Innovations in Logistics automation

Compared to five years ago, the FMCG logistics environment in Gulf markets has become much more challenging. Consumers want more product choices and an abundance of supply in retail outlets. How can technology advances help to meet their needs?

The ultimate keyword is ‘connectivity’ – knowing where everything is and being able to read supply chain performance in line with dynamic market needs. All this points to logistics specialists utilising computer and automation tools to the full.

TMS is penetrating down-market
Transport Management Systems (TMS) are becoming more prevalent and affordable as they move onto the cloud as SaaS (software as a service) applications. This is encouraging more mid-range logistics companies to use them. Combined with GPS technology, TMS helps these companies to locate their vehicles while on the road, plan routes, negotiate with carriers and consolidate shipments.

However there’s still a way to go. The Supply Chain 24/7 online portal reports that just 35 percent of logistics operations are currently using these systems as part of their overall supply chain management strategies. The good news is that these figures are gradually increasing.

AIDC and Bluetooth devices
A key component in logistics automation is Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology – essentially a non-human way to automatically provide updates about a shipment as it moves through the whole shipping process. Where is it? When will it arrive? What route is it taking? What’s the reason for the delay? AIDC answers all these questions and more.

Small and low-cost Bluetooth tracking devices have arrived and can be mounted on virtually any surface such as shipment pallets, trucks, forklifts, doors, docks and any other fixed or mobile asset in the supply chain. Bluetooth is taking over from the Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) which needs expensive readers and infrastructure.

Robotics in warehouses
As increased volume and demand puts a strain on available manpower, supply chain companies are turning increasing to robotic technology. Robots are now being used to pick merchandise off a storage shelf and transfer it to a collection bin. They can also load trucks and unload shipments at distribution centres.

All these technological advances are rapidly appearing in modern storage warehouses as the only way to keep pace with today’s hectic life.