8 key supply chain tech trends to watch out for in 2022

8 key supply chain tech trends to watch out for in 2022

21 December 2021

  • logistics tech trends

 

The past year has brought many changes and challenges that impact the global supply chain. Raw materials shortages, shipping delays due to shortages of containers and also, problems with containers stuck in canals, lorry driver shortages and the increasing switch to e-commerce as a shopping channel being some of the most obvious. These trends and the issues they have created are forcing logisticians to think differently, to find new ways of operating and maybe, invest in different technology to optimise their warehouse processes.

This is the second of two articles looking at key trends we can expect in 2022. The first article in this series focused on process evolution and industry changes.

What tech changes can we expect in 2022?

Autonomous vehicles and automated trucks

Due to the shortage of lorry drivers, there has been a big recruitment drive to attract newcomers to the profession and also, to improve the lifestyle and working conditions. This will have an impact, but long term, automated trucking and self-driving vehicles is predicted to be the future, potentially even before driverless cars become mainstream. That’s why investment funding into this area has increased so rapidly, growing from US$0.1 billion in 2017 to $5.6 billion in 2021. In Northampton, Co-op has already trialled the use of robotic delivery carts for local fulfilment and in 2022, we may see the first such vehicles on the roads.

Machine learning

Supply chain environments produce large volumes of rich data, which offers huge potential for machine learning (ML) technology. Therefore, the adoption of machine learning ML technology is likely to increase among technology providers, because the rich data sources in the warehouse, e.g. from a warehouse management system (WMS) solutions, is a fantastic way to educate ML algorithms. The benefits of this approach are wide reaching, including creating more accurate plans and estimated-time-of-arrival (ETA) predictions, plus continuous process improvement recommendations. All combined, ML will help make supply chain and logistics operations more productive and reliable, by augmenting existing technology.

Big Data

Just like machine learning will enhance supply chain operations, the same is true for Big Data.  Big Data uses predictive analytic methods to forecast the likelihood of events potentially occurring, which in turn helps to improve decision making and reduce inefficiencies. For example, one possible use is predicting the best mode of transport to use, the optimum carrier service to maximise profits and delivery schedules, or anticipating customer buying cycles and then forecasting demand more accurately.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is a way of interconnecting devices and physical objects with embedded sensors, to allow a continuous exchange of data over the internet. There will be greater adoption of IoT in 2022, which can be used by the logistics industry to increase operational efficiency, improve data capture and improve asset utilisation visibility e.g. within and beyond the 4 walls. IoT can also be used to improve delivery prediction times, which improves customer satisfaction.

Automation

According to McKinsey, introducing some form of automation is high up on the agendas of many logistics companies. This is due to three factors: increasing demand from online retailers, a growing shortage of warehouse operatives and also, advances in new technology. In 2022 we can expect to see more automated guided vehicles (AGVs) supporting pickers in the warehouse and more integration between systems like warehouse management software and racking or conveyors. By 2030 it is estimated that logistics operations will be either fully or partially automated with AI taking away the need for operatives to complete the most repetitive and simple tasks.

Robotics

Robots come in many shapes and sizes, with robot assisted technology being the most common pace. The benefits are improved productivity and drastically speeding up monotonous and labour-intensive tasks, leaving human workers to focus on more complex, higher value tasks. Robots can also to protect operatives from injury. For instance, many warehouses use packing arm robots to help avoid repetitive strain injuries among workers.

Blockchain

Much hyped and discussed already, we expect blockchain to become more widely used in 2022. It is valuable in a logistics environment because of its potential to store and transfer information right along a supply chain, with records of each transaction being maintained across multiple, interlinked computers. This improves visibility because every stakeholder along the chain - logistics providers, carriers, shipping lines, 3PLs and last mile partners can use the same platform for every communication, including making payments and generating invoices.

New Staff Skillsets

All these technological changes will result in a different skillset being required of people if they want to work in the logistics industry. Given the whole sector is being driven by technology, skillsets will need to be more technology and data orientated. At a management level, experts in process automation, data analytics or big data and AI will be highly sought after.

Based on our predictions, 2022 will be a very exciting year for logistics and supply chain professionals, especially when it comes to technology adoption. Covid-19 has brought forward many planned investments in technology, as companies realise they need to future proof the supply chain.

The team at Indigo Software is looking forward to working with warehouse leaders and logistics operations specialists, to demonstrate the value that a WMS and automation technology can bring to our increasingly automated world.