Ten years ago, logistics in a company was a pure commodity, under the chief financial officer’s supervision. Today, that commodity has become the heart of many companies. The supply chain between production and end customer, with the distribution centres as the beating heart, is driven by the consumer/customer.
Text: Joost Uwents, CEO of WDP
People make all the difference in logistics today. The speed of delivery, the available product ranges, and return and repair logistics are essential parts of today’s customer experience, driven by our need for instant gratification and made possible by technology and digitalisation. And because it is so important, companies are also willing to make major investments in logistics through, among others, the many automation and robotics options. In any case, logistics is a game changer for every sector and every company.
So, what role can the distribution centres play? Of course, they are at the core of this story, but they aren’t alone... They are just one part of the total supply chain. In addition to storing and processing goods, there is still and will always be the transport from the production facilities to the distribution centres and the transport from the centres to the customers. And this is usually where the other shoe drops. Our individual need for ‘right now, immediately’ conflicts with the need for efficient, sustainable transport within the infrastructure available today. And that last mile, the delivery straight to our front door, is not sustainable in its current form either.
New technologies and behavioural changes will be crucial in the coming years. Perhaps self-driving trucks and drones will be a part of the solution, but they aren’t the be all end all. Local production and 3D printing also have a role to play on the supply side. Plus, the consumer must pay for the service provided. The cost of this luxury – this omnichannel offered so that we can buy anything we want and have it delivered wherever and whenever we want – is not currently included in the price. Artificial intelligence will also be able to help us predict what we will order where and what we will have delivered where.
We have reached a point where we no longer want to do more as a society, we want to do better. This will give the logistics sector a chance to create even more added value than they already do. But we need ‘sustainable warehouses with brains’ for this. These will be equipped with solar panels connected to storage batteries for local energy generation and consumption by the robots and electric vehicles. Plus, the Internet of Things will be there to literally and figuratively talk to and control them. In short, as the beating heart of an ever-evolving commercial landscape, the logistics sector has a great deal of responsibility resting on its shoulders, but it can also make an equally large – positive – impact.
We have reached a point where we no longer want to do more as a society, we want to do better.