Supply chain industry

Have you ever watched a movie and wondered if the futuristic technology you saw on screen would ever become a reality? One such technology that’s been a staple in science fiction movies for decades is autonomous vehicles. From self-driving cars in “Minority Report” to flying cars in “The Fifth Element,” these vehicles always seem too far-fetched to be reality. But with technological advancement, we’re starting to see the lines between science fiction and reality blur. For example, in the movie “Minority Report,” there were self-driving cars that could navigate the city on their own. Likewise, in the movie ‘Wall-E,’ we saw robots performing tasks like trash cleaning and object collecting. Now, companies like Tesla and Google are working on self-driving cars that use advanced sensors and machine learning to get around.

In real life, we see robots used in warehouses and factories to move and sort items, like in the Amazon fulfillment centers. These robots use artificial intelligence to learn how to navigate and perform tasks themselves. So, let’s explore the world of autonomous vehicles will impact the supply chain industry and see how close we are to turning movie magic into real-life.

Well, it is no wonder now that autonomous vehicles are poised to revolutionize the industry. Imagine a world where delivery trucks are  auto drived, drones are delivering packages to your doorstep, and warehouses are runned by robots. That might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it’s becoming more of a reality with every day. With the development of technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data, we’re getting closer to creating a fully autonomous, end-to-end supply chain.

What is an autonomous vehicle?

An autonomous vehicle is a type of machine that can move and perform on its own as directed by software or through remote control by a human operator to complete tasks.

Autonomous machines can operate in the air, including drones and surveillance aircraft, and on the ground, such as self-driving cars, trucks, and delivery vans. Additionally, autonomous vehicle   operate in GPS-denied areas, like self-driving forklifts and robots that assemble orders.

The use of autonomous machines to support logistics and supply chain activities is rapidly increasing. While some machines like automated guided vehicles and robotic pickers are already widely in use and others, like “parcelcopter” drones, and self-driving trucks and cars are still being experimented. However, other types of machines, including autonomous delivery bots, order-picking carts, and retail inventory-scanning and order-replenishment robots, have potential to bring revolutionary improvements in the supply chain.

Learn more from our experts how you can digitalize your freight forwarding & logistics business.

What impact will autonomous vehicles have on the supply chain industry?

The potential applications of autonomous vehicles in the supply chain are numerous and diverse, from utilizing dangerous tasks such as inventory counting in warehouses to delivering packages in the last mile of e-commerce. Autonomous scheduling and dispatching could also speed up delivery times and expand the labour pool for supply chain jobs. Regardless of the specific scenario, the same operations science principles of reducing variability, increasing capacity, and shortening cycle times would apply.

For instance, self-driving trucks could operate 24 hours a day without the restrictions of hours-of-service limitations, which could help alleviate the driver shortage and capacity constraints.

  • Last-mile delivery and Distribution Center Implications

Companies are exploring autonomous vehicles to address delivery delays in the last mile. Starsky Robotics is testing a system where remote drivers take control of the vehicle until it reaches the highway, and the another remote driver takes over for the final leg of the trip. This adoption will reduce logistics costs and delivery delays but require distribution centres closer to the end consumer. Autonomous transportation for the last mile is expected to offset the increased rent costs. The autonomous vehicles for long-distance travel will also make transportation more cost-effective and efficient.

  • Long Distance Travel and No Drivers 

Autonomous long-distance travel will reduce transportation costs by eliminating driver labour costs, leading to potential cost savings for businesses and consumers. This will also improve supply chain efficiency by allowing for 24/7 operation, faster and more frequent deliveries, and optimized operations. Greater transparency and traceability in the supply chain can be achieved through sensors and GPS technology, improving inventory management. While autonomous vehicles may reduce the need for drivers, new job opportunities in engineering, software development, and related fields will emerge.

  • Improve safety in high-risk work environments

Autonomous robots are being implemented faster than ever, with intuitive learning models allowing easy information exchange between technicians and the robot. This results in improved manufacturing processes, reducing errors, rework, and risks. In high-risk environments, autonomous robots improve safety by performing tasks faster and more efficiently than humans, minimizing the risk of accidents. Drones are already being used for surveillance, monitoring hazardous areas, and improving safety for workers.

Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles

  • Savings on shipping costs

Autonomous trucking technology can reduce human involvement in driving, leading to cost savings for companies in labour, insurance, and accident liability. It can also minimize accidents caused by human errors and eliminate the need for stops due to driver rest requirements. Additionally, it can improve fuel usage by choosing optimal driving routes and speeds, potentially reducing gas emissions with the use of electric trucks. This can result in faster travel times and reduced shipping costs.

  • Reduce Drivers Shortage Problems

The current shortage of truck drivers on the road is a significant problem in the logistics industry. Overloading trucks and pushing drivers beyond safe driving practices is becoming common practice for businesses needing to ship their products on time. This shortage is a worldwide issue, and autonomous trucking is emerging as a possible solution to reduce the number of drivers needed on the road and fill the driver shortage gap quickly.

  • Increased Safety

Autonomous vehicles can significantly reduce the number of accidents caused by human error, making the roads safer for everyone. They can also be equipped with advanced safety features such as collision avoidance systems and emergency braking capabilities.

  • Environmental Sustainability

Autonomous vehicles are typically electric-powered, which reduces emissions and carbon footprint, making them a more sustainable transportation option.

  • Improved Accuracy

Autonomous vehicles can be equipped with advanced sensors, GPS, and mapping technologies to enhance accuracy and precision in supply chain operations, including inventory management and order fulfillment.

Integrating a game-changing new technology in business is never easy. This is especially true for autonomous vehicles, whether they are operating on land, in the air, or on water. With the potential to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve delivery times, it’s no wonder supply chain innovators should approach this transition with both boldness and practicality. However, with any disruption, there will be challenges to overcome, including the need to adapt existing infrastructure and processes. Nevertheless, the benefits of autonomous vehicles for long-distance travel and the last mile of delivery are too significant to ignore, and it’s clear that the supply chain industry will never be the same again. So get ready for a revolutionary age of transportation, where robots will dominate the roads and the opportunities will be limitless!

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