Since the first edition of Logistics and Supply Chain Innovation in 2018, the world has experienced the trauma of a global pandemic which has transformed the economy and society in which we live. The logistics and supply chain industry has played a major role in almost every aspect of the crisis, from the distribution of PPE and vaccine, to keeping shelves replenished with groceries and other essential goods.
These achievements were attained through the efficient functioning of resilient logistics systems and knowledge built up over many decades. However, just as importantly in our view, has been the impact of some of the logistics innovations, outlined in the first edition, which have allowed governments to take a far more effective policy response than would otherwise have been the case. Foremost amongst these initiatives has been the development of technologies and business models which have enabled a large proportion of the world’s population to ‘stay-at-home’ and shop on-line. Without many of the logistics developments pioneered by companies such as Amazon (and, in Asia, Alibaba) governments would have been forced to take a different – and many would argue – less effective approach to combatting the spread of the disease. In this respect, warehousing automation, digitalization of markets, supply chain visibility and last mile delivery – key elements of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution – proved critical.
At the same time, it is clear that much more needs to be done to construct an industry fit for the 21st century. Supply chain bottlenecks, especially those in and around the West Coast ports of the USA, show that far more investment in innovations such as automation and digitalization of logistics processes is required in order to cope with future supply and demand volatility.
In the second edition we have divided the book up into six sections to make it easier to access all the additional material we have included.
- Part One discusses the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how it applies to the logistics and supply chain sector. We look at the concept of ‘innovation’ in detail and how the high levels of inefficiency in the industry have made it particularly vulnerable to disruption.
- Part Two examines innovative logistics models such as Direct-to-Consumer, Alternative Delivery Solutions (such as lockers and in-car), on-demand, crowd-shipping and the changes being forced on the industry through rapid urbanization. We also look in-depth at e-retailing, especially important throughout the pandemic, and how customer expectations have been transformed. A case study of one of the world’s largest e-retailers, Amazon, is included providing an insight into how it has come to dominate many of the world’s markets.
- Part Three examines the key technological and operating model innovations in more detail including the Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, looking at how sensors, technology and networking allow buildings, infrastructures and devices to share information, creating richer data and deeper intelligence for all parties in a supply network. We discuss how Control Towers, using data harvested from the Internet of Things and employing Artificial Intelligence, will become essential to coordinating supply chains. We go onto analyse Blockchain technology, what it is, how it functions and its potential for use in the logistics and supply chain management sector. The section also details how demand and supply side trends, such as diminishing labour forces, Covid and the rising importance of e-commerce logistics, are driving the widespread adoption of robotics and automation in the warehouse and the potential for ‘autonomous driving’ to revolutionize the global logistics industry.
- Part Four takes a deep dive into how digitalization is transforming logistics markets through the development of new platforms. Numerous new technology platforms have entered the road freight/trucking market, promising to address the mismatch between supply and demand leading to fuller trucks for carriers and better rates for shippers. However, despite the potential economic and environmental benefits, success for many platforms has proved elusive. The international freight forwarding sector has also become highly digitalized. Freight forwarding by its very nature involves buying and selling space from air cargo operators or shipping lines. As such they are considerably at risk from the new breed of rating and spot pricing platforms which have developed. However, the forwarding business is more robust than many people think and we examine how the sector will evolve. Trade finance has also not been immune from change. Despite the model seemingly working well over the years (after all, it enabled globalization), the sector is on the verge of a revolution, set to become a key competitive battleground shaken up by new technologies.
- Part Five includes an overview of many innovative technologies that will play a major role in abating carbon dioxide emissions by creating operational efficiencies, designing for circularity and developing alternative fuels.
- Part Six examines the implications of the ‘Great Reset’ for global supply chains. We conclude that although change is inevitable, it may not take the form envisaged by the World Economic Forum. Finally, we take the ‘brave’ step of predicting what the supply chain and logistics industry may look like in 2035. We review which innovations have the best chance of industry-wide adoption and how the road freight, freight forwarding, warehousing, shipping, express and air cargo sectors will develop.
Overall, we believe the supply chain and logistics sector has a bright future. Focusing on value generation, smart technologies and intellectual capital as well as using ‘clean’ fuels, the industry has the potential to throw off many of its negative perceptions. To reach this goal, however, there will need to be a significant disruption of established operating models and working practices. For all companies involved in the supply chain, there can be no more ‘business as usual’.
John Manners-Bell, Founder, Foundation for Future Supply Chain and Chief Executive, Ti Insight
Ken Lyon, Member of Strategic Advisory Board, Foundation for Future Supply Chain and Managing Director, Virtual Partners
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