The past couple of years have pointed to some interesting times ahead for logistics operators, both in the UK and globally. With Brexit looming on the horizon, the United States considering radically rewriting existing international trade agreements, some dramatic shifts in the sea freight arena – particularly in Asia – and some intriguing technological developments, it can be hard to predict what 2018 may hold for transport logistics. However, here at Transmode we like to keep our finger on the pulse and have some ideas about what could be ahead for our industry. Here are three logistics trends that we think will play out in 2018.
Do we think 2018 will be the year driverless trucks become the norm? Not necessarily, and certainly not in the UK. However, a high-profile driverless vehicle convoy that made its way across Europe in mid-2016 was a powerful proof of concept, and last August the UK government gave the go-ahead for similar trials to be carried out in Britain before the end of 2018. With moves towards automated, driverless vehicles in other nations such as Australia and the US plunging ahead, we expect to see more news on advancements with this technology throughout 2018.
Online shopping continues to grow apace, to the extent that the period from before Christmas 2017 and into early 2018 saw an unprecedented seasonal peak in air freight, leading to backlogs and, in some cases, high freight prices paid by retailers determined to get goods to customers within guaranteed delivery dates. That particular situation – exacerbated by simple factors such as flights grounded due to bad weather across Europe and in the United States – revealed how vulnerable the world’s logistics infrastructure can be in the face of what should have been a predictable seasonal peak. In 2018 we expect to see logistics providers of all sorts explore how they can continue to provide robust solutions in the face of ever-increasing e-commerce.
It’s fair to say that these are fields in which Amazon is clearly leading the way. The online retail giant now has over 100,000 robots operating in its warehouses worldwide – robots manufactured by its wholly owned subsidiary, Amazon Robotics. Amazon is also looking to revolutionise last-mile delivery with its trials of Prime Air, a delivery system designed to deliver products to customers within 30 minutes of purchase by aerial drone. With the revelation that Amazon had previously filed a patent for “airborne fulfilment centres” – giant, airship-based warehouses from which drones would drop to deliver goods – it’s a pretty safe bet that 2018 will continue to see Amazon spearheading technological innovations in logistics delivery, with other providers looking to the retailer as inspiration for their own innovations and technological solutions.
One way or another, here at Transmode we are certain that 2018 is likely to be another fairly disruptive year for logistics businesses, and that providers who strike the right balance between robustness and agility are likely to maintain a competitive edge. We’ll continue to watch for patterns and innovations in the sector, and will follow up here with further blogs on emerging trends throughout the year.