By Jeff Tapley, managing director at Digital Realty
The transport and logistics industry is growing and evolving rapidly, and companies are under increased pressure to remain competitive, deliver quality customer service and find innovative ways to optimise their operations to satisfy their customer bases – and this all depends on data.
This means that the interaction with data becomes increasingly important to sustain demands within the sector.
Fortunately, executives have recognised the importance of technologies in facilitating the industry’s growth.
Digital Realty recently carried out research revealing that two thirds of senior executives in the transport and logistics industry believe that technology has had immense positive effects, ranging from security aspects to customer service, and, according to 70% of respondents, automation is the area with the greatest potential to transform the industry.
Automation in transport and logistics enables concepts that were previously just a fantasy become a reality. From the likes of self-driving vehicles and traffic management, to road safety and delay predictions.
The research revealed that robotic process automation (RPA) is going to bring about the biggest change in the next decade, followed by artificial intelligence (AI).
The RPA industry is growing at lightning speed, and it’s important to remember the benefits transportation and logistics companies can reap by implementing RPA into their systems.
Some players have already started to adopt RPA to their advantage – Ryder, a US-based logistics service provider, is one of the leaders in this space, using RPA to reduce the labour used to produce transportation plans, and to automate highly manual tasks associated with planning optimisation.
As for AI, perhaps the most impressive progress thus far is the strides made on the roads, from autonomous vehicles to traffic management.
For example, Tokyo has successfully trialled driverless taxis which they intend to fully roll out ahead of the 2020 Olympics.
This leap would result in a multitude of benefits, like reduced taxi fares for customers and less traffic thanks to improved communication between vehicles and auto-calculation of optimum routes.
Separately, road sensors and cameras are now able to collect large amounts of valuable traffic information for data processing on the cloud via big data analytics, subsequently collating important information and insights, like traffic predictions or accidents, that is shared with travellers to improve their overall journey.
Not only does AI provide financial benefits for customers, it also enables a smooth-running, safe – and enjoyable, traffic system.
To substantially improve processes, quality and costs, companies must invest in their fundamental infrastructure before introducing automation.
Nine in ten (91%) senior executives in the transport and logistics space have said they are continually looking to increase their data infrastructure investment, and over a fifth (22%) reserve between £10m and £50m of their budget for innovation and progression of data connectivity.
Despite this, over 60% aren’t confident in their current data infrastructure, a major blocker for companies when it comes to realising the full potential and rewards that automation can bring.
If companies try to incorporate automation, like RPA, into their legacy infrastructure, it only improves the outdated systems and provides little reward.
However, there is no use having infrastructure if it is completely fragmented and unable to work efficiently.
In order to gain maximum benefit from technology, like automation, there needs to be a platform that is powerful enough to deliver the compute that the technology requires, but flexible and agile enough to meet each individual business’ demands round the clock, instantly, in any part of the world.
After all, major logistics operations are global by nature, so ensuring that technology can be deployed anywhere, at any time, is crucial!
It’s important to remember that it’s a combination of power, flexibility, and globality that will ensure businesses can reap the full rewards of new technologies now and in the future.