Going Digital in Logistics

The Defining Labour Challenge of our Time
Digitalisation is transforming how the logistics sector operates. We’ve all heard about the ongoing development of driverless cars, and the potential impact this may have on the transport industry. But how else is technology making its mark on the sector? And, importantly, what does this mean for the workforce?

Embracing digitisation in logistics

Many logistics companies are harnessing the power of technology through computerised shipping and tracking systems. By integrating multiple supply chain processes into one system, they can maximise their use of data – allowing them to promptly identify the most efficient transport routes and also anticipate any potential issues in their plans and processes.

Technology is also being used to reduce fuel emissions. It was well publicised last month that Scania are developing a platooning system for heavy vehicles. This will allow several trucks to travel one after the other, in an aerodynamic formation. They hope that this system will cut fuel consumption by as much as 12%.

Logistics companies are utilising technology as a way to better align with the demands of consumers, too. These days, customers don’t want to wait several days for their items to be delivered. There’s a growing ‘I want it now’ mentality, where people expect to receive their deliveries in hours, not days. This expectation is putting logistics firms under pressure to deliver a quicker service than ever before. In response, some companies are looking to introduce drone deliveries. One example of this is Amazon. In trialling the use of drones to make deliveries, they aim to deliver packages to their customers within 30 minutes or less. At the same time, they hope to increase the overall safety and efficiency of their transportation system. While drone deliveries are still in their infancy, it will certainly be interesting to see how this develops in the years ahead.

How will this impact the workforce?

Historically, the transport industry hasn’t always been open to embracing technology. But they’re being driven to by necessity. After all, as driver shortages worsen and demand on the industry continues to grow, technology presents a way for organisations to make their operations more efficient, cost effective and productive. But, from a workforce perspective, the growth of digitisation in logistics presents employers with a number of issues to contend with.

As I’ve spoken about in a previous blog, too few young people are entering the industry. And, with the threat of automation on the horizon, this issue could be exacerbated. If young people are unable to see the long-term prospects logistics can offer, it’s unlikely that they will consider this as a career path. With this in mind, it’s important that employers are clear about the long-term opportunities they can provide, to mitigate any concerns.

Digitisation also means the value employers place on skills will change. Industry-wide, it’s likely that technology will replace both cognitive and manual routine tasks. This will leave people to take on non-routine and more fulfilling roles. As a result, skills that employers value today may not hold the same value in the years to come. At the same time, new skill requirements will emerge. This means employers will need to focus on reskilling and upskilling the workforce, to address today’s talent shortages and anticipate the demands of tomorrow.

Responsive and responsible leadership: the time is now

Now is the time for logistics leaders to be responsive and responsible. We cannot slow the rate of technological advance. And we cannot predict exactly how digitisation will affect logistics in the years to come. But we can invest in employees’ skills to increase the resilience of our people and organisations.

As an industry, we need to take immediate action to fast track the upskilling and reskilling of existing employees, to ensure we have a workforce with the skills required for the future. We also need to draw in those groups of individuals that are not fully participating in the workforce, such as young people. After all, finding the right balance of technology, talent and human connection will enable both people and businesses to succeed.

To find out more about our expertise in warehouse and logistics recruitment and workforce planning, visit manpower.co.uk/warehouse-and-logistics or email us at [email protected]