"You need clean, harmonised operational master data to start using emerging technologies," said De Muynck. ©EMBARK
"You need clean, harmonised operational master data to start using emerging technologies," said De Muynck. ©EMBARK

Get the basics right, logistics firms told

Transport and logistics companies should focus on making sure they have mastered existing digital trends before experimenting with emerging technologies, according to a research consultant.

Most companies are still at a “foundational” stage, where they should concentrate on ensuring clean operational data, automating processes and recruiting the talent and skills for digital operations, said Bart De Muynck, vice president of research at Gartner.

Only when they have done this should they experiment with more disruptive technology such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous vehicles, he said.

Speaking at Gartner’s Supply Chain Executive Conference in London, De Muynck said: “Sometimes we see companies rush into new technologies without having the right pieces in play. What happens is they are not very successful.

“You need clean, harmonised operational master data to start using emerging technologies, plus the ability to collect data from carriers and suppliers through internal-external integration.

“You need to understand what level of maturity are you at before you know how far to go with emerging technologies.”

De Muynck also gave his predictions for when autonomous road vehicles would enter supply chains. The US and Europe were both “very close” to having the requisite technology to “make it work,” he said, but because of regulations widespread use was still some way off.

“I think it’s going to take at least three-to-five years before we have the regulations in place in the US. The same goes for Europe because regulations vary so much from country to country, even though we have companies who are very advanced in the technology like Volvo,” he said.

But in China, “we might see them in two years or so” because regulations are more relaxed.

He predicted that in 10 years there would be a “very low” global adoption rate of “maybe 10% of logistics fleets at most”.

Meanwhile, car seat manufacturer Faurecia addressed conference-goers on how it had moved the company from a reactive supply chain model to a predictive one.

Olivier Grienenberger, supply chain vice president at Faurecia, said the company had used external data collection from carriers and suppliers, combined with analytics and an algorithm provided by an external company, to predict when deliveries would arrive.

“We worked with all the carriers to find the best mode of communication with them – some of them used a smartphone app, others used truck telematic systems, and some put sensors on the trailer and not the truck itself,” he said.

“We can now predict a delivery time, with only two hours margin of error, 24 hours before arrival.

“When you know about a delay 24 hours before, you can still do something about it. When it is two hours before it costs a fortune.”

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