Autonomous logistics has long been touted as the next big thing for the industry. Amazon was one of the first companies to dip its toes into the water with its Prime Air delivery drones back in 2016, though as of now, it has yet to become much more than a marketing stunt.
Looking forward however, what are the main attractions to the tech for the logistics industry? Westcoast Retail’s MD Carl Oxley looks into five key benefits…
One of the primary reasons autonomous logistics is becoming so attractive to the supply chain is the money it could save. Companies such as Amazon, UPS and Domino’s have already tested drone delivery, and it’s largely due to the potential cost cutting. Amazon, for example, made more than five billion deliveries in 2017, which led to a spend of at least $20 billion.
Being able to reduce that delivery cost is key, and drones offer a cheaper alternative with an estimate from ARK Investing Group stating each trip could cost as little as $1 per shipment. The financial benefits to the supply chain are clear.
A speedier delivery
With no pedestrian crossings or red lights, drones in particular offer a much quicker and more direct route to either consumers or retailers. Saving both time and ultimately cost, having a quicker route to destination for logistics companies means that the whole delivery process is much improved and provides a better service. There would still need to be vehicles on the ground as drones are limited in how far they can travel, though the likes of the Mercedes Vision Van, which acts as a staging ground for drones, make this potential closer to reality
Although it may not appear to be the case at this point in time, the potential reliability of autonomous logistics is a huge attraction for companies. Having autonomous vehicles that can deliver goods and avoid typical human errors, such as turning up late or making a wrong turn, improves the reliability of the delivery.
One of the main issues holding up greater reliability is ensuring there is adequate network connection to run the drones. Once this has been solved, the reliability of the tech should improve greatly.
Reduced return issues
Organising the return of damaged or unwanted goods is one of the biggest bugbears for a 21st century consumer. Not just increasing the speed of delivery, the use of drones in particular also means that goods can be collected from consumers without the need to return to a post office or organise a return themselves, as it can come directly to them and quickly. The quicker turnaround benefits both parties and results in considerably less hassle for the consumer.
The use of autonomous logistics will undoubtedly result in greater streamlining in the supply chain. Whereas previously there would be multiple stages involved, from a product being picked in the warehouse, put on a carrier and eventually delivered to the customer, autonomous logistics will mean that whole process is rolled up into one. Use of autonomous logistics in the warehouse as well as in the delivery of goods will result in a quicker and far simpler service, a key benefit to the use of the tech.