Three centuries after much of the western world underwent an industrial revolution, we’re now seeing another revolution in industry. This time, rather than agrarian societies giving way to manufacturing ones, digital tools are taking manufacturing to the next level of efficiency.
As consumers increasingly turn to e-commerce for all their shopping needs, speedy fulfillment isn’t just a “nice to have” — it’s the expectation of every online shopping experience. And if logistics companies and their retail partners want a shot at thwarting the ever-looming threat of Amazon Prime, it needs to be a priority.
British supermarket Ocado is using robots to make online grocery shopping faster. They call it “the hive,” or “the grid.” Or sometimes just: “the machine.” It’s a huge structure that fills a warehouse on the outskirts of Andover, a small and quiet town in southeast England. There are more than a thousand of robots, each the size and shape of a washing machine, and they wheel about, night and day, moving groceries. Their job is to be cheaper and more efficient than humans, and they are very good at it.
E-commerce has dominated the headlines as the driver of an industrial property boom and bounteous rent growth. But in no way is e-commerce the only force generating the good times. Traditional warehouse users and third-party logistics companies have also been active in the market, and now manufacturers could be poised to contribute a bigger share to that growth, too.
Reaping the benefits of a technology-based supply chain used to be a luxury reserved only for the biggest enterprises. But buoyed by IT advancements and increasingly complex market conditions, businesses large and small are now getting in on the game.
Global logistics spending is expected to reach $10.6 trillion in 2020, with transportation accounting for the majority at 70 percent. Emerging technologies such as cloud computing, big data, and crowdsourcing, coupled with an influx of tech-savvy start-ups, are unbundling the value chain and transforming delivery models. Those are among the conclusions in Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis, “Urban Logistics Opportunities—Last-Mile Innovation.”