Today, we ask three questions to two logistics experts in a cross-interview about the revolutions in transport and logistics: new technologies and Industry 4.0.
Find out what Thierry Almès, Senior Innovation Manager at GEFCO, and Vincent Champain, Digital industrial expert, former CEO of GE Digital Services Europe, think about the current stakes of Industry 4.0 with future technologies regarding logistics.
Will robotics and autonomous mechanisms really change performance in transport and logistics?
Thierry Almès: Yes, these are major performance levers. On industrial sites, self-driving shuttles that continuously transport parts from the storage centre to the assembly lines increase production lines’ productivity. In terms of road transport, tests of convoys of self-driving lorries that are connected to and follow each other, called ”platooning”, have shown reduced fuel consumption of 15% to 5% compared to individual lorries. This reduces fuel expenses and increases transportation performance. In warehouses, robots that help prepare orders, and autonomous handling trolleys that are lighter and more flexible than large automated systems, allow us to adjust to variations in demand.
Vincent Champain: Yes, we can track each parcel easily andstay informed of the status of successive transport operations (e.g. loading, in transit, off-loading, delivery). The lorry driver is ”augmented” by technology so they can optimise their routes. With knowledge of the weather, routes, and traffic conditions, technology can inform them of when to speed up and when to slow down to get from A to B in a given time while using 4% less fuel. The handler is also ”augmented” by robots that are either semi-autonomous or increasingly easier to program. Their productivity is increased, and they can be better able to avoid tedious and dangerous tasks.
The IoT is a challenge in many sectors of activity. What impact does it have on quality of service for businesses in the transport and logistics sectors?
T.A.: Thanks to smart sensors placed on transport assets (e.g. lorries, packaging) that regularly send information on their position and status via a dedicated telecommunications network, the IoT provides companies with real-time visibility of their flows of goods and use of transport resources. This traceability of flows helps to improve service quality in B2B and B2C deliveries. In the same way, tracking all of a warehouse’s goods (parcels, pans, pallets, etc.) throughout the preparation and dispatch processes results in better delivery quality for orders placed by companies and consumers.
V.C.: The IoT gives us a better overview of the flow of goods, whether upstream between the factory and the warehouse, or downstream between the warehouse and the store. Sensors can be placed on containers and send real-time information on their status (impacts, temperature, etc.) or position. They are increasingly intelligent: for $2, you can have the same system capacity that put the first man on the moon. The logistics chain is more predictable, meaning we can draw more value from ”upstream” and ”downstream” flexibility, for example by allowing factories to better respond to variations in demand from stores, or allowing stores to adjust their promotions according to factories’ statuses.
International companies have an increasing need for flexibility. How can transport and logistics contribute to taking on this challenge?
T.A.: The solution is to digitise the management of the flow of goods in order to facilitate the sharing of goods among transporters and information among loaders and transporters through collaborative digital platforms – and to use the IoT to track flows in real time. Both of these technologies bring greater flexibility to transport companies, allowing them to better support their international clients and respond to variations in demand. Similarly, sharing information allows logisticians to work with stock capacity and adjust them according to the variations in demand that their international clients must respond to.
V.C.: Logistics is an essential part of global supply chains. Logistics must become more flexible and predictable to deliver clients in a ”just-in-time” manner and adjust to variations in demand, transport conditions and infrastructure status. It must be part of a process where all phases are connected, enabling us, for example, to temporarily move production to a plant in a zone with high wind speeds and where renewable energy (which cannot be stored) is abundant. And, of course, allowing us to reduce both costs and our environmental footprint thanks to logistics’ flexibility!