In any year, keeping up to date on the latest trends is vital for logistics business owners and operators. In 2020, though, when the world has been hit by a pandemic and shipping and other areas have been impacted, it’s even more important to keep your finger on the pulse.
Market conditions and operational possibilities change all the time, but here are some of the key logistics trends for this year that you need to know about.
New Marine Emissions Standards
At the beginning of this year, the new maritime regulations for sulfur oxides (SOx) came into effect. Shipping and logistics firms now must cut their sulfur oxide emissions to achieve compliance with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2020 regulations.
The rule is designed to curb pollution produced by the world’s ships and means there’s now a 0.50 percent global sulfur cap for marine fuels. Shippers must choose marine fuels that contain sulfur levels of no more than 0.50%, compared to the previous limit of 3.5 percent. Enforcement authorities in ports handle compliance verification.
The reasons for this new regulation are varied. They include, though, the fact that sulfur oxides, which can end up in ship emissions, can be harmful to human health. Plus, sulfur oxides in the atmosphere affect air quality and can lead to acid rain, which in turn contributes to ocean acidification and harms crops and forests and aquatic species. The IMO reports that switching to lower-sulfur fuel should result in an approximately 77 percent decrease in SOx emissions annually.
Increasing Reliance on Technology
Logistics businesses have been using technology in their operations for years, but today the reliance on and implementation of tech tools is growing exponentially. Firms can use software programs for a variety of tasks and enjoy streamlined processes and cost-cutting benefits from doing so.
Technology is helping to level the playing field. Smaller operators can compete with large companies when it comes to things like gaining visibility into costs in all facet of operations, working with reams of data, and ensuring compliance with often complex shipping and customs rules.
Plus, logistics firms using equipment to pick and pack and move freight can utilize affordable vibrating monitors to check conveyor belt driver systems and other machines for excessive vibrations. Such movement can lead to downtime and the need for more maintenance and repairs than necessary. By catching issues early, costs decrease dramatically. The risk of getting behind on shipments due to unexpected equipment malfunctions lower too.
Logistics companies can also take advantage of automation tools. For instance, robotic automated guided vehicles reduce repetitive motion and lifting injuries for workers, by handling and preparing heavy shipments with little or zero need for human intervention. Also, robotic order-pickers typically locate product bins and identify goods faster and with more accuracy than human warehouse workers.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is growing in leaps and bounds within the industry, too. Shippers can use it to gain more accurate predictions around consumer demand, get more lead time, and implement predictive shipping.
AI is also helpful when it comes to optimizing shipping routes and making last-mile delivery (that is, getting packages from the final warehouse to the customer’s delivery address) more efficient. Fuel costs reduce as a result, too. In addition, more and more logistics firms are starting to use autonomous vehicles in their operations.
More Demand for Refrigeration-Based Shipping
Another trend in logistics this year is a higher demand for refrigeration-based shipping. Many companies are buying additional cooled trucks and shipping containers, as well as climate-controlled warehouses, to keep up with the demand for the proper transportation of foodstuff, drinks, and other perishable goods (e.g., pharmaceuticals).
As consumers continue to buy even more refrigerated goods online, and as globalization keeps expanding the accessibility and range of perishable goods needing shipment, this trend is set to continue to be a big one.
Bigger Focus on Sustainability
Sustainability is a big focus for both individuals and organizations in most sectors right now. As such, there is also more need for logistics firms to consider the environmental impacts of their operations if they want to satisfy consumer and government expectations.
Sustainability is being looked at from start to finish in the shipping process, in packaging choices in particular, and other spots where companies can reduce waste, increase recycling, and reuse items. Plus, using the tech tools mentioned earlier, businesses can plan out more efficient routes to consume less fuel and create lower emissions.
Logistics providers must stay aware of the latest trends if they not only want to increase sales but also decrease company expenses. The patterns listed here are just some of the ways you can go about doing this in 2020 and beyond.