Misconceptions of the Logistics Industry

Logistics is one of the most dynamic industries in the world, whether you are a service provider or a client that uses the service. There are various categories and ways to move goods from a one man band to a multi national corporation. It is plain to see that even large providers rely on numerous suppliers to move goods and this requires co-ordination between the buyer, supplier and carrier. Buyers are concerned with their delivery, the carrier is juggling other customer’s loads from bulk consignments all over the world to ensure delivery to the end recipient.

All companies operate across multiple supply chains and how they operate can vary enormously, but the end result must be to deliver the consignment “on time every time”. The logistics industry communicates at varies levels, but it would be foolish to think that any one company can do it alone.

It is imperative to understand that the success of any logistics company is due to flexibility, collaboration and the ability to share information.

For the buyer to understand how the suppliers operate they must understand the various services that are available to them.

Same Day Dedicated Vehicle

When a client books a dedicated vehicle it is usually for urgent items that have to be delivered the same day for a particular deadline. As such that vehicle will only carry that client’s items, follow the quickest route and allow enough time to deliver to the destination on time. Sometimes this process can breakdown if the courier provided carries more than one client’s goods in a bid to reduce their costs. This can result in the items not being delivered on time. Some would say that this increases the carbon foot print, but it does ensure the client’s ability to hit their deadlines and service to their end user. Courier firms are working hard to ensure that the vehicle does not return empty by picking up a backload therefore reducing congestion in urban areas. This type of delivery does come at a cost and often client’s are surprised how much. Often we see tenders going on a cheaper overnight service that are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and being eliminated before the process has began as they were not prepared to pay for a dedicated service to ensure the delivery.

Overnight Door to Door Deliveries

There are many multi national companies that provide a cheaper overnight door to door service for next day, 48 hour or even timed services. Most of these carriers will guarantee delivery or money back. Often client’s are not aware of what this guarantee means! If the carrier fails to deliver, the item is then pushed to the next day therefore missing the deadline which affects services to its client. Overnight packages go through a sortation system and can pass through many pairs of hand’s before it is delivered. It stands to reason that it is open to more human error and can be sorted incorrectly at a main hub that deals with thousands of packages a night. During busy periods such as Christmas, many carriers struggle to keep up with the demand which can result in hundreds of packages sitting in warehouses while they figure out how to deliver them all. I would therefore stress that the overnight service should be used for non urgent items.

International Services

When companies or individuals try to export or import goods within the EU or Worldwide they must consider individual country restrictions, paperwork and taxes and duties. It can be a minefield to work out what is required when sending or receiving any items, but in general if you follow this guide you won’t go far wrong.

  1. Provide a full company name, contact name, address with zip code and telephone number (Various countries often ring ahead to arrange a delivery time).
  2. Measure each item to provide full dimensions i.e L x W x H. (Large items can be volume depending on the carrier which will affect the price).
  3. Weight of the item as this will affect the price.
  4. Provide a full list and description of what is being sent together with their value.

Commodity codes have to be obtained outside of the EU with a value of the goods. You can obtain commodity codes from HMRC online. Each item that is sent outside the EU must be accompanied by a customs invoice.

Although larger carriers supply a more automated service they can often fail on customer services. Smaller companies provide a more personal service, i.e items are tracked on the client’s behalf and any paperwork is completed by the carrier to ensure that the items are delivered on time.  This gives many clients the flexibility to concentrate on other aspects of their job role, safe in the knowledge that the items are being tracked and paperwork completed which will help with the smooth passage through customs.

Article written by Emma Dyer

Director at Apollo Distribution Solutions

 

 

The Future of Logistics: Shaped by Driverless Technology?

In the first two parts of our series covering emerging technologies in logistics, we looked at both 3D printing and UAV machines. Since, Airbus has used a 3D printer to manufacture the majority of an aircraft. Amazon are also furthering their exploration into Drone technology to minimise delivery times. A fast moving landscape incorporates a great many new technologies and in this blog we’re spotlighting driverless vehicles.

driverless technology, driverless vehicle, future of logistics, driverless cars, driverless transport

The above image is a 1950s advertisement for America’s Electric Light and Power companies. Perhaps this is not worlds away from the way in which driverless technology could be integrated into our road networks (minus the board game, probably). The notion that drivers will be able to authorise their vehicles to navigate the roads for them, leaves excess time in transit to complete other tasks. Thus, productivity is heightened, serving a more efficient supply chain. However, with the driver predictably still needed in the vehicle to combat any errors, many argue that the benefits don’t outweigh the development costs of this technology.

Of course, driverless technology is already present and often integral to manufacture. Transport vehicles in factories do not need drivers. Instead, machines are automated to handle materials accordingly; this has been so for decades. This reality is far from the 1950s commercial. Rather, these machines run relatively slowly and in enclosed areas as reaction time can be slow. Overall this leaves us with a relatively cumbersome system. However, future enhancements are set to revolutionise existing machinery. Taking this technology from the factory, breaching its current limits and making it fit for public roads has been described as the next “evolutionary step” towards a brighter future in distribution.

We’ve taken the advantages and pitfalls of the use of driverless vehicles in logistics to assess to what extent a future of self-driving trucks is likely. This is to assume that the technology will be refined to allow vans, transits, and articulated lorries to self-drive, with full public road access to transport goods.

The benefits

  • Similar to UAV technology, human error is scrapped. The prime responsibility now resides with the machinery and this has the potential to minimise road accidents, often a result of driver faults. Road accidents caused by tiredness or lack of attention would no longer be an issue, generating a safer road network.
  • Once the driving has been adopted by an automated system, drivers can serve other company duties whilst in the vehicle, such as administrative tasks. This, of course, enhances productivity, saving time, money and resources.
  • Current regulations preventing employees from driving around the clock wouldn’t necessarily exist in a realm of self-driving vehicles according to many, therefore supply chain efficiency is heightened significantly.
  • In this hypothetical landscape in which vehicles can keep going, transit times will be shorter which, in turn, increases freight turnover. This increase in turnover can be used to improve other areas of a logistics plan, from cutting loading times to expanding marketing budgets.
  • Ultra-sensitive reactors would allow vehicles to drive closer together, reducing traffic congestion.
  • Driverless vehicles generally have a lower environmental impact.

The assumption has been made that the driver will still need to be present, whether this is to take over should error occur, or serve as a human contact for the company at the pick-up/delivery locations. This point leads us to the downsides of self-driving vehicles in this industry:

The negatives

  • In order to be able to take control, should an error occur, the driver on board will need to be a professional. Therefore, full training will still need to be provided in a field which is experiencing a distinctly fewer number of young applicants than ever before.
  • In our list of positives, we mentioned round-the-clock driving. However, many argue that this wouldn’t be the case and that the driver would need to remain awake and alert to combat any technical faults. As a result, rest times would realistically remain about the same.
  • Conversely, if we were to reach a situation where drivers were not needed, or even if they were to complete other tasks whilst in the vehicle, we have an employment issue. Whether this is a loss of jobs for drivers, or a loss of jobs at the company office(s) because tasks are completed mid-transit.
  • At this point we’ve not considered the downside of an automated system inherently. Software can be hacked. If this technology is hacked, people can off-road vehicles, crash them, as well as track home/confidential addresses. Clearly, there is huge chaotic potential here.

The role of the driver seems ironically vital when discussing self-driving vehicles. That is, does said employee need to be present and to what extent? We are clearly far from a road system populated by driverless vehicles, but the question still stands as to how important they will become for the future of logistics?

Perhaps the most likely projection is the existence of manned driverless vehicles. Automated trucks have a smaller environmental impact, can react quicker to dynamic road changes, create a less tiring journey for supervising drivers and reduce traffic congestion. In this sense, they benefit the logistics industry significantly. However, with alert, trained drivers still a necessity, will logistic companies invest in driverless technology for their fleet? If drivers were able to carry out other tasks whilst aboard a vehicle that was more reactive to changes, thus averting collisions, this could conceivably assist the supply chain in becoming safer and more efficient.

How do you see driverless technology shaping the future of logistics? Will it bear much influence at all? Tweet Apollo Cardiff and let us know, @ApolloCardiff. Make sure to use #driverlesstech in your comments!

Thanks to

http://www.iml.fraunhofer.de/en/fields_of_activity/automation_embedded_systems/research/SaLsA.html

file:///C:/Users/owner/Downloads/dhl_self_driving_vehicles.pdf

https://kevingue.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/thoughts-on-driverless-trucks/

http://www.transportengineer.org.uk/transport-engineer-news/driverless-vehicles-will-be-a-game-changer-for-logistics-dhl/66507/

http://logisticsviewpoints.com/2015/02/18/are-driverless-trucks-the-solution-to-the-driver-shortage/

https://sites.google.com/a/cortland.edu/driverless-car-torres/disadvantages

How is Advanced UAV Technology set to Shape the Future of Logistics? Apollo Cardiff Investigates

Add subtitle text (5) Drone technology: an attractive prospect for futurists. However, concerns voiced by those in opposition leave distribution companies in a quandary. With a proportion developing potentially practical drone solutions in the supply chain, will our skies soon be scattered with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)?  UAV technology is already being utilised (for example, in the military for surveillance), with further prototypes in development. Many believe that the notion of mass drone assisted delivery and collection is vital for the future of logistics. Apollo Cardiff asks whether the integration of advanced UAV technology in the field will become the norm.

The value of UAVs to deliver to remote locations is evident. Landscapes dominated by poor infrastructure and tough terrain have already reaped the rewards of drone technology. Hypothetically, developing communities in remote areas could connect with other villages through UAV networks which could eventually facilitate their inclusion in the wider economy. Suddenly, they are connected. Not only can vital goods be distributed, but information too. As a result, these communities are no longer isolated. They don’t stand alone. Rather, this potential future of logistics sees their communicative range broadened, overcoming many barriers that a lack of suitable infrastructure generates. It certainly wouldn’t be the formula for a complete revolution; however, a stronger economic positioning could be established, moving these communities towards a better supplied future in which they also no longer face communicative isolation.

Theoretically, this sounds like the ideal scenario. Nevertheless, a great number of people argue that it is just that. An idealised notion, which bypasses a long list of issues. As far as UAVs in use on a mass scale in logistics is concerned, these problems fit into two clear categories: Technology based risk and social anxiety.

Let’s first take the potential risks associated with the fundamental UAV technology. There are a number of associated risks with the use of these machines, especially when considering mass scale use in distribution. Many would argue that a choked urban environment could be assisted by drone solutions. The final leg of a delivery could be adopted by a UAV, thus alleviating both inner-city congestion as well as bearing environmental benefits. However, if our airspace is full of thousands of drone devices, how can we be sure of a 100% prevention rate regarding collisions? Airspace, particularly over cities, is already overcrowded. Potential faults in motion sensor technology could lead to drones crashing into each other, buildings, wildlife, and even citizens if such collisions render the drone hurtling towards the ground. Furthermore, colliding with an aircraft could result in hundreds of risked lives. In 2013, a pilot reported the sighting of a drone just 200 feet from his aircraft when making his final approach into JFK International Airport. This triggered further investigation as it could have brought the craft down. Of course, we can only speculate. Even at this point the failure of a UAV is relatively unlikely, but it still remains a real concern in the eyes of many. Human error is removed but the risks of relying on technology remain.

Social anxieties are evident. The word “drone” does seem to connote some sort of dystopia in which humankind is under constant surveillance. Perhaps this originates from the use of UAVs in the military as spy equipment. There are a great number who scrutinise the use of the camera and GPS technology on board. Supporters of advanced UAVs mark such opinion as a social paranoia which is preventing advancements in a potentially widely beneficial and revolutionary technology.

The logistics industry could be completely reshaped, with faster delivery times, even to the most remote locations that wouldn’t otherwise have the infrastructure to accept said goods. However, the anxiety regarding both their use to survey and potentially harm humankind must be treated seriously.

Of course, UAVs used outside of strict regulation have the potential to inflict much harm; however, correctly used by logistics providers, they have the prospect to reshape delivery networks for the better. Currently, regulations vary widely from country to country, firm legislation is predicted to be realised in the next few years, making adoption of the technology both easier for distribution companies and less of a public concern.

Other social apprehension comes from the cost of drone solutions. An estimate in 2013 cited the cost for Amazon, and other companies, to be around $50,000 per machine. However, MIT Technology Review made note of a drone delivery made to Haitian refugee camps. Here, life enabling products were distributed at a rate that was around five times cheaper than the normal truck delivery method. For logistics providers, the value of the goods on board clearly needs to be considered when calculating whether delivery by UAV is of benefit. Clearly, as aforementioned, in the instances of delivery to remote locations, or when providing precious life-saving goods, the advantages remain clear, perhaps regardless of extra costs.

Amazon’s UAV plans have by no means been a secret. Although grounded for the time being, much research into the future of logistics has led to the potentiality of a system by which consumers can make an online order which is delivered within 30 minutes. Amazon claim that this isn’t a future too far away, with CEO Jeff Bezos hinting at a 4-5 year waiting time in order to benefit their most loyal Prime customers. Fellow giant, Google, have recently revealed their UAV plans under the name of Project Wing. After two years of development, this project enables consumers to receive their goods in a matter of minutes. However, much like Amazon, it is years away from completion.

Despite much speculation, advanced UAV technology is racing towards realisation in the logistics field. With Amazon and Google as forerunners in their development, it seems feasible to envisage a future in which the supply chain is heavily influenced by drone solutions. Associated risks are of course prevalent, with much concentration needed on the regulative legislation in order to ensure such technology is born into a secure environment. It has been argued that the hesitation regarding these regulations exists due to mounting social anxiety. It could perhaps be said that social change is progressing at a slower rate than that of one of the technologies set to shape the future of logistics. How do you see the future of drones in distribution? Are UAVs set to disturb the supply chain as we know it? Let us know at Apollo Cardiff. Comment below or tweet us @ApolloCardiff to join the debate!

With thanks to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10713898

http://www.inboundlogistics.com/cms/article/global-logistics-october-2014/

http://www.dhl.com/content/dam/downloads/g0/about_us/logistics_insights/dhl_trend_report_uav.pdf

http://www.genco.com/insights/when-will-it-make-sense-to-use-drones-in-logistics/

http://www.intellitrack.net/are-drones-the-future-of-logistics.asp

Apollo Cardiff Discuss 3D Printing in Manufacturing

3D printing in manufacturing

Arguably, 3D printing is becoming more prevalent as a participant in the logistics industry, with potentially astronomical implications on the supply chain. Clearly, 3D printing is evolving rapidly; analysts predict that over the following four years the industry will be worth more than ten billion dollars.

But to what extent could this development affect the logistics industry as a whole? With its involvement in the supply chain at the primitive stages, will we see a 3D printing in manufacturing revolution in our life time? Apollo Cardiff investigates.

How does the process work?

Charles Hull developed the technology in the 1980s to facilitate the production of basic polymer objects. Plenty of industries, from aerospace to medicine, are now heavily investing in 3D printing.

The process relies on the build-up of incredibly thin layers. A printer computes a digital blueprint of the product and then a slow procedure commences in which material is dropped according to said product design. Despite the slow pace of the print, there is very little setup time. The possible intricacy of this technique has enabled extremely precise levels of detail, unachievable in other methods of product manufacture.

How does it affect the supply chain?

As a manufacturing technique, there are clearly positive and negative aspects which must undergo analysis.

Positive impacts on the supply chain:

  • More local production is facilitated. This minimises the costs of shipping goods around the globe. Furthermore, this is clearly environmentally beneficial.
  • Local production additionally allows customers to receive their orders quickly.
  • When products do need to be transported across long distances, the 3D print process often means said products are lighter. As a result, fuel consumption is reduced, leading to fewer CO2 emissions.
  • It is also environmentally efficient to cut out the delivery and assembly of materials at the initial stage, as it can be manufactured at one specific point.
  • Keeping simply blueprints in digital storage would cut down storage space for manufacturers. This will also reduce the amount of energy needed to maintain a warehouse.
  • Material consumption is lowered due to the fact that the process only uses the materials necessary, there is no excess.
  • Highly complex and detailed structures can be produced, that which cannot be constructed by other manufacturing techniques.

There are, of course, negative implications considered here:

  • What does this mean for those employed at each stage of the supply chain that could no longer exist if this technology becomes normality? Low level assembly workers, for example, become largely redundant.
  • Retraining workers in 3D printing in manufacturing is costly and time consuming. The current design software is incredibly complicated.
  • The current 3D technology is not yet anywhere near fast enough to compete with high-speed manufacturing machinery. In addition, it is also not well versed in a great number of materials.
  • The cost of printing in three dimensions is currently costly, not making practical sense for most manufacturers. 

After assessing the above points, Amazon have recently been investing in 3D printing technology, prototyping the notion of printing products on the customer’s doorstep. The way in which this works is with the use of “mobile manufacturing hubs.” These manufacturing hubs contain 3D printing machines which enable local production literally at the location of delivery.

Amazon argue that this method enables a much faster delivery, which additionally eliminates any potential for damage in transit. Warehouse space is also reduced, benefiting the company and bearing less environmental impact. As a result of these points, customer satisfaction is increased, which is clearly financially advantageous.

So what does this mean for the future of 3D printing?

Overall, we still remain in the very primitive stages of 3D printing in manufacturing. Whereas many see its potential to change product manufacture and therefore the supply chain as a whole, there are responses which suggest we’re not quite ready for the revolution yet.

In its current position, 3D printing is often less cost effective than present technique. However, many of these processes do not allow the same level of customisation, which is becoming increasingly more desirable.

The current impact on distribution is low, but this doesn’t necessary stand for the future of manufacturing. The question remains as to how far away we are from its saturation into the industry. Some argue that we will witness its influence on the supply chain within the decade, with the breakdown of a global supply chain and the initiation of high-tech systems of localised and connected suppliers.

Perhaps the most sensible suggestion is the presence of 3D printing alongside other methods of manufacture. It has clear benefits but it seems impossible to consider a total breakdown of the supply chain, at least at this stage of development.

What do you think? Are we miles away or closer than many suspect? Drop us a comment or a tweet @ApolloCardiff and join the debate! #3Dprinting #ApolloCardiff

With thanks to the following sources:

  • Eureka Magazine
  • Cerasis
  • The Verge
  • The Logistics Business
  • The Guardian
  • Robotics Tomorrow

Employment Opportunities in Logistics

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It has been documented by The Bureau of Labour Statistics that employment in the logistics industry is, based on current progression, expected to increase 26% by 2020. Interestingly, this is a growth exceeding the average for any profession.

But why? Instrumental to this swelling is Globalisation. This isn’t a new term and we’re all very much aware of its integrative implications. However, trade walls are continuing to dismantle, many ideological borders are disappearing, custom duties are being eliminated and industry specific technology is typically marching ahead. Accumulatively, this means that the demand for logistical services of the utmost efficiency is essential for businesses of all proportions.

Scope in alternate cities and countries is vital to financial success and a fully integrated global supply chain and logistics industry facilitates this. Additionally, the processing of documents has been greatly simplified and both communication and transport options are faster than ever. Overall, this enables companies to expand their field of expertise around the world.

The opportunities are clearly present to work abroad with the skills gained from a position in logistics- positions in such roles as: customer service, transportation, operations, purchasing, strategy, warehousing etc. Furthermore, foreign language skills are invaluable when embarking on such a career that has global prospects.

Are young people unaware of the career potentials in such a fast-paced industry? Andy Kaye, reporting for Transport and Logistics Online, thinks so. Many education programmes have been established in order to provide young people with a full 360 degree understanding of the logistics industry; many of these courses lead pupils straight into guaranteed employment. Kaye notes that students aren’t shown these opportunities and miss out on “fantastic career opportunities.”

Often, career prospects evolve from idealised notions seen in the media. T&L Online note the sharp increase in popularity in such degrees as Forensic Science emerging from television series such as CSI. In reality, there are few jobs in this sector. This is true of many romanticised positions and perhaps it is in the hands of careers advisors to equip young people with the further knowledge they need to make a more informed decision as to how they will move forward on their paths to adulthood.

What skills are important in the logistics industry in order to succeed? There are a wide variety of roles, all demanding different qualities. However, there are a core few which both students claim to hold and logistic employers deem necessary. Skills such as teamwork, practicality, accuracy, attention to detail, IT confidence and problem solving are all widely sought after. Computer literacy is incredibly important and key to the progression of the distribution industry. Typically responding well to digital advancements, many believe that young people are now vital to this field.

A huge number of varied roles are available, awaiting young and enthusiastic graduates begging for a career in a lucrative industry, predicted to inflate further as we move into the next lustrum. Would you consider a career in logistics? Let us know your thoughts and join the discussion using #logisticscareers on Twitter.

With thanks to:

  • DHL
  • Brazen Life
  • Transport and Logistics Online
  • Financial Times Lexicon