Over the past decade, the world of logistics has changed almost beyond recognition. And this change has been driven, almost entirely, by the advancement of networking technology. We’re now able to connect to the internet from just about anywhere in the world, and order just about any item imaginable – from boots to drones.
Such convenience has led to higher expectation on the delivery side of things. We now expect to receive items within days of ordering them. And, when we’re willing to pay a little extra, the timescale can shrink to hours. As more and more of us switch to shopping online, and outfit our homes with smart-assistants like Amazon’s Echo, the demand on the industry is likely only to escalate. Fortunately, a whole host of technologies are being brought to bear on the problem.
Often, the best way to improve the time a journey takes is to reduce the distance travelled. And that means effective route-planning. Fortunately, this is an area where sophisticated satellite navigation systems, of the sort most of us are carrying around in our pockets, can help out. Anticipating roadworks and congestion in real-time helps a driver to avoid delays, and makes the system more consistent and reliable. This in turn allows online retailers to promise more when it comes to delivery time.
For years, hauliers have provided their customers with updates on where their package is. Until recently, this has consisted of a time estimate, which refreshes only occasionally, and rarely reflects reality.
Now that tracking devices are more accurate, customers can be told precisely where their package is. This information can also be used by hauliers to assess the performance of drivers, and diagnose niggling problems with efficiency.
In some cases, a customer might not be home to receive a delivery. The most frustrating outcome in this circumstance is the traditional one: an apologetic note. Modern customers have commitments out of the house, and they increasingly expect to be able to arrange for a delivery to go to an alternate address, like a workplace, or to have the package brought to a public storage facility. In urban settings, with lots of lockers packed into a small area, this is especially advantageous.
Similarly, technology allows customers to specify the exact weight and dimensions of the parcel being shipped, and thereby attain an accurate quote. Major names like TNT offer a special large parcel delivery service.
The holy grail for the logistics industry is an entirely automated service – one that takes a package right to a customer’s front door in a way that’s entirely safe and economical. Quite a few technical challenges remain in place before this future is realised. One solution might be unmanned drones, which don’t need to contend with traffic laws. This technology is said to be just a few months away – but then, this has been the case for several years now.