Industry 4.0, smart logistics and the supply chain: what’s next?
The term Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was first coined in 2011 at the Hannover Fair, with the idea most often credited to German professor Wolfgang Wahlster. Conveniently, Industry 4.0 can be categorised into four main components: the Internet of Things (IoT), cognitive computing, cyber-physical systems, and the on-demand availability of computer system resources.
Today, we find ourselves in the midst of Industry 4.0, and smart logistics have started to play a huge role in the digital transformation of businesses and the supply chain. Of course, we can’t yet envision the full picture of what Industry 4.0 has in store. What we can see, however, is that many companies are taking note of the potential that these technologies hold. Through corporate innovation, smart logistics are redefining how the supply chain functions.
Smart logistics and the supply chain
Thanks to advancements in deep technology, new opportunities in supply chain management are on the rise. But what is deep techt, exactly? Simply put, it refers to the outcome of collaborations between tech entrepreneurs and scientists. That is, the development of technological solutions to innovate industrial activities.
The entrance of deep tech into the supply chain landscape has made smart logistics possible. For manufacturers and retailers, the benefits of transitioning to technologically optimised operations are extensive, with outcomes including:
- Greater product availability
- Improved efficiency in the workforce
- Better cost management
- Higher return on investment overall
- More efficient asset utilisation
On the ground, optimising logistics for the realities of Industry 4.0 can bring vast improvements to the supply chain from start to finish. By leveraging new technologies and embracing smart logistics, manufacturers can expect to improve transportation routes and modes, product flows, and storage and warehouse capacities.
The potential of smart logistics
By utilising technology and data to its full potential, scientific entrepreneurship has honed in on smart logistics. In turn, we’re witnessing a shift in the management of logistics, information, and transportation.
Now implemented across a variety of business sectors, smart logistics continue to boost efficiency levels across the supply chain. With limitless potential to reinvent the very fabric of business operations, it’s worth taking a look at some technology transfer examples that are writing the future of our industries.
Inner city distribution
Smart logistics play an important role in distribution structures, particularly in European cities. As urban ecosystems get increasingly complex, smart solutions are becoming necessary for ensuring accessibility and efficient transportation within cities—but it doesn’t stop there. They are also helping to deliver socio-environmental outcomes such as higher air quality, and healthy living more generally. The need for these solutions is twofold: technological advancement, and optimising the organisation of our built environments.
New technologies in factories and warehouses
AI, Big Data, and IoT are set to revolutionise the way warehouses run. Smart logistics will encourage the replacement of manual systems, with robots or automated handling equipment taking care of repetitive tasks.
By minimising operating costs and optimising warehouse throughput, leveraging smart logistics allows managers to access the complete scope of information before making any decisions. The results will maximise warehouse efficiency—eliminating errors, improving safety, and boosting productivity.
In factories, the advent of smart machines means more productivity and less waste. Such machines are digitally connected, independently creating and sharing information that makes them increasingly intelligent. Many smart machines that are able to constantly crunch data makes ‘smart factories’ possible—and these are set to become a key component of the Industry 4.0 supply chain.
The movement of goods by trucks is a staple of the supply chain, but its shortcomings are well known. Automation technologies in trucking represent a disruptive force on the horizon. The prospect of autonomous trucks could boost efficiency by removing obstacles that drivers face, including the need for rest, fluctuating availability, and human error. Here, software-enabled marketplaces will enable manufacturers to match supply and demand, generating efficiency gains that current intermediaries cannot match.
The tech-enabled transformation of trucking may also pave the way to a greener industry. Using AI and digital marketplaces, smart logistics could avoid excessive journey time and cut carbon emissions by around one to two megatons. At that rate, industry players would also save €1-2 billion.
Smart shelving uses advanced logistics technologies to automatically detect stock levels and optimise stock management. By detecting pricing errors or shortages, retailers can achieve constant monitoring to avoid waste and curb inefficiencies. This is a common application of smart logistics in the supply chain, and can be found in use today. From a business perspective, the ability to create a spinoff using smart logistics could be a strategic advantage for launching into Industry 4.0.
Moving past the supply chain as we know it
The supply chain is very complex—and it’s not always transparent. Extending around the planet, materials and components for a single item might potentially come from a variety of places. Clearly, the simplification and automation of these processes could lead to immeasurable improvements, from cutting carbon emissions to improving workplace efficiency.
A connected supply chain that utilises optimised logistics can adjust itself to new information and make the necessary accommodations. To give an example, the potential for proactive adjustments could mean that a weather delay causing issues to shipment processes can be resolved automatically, in real time.
What the future of the supply chain holds
A new era of the supply chain is approaching. Deep tech entrepreneurs are seizing the moment, with more smart mobility solutions emerging and many of them asking key questions like “What is Lean LaunchPad?” or “How can I go about licensing my technology?” The ideas, motivation, and talent are there—and the next chapter of industry is anyone’s game.
For manufacturers and retailers, to invest in deep tech is to invest in the future. The major trends are centred around automation and AI, assisting with more complex tasks and increasing overall efficiency and productivity. In this respect, wireless technology including 5G could offer even greater opportunities.
The scope of change that Industry 4.0 will bring to our shops, the supply chain, and society is unprecedented. In an era of disruption, one thing is clear: digitalisation and AI are quickly proving themselves to be the missing links in the supply chain.
The Collider leverages deep tech by providing a space for tech-transfer initiatives to make connections with researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors. The goal is to make a positive impact on society as a whole, on a global scale. We are powered by Mobile World Capital, promoting the digital transformation of society to contribute to the improvement of people’s lives.