we’ve seen the digitization of logistics continue to grow. Brokerages and third-party logistics providers are being transformed through technology and digital freight marketplaces. The growth of technology companies focused on the logistics and supply chain networks is not slowing down. We’re seeing some of these companies undergo mergers and acquisitions, and that will likely continue in the coming years.
Part of that digitization results from a demand for end-to-end visibility of shipments. We’re hearing more about a “control tower” approach to connect systems across every aspect of the supply chain. This may be too much for the average shipper or carrier, leading to growing importance of technology-based third-party logistics companies. As the world moves toward data-driven decisions, this will become a key strategy for 3PLs.