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Aeolus Perspectives 4th Edition: Digital in transportation and logistics. This is how new technologies and big data could change T&L


Screens with code in an office headset

Digital is transforming the common mindset. And habits, as well. So, maybe, in the next future, talking about heavy duty vehicles the main question could not be anymore “how much horsepower does it deliver?”, but rather “how many good and accurate data can it collect and give back?”. From horsepower to data power, performance benchmark in transportation is clearly about to change. 

In an increasingly real-time economy, where efficiency and speed are the key of the business success, the digitalization is a huge opportunity for transportation and logistics companies as well. And that is true in many aspects. Overall, new digital technologies and big data can potentially change and develop the way the cargo traffic flows and the whole supply chains are organized and managed. They can give rise up to new opportunities, paving the road to innovative services and new business models as well. Moreover, they enhance cooperation among all the actors, increase visibility and real-time management of flows, allow for a better use of available infrastructures and resources, hereby arising efficiency and lowering operative costs.

One of the main results given by an increasing digitalization of transportation and logistics (T&L) is the major availability of updated and useful data, often in real-time. Nowadays, more and more, you got the power, if you got enough information to drive your own activity the best. The T&L companies are requested to fill the gap of information and so be predictive and really accurate defining the impacts of their own activities on the total costs and efficiency of their management. That includes transport, first of all. Looking, for example, to the e-commerce, transport very often weighs heavily on the financial budget. In the meantime, it is a more and more important strategical leverage for companies regarding costs efficiency and customer satisfaction. In this, aiming to deliver a valuable freight transport service at a very competitive price on market, transport procurement becomes very crucial. To get the best result, companies have to prepare a tender with the most accurate data and also be completely transparent towards the potential partners. On the other hand, the transport companies have to answer with exact, real-time and updated information. A clear data sharing is “win-win” and a digital information, built with data collected along the whole supply chain, is a more and more unconditional requirement for realizing a good procurement activity.

The data management sets opportunities in terms of costs reduction and traceability improvement, but also challenges, especially from the security perspective. The enhanced dematerialization of the T&L flows can strongly contribute to widen the view of processes and go deep in them. However, as everything gets interconnected, so does a risk growing and growing, as technology, globalization and social changes are giving birth to an even more complex network of relationships between all the parts. Cybersecurity is the main topic, in the supply chain management too and of course a newly area where increasing investments are strongly needed. The so called “hybrid supply chains” represent another risky challenge. According to Capgemini Consulting, most organizations still operate on models where paper-based and ITsupported processes are combined. Paper is too “slow” and only available locally. Moreover, in a general context with a lot of intermediaries and steps, papery documents get easily lost, damaged or corrupted in several ways. New digital technology, as blockchain, try to give the ultimate answer to this kind of problems too.

Last but not list, digitalization and interconnectivity technologies bring with them another important opportunity, “Internet-Of-Things” (IoT), that can really revolutionize the T&L Industry: efficiency, visibility and new business approaches can be accelerated by leveraging the innovative IoT applications. While some latest digital and technological trends - such as the connected and autonomous driven vehicles or the robotics applications in smart warehouses -, are still going to consolidate, the IoT has been around in T&L since quite some time. Its roots, indeed, are in RFID that, in more than one sense, took its first steps in this own sector.

Digitalization is a big opportunity on which T&L companies have to point (and some of them are already doing it). And not by chance, it is also a priority in European Union (EU) Commission agenda. Improving connectivity is one of the main goals of the recently approved measures during the Western Balkans summit in Poznan (Poland), where the Balkan leaders met together with representatives of the European Union and 10-member states. The EU Commission has announced a new 180-million-euro package for energy and transport through measures supporting digital development. Package includes eight new infrastructure projects, which are expected to bring investments of up to 728 million. Around 15 million grants have also been approved to improve road safety and the operation of border crossings. In the digital sector, the EU has announced new subsidies of 1.65 million for three projects dedicated to broadband development in Albania, Montenegro and Northern Macedonia. The Balkan leaders then signed, together with the international financial institutions, letters of intent to strengthen the SME development and innovation tool in the region, adding another 20 million to the 150 provided by the initial commitment.

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