In this day and age, it is hard to find an industry that hasn’t been impacted by the increased usage of technology. The freight industry has been improved by this trend. According to the IDC, the industry has now become the second-largest segment investing in IoT with an approximate spend of $78 billion since 2016.
For decades, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) has been used instead of fax, email, or mail, to allow data about a shipment to be passed between different systems or companies electronically. This lessens the need to have a human enter the data into the system, reducing the number of errors that occur and increasing efficiency. Despite this being the standard communication method for such a long time, many people predict that EDI will eventually be replaced with more modern solutions. EDI can be expensive to use over time and can take a long time to set up. To use EDI, both sides that are exchanging data need to agree on which standards to follow. Then, mapping needs to be set up in order to define where certain values will appear in the files that are sent. The strictness of these standards and formats can hinder the real-time transmission of data. Services such as JSON and RESTful Web Services offer more flexibility and could eventually replace EDI. This technology would be a challenge to replace since it is heavily used among these companies, but this is an area that may well see some innovation in the future.
Some companies, such as DHL, TNT, and UPS, have successfully adopted new technologies and have seen positive results, such as time efficiency and cost savings. Using new technologies helps companies meet the demands of an ever-increasing number of customers, allowing them to stay one step ahead of the competition. This also helps companies stand out from competitors and offer services such as real-time tracking, faster shipping times and cost savings that less technically inclined companies may not be able to offer.
Internet of Things (IoT) & Radio Frequency Identification
Some areas where technology is used by shipping companies is to help them in organizing and planning shipments and to control the movement of shipments with up-to-date tracking. Customers are receiving more up-to-date information about their parcels than ever thanks to the usage of real-time systems. This is made possible by the Internet of Things (IoT) technology which allows objects such as parcels and containers to communicate with each other and send out data about themselves. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is also used to allow the placement and conditions of a shipment to be tracked. An RFID tag is placed on a parcel and emits radio waves which can be received and processed by another device, allowing the parcel to be monitored. Also, RFID tags can be used in tandem with other sensors, such as temperature and air quality sensors. When a sensor detects non-ideal conditions for the package, the RFID tag can help someone find where the package is in order to fix the problem. Temperature-regulated containers can also be used to monitor and report temperature data in real-time. Both of these methods allow data to be transmitted to customers that allows them to know their shipments will be arriving in good condition. This service gives customers peace of mind and helps one company stand out from another.
In 2018, DHL launched DHL SmarTrucking — an innovative trucking solution leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
The new solution, which is currently being rolled out across road networks in India, equips trucks with IoT sensors to provide real-time data analysis for route optimization, reducing transit times by up to 50% and providing over 95% reliability for real-time tracking.
DHL SmarTrucking aims to build a fleet of 10,000 IOT-enabled trucks by 2028.
The IOT sensors are monitored through the company’s centralized control tower, providing real-time temperature and consignment tracking for perishable goods.
Machine learning is being used to analyze data and allow businesses to make decisions based on patterns that are found. The algorithms don’t require human intervention to operate and this technology can take in passive data and create targeted business intelligence that allows a company to switch to more efficient operations if they are found. This improves accuracy, performance, and predictability. For example, machine learning can be used to analyze the routes that a shipment took and then recommend more efficient routes and point out any other inefficiencies.
Automatic Identification Technology
The transportation of goods is also becoming easier due to automatic identification technology. This includes using devices, such as handheld scanners, to recognize items and to easily scan barcodes. This helps to reduce the number of mistakes that occur and ensure that items are being shipped to the correct location. It also makes it easier to print reports and logs which contain data that was collected about pickups, drop-offs, volumes of delivery, etc. This helps create an understanding of how to better plan the processes in the future.
Autonomous Trucks & Drones
Self-driving cars and trucks are also being tested in the shipping industry and there have been limited field tests performed. An example is a startup company called TuSimple which has been testing the use of self-driving trucks with the US Postal Service. Over two weeks, their trucks were able to successfully deliver letters and packages between the Phoenix, Arizona and Dallas, Texas distribution centers. This is a task that normally takes a driver about 48 hours one way, but the self-driving truck was able to complete it in 22 hours, due to taking fewer stops and driving overnight.
However, many people predict that driverless cars will probably not be able to handle the volume of shipments that are currently handled manually and will not be able to handle many unexpected tasks that freight drivers need to cover every day. Still, partial automation could lessen the toll taken on drivers by assisting them with software, such as lane centering and adaptive cruise control.
Drones are also expected to have an impact on shipping. Amazon’s Prime Air service will use drones to deliver packages directly to the customers in 30 minutes or less. This service is not yet available due to costs and regulations, but this could have a huge impact on the industry.
Security is also improving due to technological advancements. Internet and cloud computing is being used by companies to transmit data. These systems and their software components can more effectively prevent cybersecurity attacks in the freight industry. The components are monitored for vulnerabilities and cyber threats can be quickly recognized, monitored and rectified. Regular testing and security audits are also becoming more common to lessen the chances of these kinds of attacks.
Despite the benefits, there are still companies in the industry that have not adopted these updates as quickly as others, possibly causing them to miss out on opportunities to innovate. Even with the new technology that most consumers use daily, some freight companies still use faxes, phone calls, and emails in their daily operations. Many now believe that if a freight company wants to grow in today’s environment, they will have to adapt to and incorporate new technology to provide better services to their customers and stand out among their competitors.