Movers and Shakers: Top Trends Felt Across the Cold Chain This Year
When big change comes to the cold chain, it’s felt by every link along the way. This ripple effect can bring growth, advancement and efficiency to the chain, but it can also bring uncertainty and confusion as 3PLs work to keep up with evolving technology and shifting regulations. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time for those in the logistics industry to brush up on the major trends and topics impacting the cold chain this year. Read on for a quick rundown of the buzziest subjects you’ll be discussing in the months ahead.
Transparency has been on our collective minds in the industry for a while now, but this year, it’s expected to reach its peak, as artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies expand, offering more opportunities to track and monitor goods at every step of their journey through the chain. With regulations increasingly putting pressure on accurate, real-time data monitoring, plus customer demand for moment-by-moment updates on shipping timelines, you can expect visibility to be on the top of your list of concerns throughout 2019. While this can present challenges to 3PLs in the form of up-front costs, implementation and adoption of new technology, it can also be an opportunity to create efficiencies, increase customer service and satisfaction, and ensure regulatory compliance.
The gig economy has had an impact on the way we travel, the way we eat, and the way we shop. In the coming months, you can expect to hear more about on-demand warehouses, which are already cropping up around the country. These spaces present themselves as solutions to short-term problems like overstock, facility closure and other unexpected issues that impede your normal warehousing procedures. However, some in the industry see them as unnecessary, disruptive, or threatening to the supply chain. We’ll be exploring this topic more as we move through 2019, so keep an eye out for a deeper investigation into this subject.
The Co-Bots Are Coming
The good news is, human workers aren’t being replaced. But robots ARE coming, and we’ll need to learn to cowork with them. As technology in robotics and engineering advances, we may see more mechanical helpers taking over some warehouse and transportation responsibilities. Called, “co-bots,” these machines perform robotic functions alongside their flesh-and-blood counterparts, aiding in the efficiency while cutting down costs. You won’t see the most anticipated co-bots - autonomous, self-driving vehicles - on the cold chain just yet, but smaller machines that work alongside humans are on the way. They’re meant to be helpers, but as the industry continues to look for ways to trim any excess, they could be seen as a threat by real-life employees.
Chip Off the Old Blockchain
If you don’t know what Blockchain is yet, you will. This is the buzzword on the tip of every supply chain expert’s tongue this year. Blockchain is a system that tracks transactions made in cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, and is another example of the sharing economy, as it can be monitored and edited across a peer-to-peer network. There are countless questions surrounding the benefits and the pitfalls of Blockchain technology, and not all of them have answers yet. So, how will Blockchain impact the cold chain? The technology may soon be used to expedite the claims process when shipping items through international customs. By providing a secure record of tariff and tax payment, Blockchain has the potential to create time efficiencies and ensure more accurate record-keeping.
As we head through 2019, we’ll be looking at Blockchain, on-demand warehousing, and more of the trends that will impact the cold chain, and your business. Stay tuned to our Cold Connection Blog for the most up-to-date information and industry analysis of these trends and technologies.