Automation in Logistics: Big Opportunity, Bigger Uncertainty
The history of logistics is also a history of automation, from the steam engine to the forklift to today’s robotic pickers and packers. So today’s fevered interest in new machinery, after a lull of several years has plenty of precedent. Many trends are thrusting automation toward the top of the logistics CEO’s agenda, not least these three: a growing shortage of labor, an explosion in demand from online retailers, and some intriguing technical advances. Contract logistics and parcel companies (which, for sake of convenience, we will call simply “logistics companies”) particularly stand to benefit. (Automation is also on the table at other transport companies, such as trucking companies and port operators.
Yet for all the excitement, most logistics companies have not yet taken the plunge. For every force pushing companies to automate, countervailing factors suggest they should go slowly. We see five reasons companies are hesitating: the unusual competitive dynamics of e-commerce, a lack of clarity about which technologies will triumph, problems obtaining the new gizmos, uncertainties arising from shippers’ new omnichannel-distribution schemes, and an asymmetry between the length of contracts with shippers and the much-longer lifetimes of automation equipment and distribution centers.
We will be discussing the following questions during the chat:
1. What are the major key trends that are thrusting automation towards the top of the logistics CEO’s agenda?
2. What factors are hindering investment in logistics automation?
3. Suggest some strategies that can position contract logistics companies to prepare for an uncertain future.
4. How warehouse automation technology affecting the logistics industry?
5. What possible reasons are holding the logistics sector back from being fully automated?
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