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DHL Says These Trends Will Shape What Logistics Looks Like

In the fifth edition of the Logistics Trend Radar, DHL has revealed key trends that will impact the logistics over in the coming years.

They include dynamic growth in data analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT and cloud, and breakthroughs in quantum computing, blockchain and space logistics that signal new niches for logistics providers to solve large-scale problems and create new services. DHL described sustainability as a cross-industry imperative, accelerating the need for innovation in packaging, planning, optimization and building management to curb emissions.

The report is the result of an extensive analysis of macro and micro trends, as well as the insights from a large partner network, including research institutes, tech players, startups and customers.

“For us as logistics experts, it is important to forecast the challenges ahead and envision possible solutions so that we may best advise our customers,” Katja Busch, chief commercial officer at DHL, said. “The mega trends that will continue to engage us are not unfamiliar–new technologies, growing e-commerce and sustainability. But some areas will evolve faster than others, so there is the need to understand the underlying trends and their impact on logistics, not least because of the impact of Covid-19 on global commerce and the entire workforce.”

More than 20,000 logistics professionals and technology experts shared their perspectives on the future of the industry when visiting the DHL Innovations Centers over the past two years. The findings are consolidated and reflected on the Logistics Trend Radar, which acts as a dynamic and strategic foresight tool that tracks the evolution of trends spotted in past editions, identifying present and future trends with every update, DHL noted.

“The next big challenge will be future proofing the logistics workforce through training and upskilling in increasingly technologically sophisticated operations. This will take center stage on the strategic agendas of supply chain organizations in the years to come,” said Matthias Heutger, senior vice president and global head of innovation and commercial development at DHL.

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“The Logistics Trend Radar serves as a seismograph for future trends,” Heutger added. “Based on data from the last seven years, we can make longer-term forecasts and thus support our partners and customers to create roadmaps for their business, as well as helping to structure and catalyze further industry-leading research and innovations. In this edition, we already see the impact of Covid-19 is accelerating trends that were already well underway–big data analytics, robotics and automation, and IoT, all of which are underpinned by steady progress in artificial intelligence.”

The Logistics Trend Radar indicates that Covid-19 has driven changes in logistics innovation, automation and digital work more rapidly and has accelerated industry digitalization by years. Conversely, many trends initially perceived as disruptive game-changers for the logistics industry have yet to deliver on their disruptive potential.

For example, self-driving vehicles and drones continue to be held back by legislative and technical challenges, as well as limited social acceptance. Logistics marketplaces are stabilizing on a few leading platforms, and established forwarders are entering the game with their own digital offerings, backed with robust global logistics networks.

From cloud computing to collaborative robotics, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, logistics professionals have to make sense of a vast market of novel technology, the report said. Modernizing all touch points of supply chains, “from an elegant digital or customer journey, through fulfillment transport and final mile delivery is the new imperative for long-term success,” it said. “Those who adopt and scale new technology and upskill workforces fastest will have a competitive advantage on the market.”

E-commerce is still growing rapidly but still represents a fraction of global consumer retail spending, DHL noted. Business-to-business e-commerce is expected to follow suit and dwarfs the consumer market size by a factor of three.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has served to accelerate both e-commerce growth and supply chain innovation agendas. Key moves to scale and adopt new technology like intelligent physical automation, IoT-powered visibility tools, and predictive capabilities from AI will ultimately determine the ability to fulfill heightened customer demands and secure industry leadership positions, the report said.

With governments, cities and solution providers committing to cut down on CO2 emissions and waste, sustainability has become an imperative for the logistics industry. Indicated by the increasing demand on sustainable solutions to reduce waste, leverage new propulsion techniques and optimize facilities, it is also on top of the supply chain agendas.

Today, more than 90 national bans on single-use plastics exists and bulky packaging are driving 40 percent parcel void space, forcing the industry to rethink packaging. Sustainable logistics–optimization of processes, materials, new propulsion techniques and smart facilities–provide huge potential for logistics to become more environmentally friendly, DHL Trend Radar said. Smart containerization in transportation will also be important in developing environmentally friendly formats for delivery in congested cities.