Virtual logistics is a trend that is evolving faster than it is being adopted. This will change, and fast as companies see clear cost savings and efficiencies. Cannon Hill identified the virtual logistics team as a top trend for supply chain and logistics industries in 2017.
The Internet of Things and cloud-based technology reimagining logistics
In its most basic form, virtual logistics envisions remote working and virtual teams that allow companies to access talent globally rather than locally. And since a sizeable percentage of the American workforce is able to work remotely, virtual teams make a lot of sense. Not only do virtual logistics teams cut down on travel expenses and real estate costs, they also allow for more flexible staffing options.
While many larger companies are shifting toward virtual logistics in centralized planners, rather than locating them in each distribution center, the trend toward virtual logistics hasn’t gathered momentum in the way many leading experts expected. PwC recently reported in it’s Industry 4.0 study that the logistics industry has been slow to adopt new technology.
The percentage of T&L companies that rated themselves as ‘advanced’ on digitization was just 28%. Yet some of the industry’s customers are already well ahead of the curve. 41% of automotive companies and 45% of electronics companies already see themselves as advanced on digitization.
Their heads, and their budgets, are in the cloud
Much of what we understand about logistics is about to change with the rapid and prolific adoption of cloud technology and the growing demands of clients who want greater speed, efficiency and transparency. Industry leaders such as Amazon, Airbnb and Uber base their entire business models on cloud computing, Internet of Things networks and other custom applications.
What we are learning is that these technologies are reducing implementation risks and lowering costs with real time supply-demand match. Cloud-based solutions allow companies to integrate all areas of their supply chain and gather real-time data and enable a more holistic view of the entire supply chain.
The benefits of cloud-based technologies and virtual logistics teams
MHL notes, correctly, that successful future supply chains will need a complete, end-to-end view across the entire supply chain. In application after application, cloud technology seems to have nearly limitless potential.
Monitoring operations across multiple facilities with automated, real-time feedback from manufacturing machines and devices reduces the burden of maintenance and upgrades and ensures better regulatory compliance. Improvements in supply chain transportation can also be realized as a centralized logistics team receives updates on traffic delays and keeps drivers appraised, in real-time, of shipment movements, ETAs, etc.
Forbes recently outlined four ways the cloud will shape our lives over the next decade and beyond. Not only will cloud technology shape the digital infrastructure of tomorrow’s cities, it will be transformative for small to mid-sized companies as data analytics, artificial intelligence and other capabilities become available as services.
The cloud will help realize the vision of driverless and autonomous vehicles by allowing them to handle the large amount of data generated from sensors and cameras that guide the vehicle. As I discussed in a previous blog, the adoption of autonomous vehicles is already making huge waves in the logistics industry.
Cloud technology is the key to virtual logistics teams
In truth, working remotely, or as part of a virtual team is not a new idea. What has changed, and quite rapidly, is how easy it is to work remotely thanks to advances in cloud technology. More than ever before, teams are able to share information safely, effectively and cheaply, across the globe. And more than ever, professionals are coming out of companies or colleges with a bevy of remote working skills.
Armed with a smartphone and a laptop, a professional today and set a global workforce in motion and monitor progress in real time. Not only that, they can do it without the need for a constant physical presence in warehouses, sales floors and docks. The Internet of Things is making the tracking and monitoring of the entire supply chain manageable by small, nimble, remote teams.
Don’t let a lack of digital “readiness” hold back your company.
The bottom line: we now live in a world where customers expect fast, reliable access to the products and services they want. The proliferation of advanced technology necessitates a new approach for the logistics industry.
In the future, the biggest barrier to success—particularly for small to medium enterprises—will be a lack of digital culture as well as a readiness to adopt, not only new technologies, but a new technological mindset. And employees with a full digital toolkit, increasingly want to work remotely. The choice is fairly straightforward: attract the best talent and realize competitive advantages by making your logistics team a virtual logistics team.
At PLS, we’ve helped a number of companies overcome their concerns and lower labor costs, partly with virtual logistics teams, as well as through the use of consultant arrangements. If you are interested in labor optimization, virtual teams, or custom solutions, get in touch. We’d be glad to help you make the best of your situation, whether you are a 3PL, a fulfillment facility, a warehouse, a logistics company or something else.
John Moore – Founder
Packaging & Logistics Solutions (PLS)