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Technology trends for 2021

What technology is set to define and reshape the supply chain and logistics sector in 2021? Nishan Wijemanne, Managing Director at Körber APAC along with along with team members Tim Baracz, Rizan Mawzoon, Paul Phillips and Jon Kuerschner present the top trends set to dominate 2021.

While we may not dare to declare 2021 a post-COVID world just yet, there were many lessons learnt in 2020 that will shape how the world does business this year.

Organisations across the globe made huge strides in their digital transformation journeys. The pandemic forced many to throw caution to the wind and make snap decisions around investment and adoption of new technologies in order to adapt and pivot in a rapidly changing world.

While we will continue to see some of the same trends that arose in 2020 continue in 2021, there will also be some new trends to look out for.

Here’s some of the key trends we think will dominate the Australian logistics and supply chain market throughout 2021.

1. Change of the guard

 This year will see an even greater need for agile and flexible leaders. I think we will see an organisational shift from top-down decision-making to more ground level empowerment in operations. Within this shift, we will see daily decisions driven by data and a need to improve speed to market and fulfil rising consumer demands.

We’ve seen lots of leaders this year being forced to switch from an old school mindset to a quick-thinking agile approach. I think there will be a significant change in management styles with a new wave of leaders ready to take on the dynamic world we live in in 2021.

2. Technologically enhanced workers

According to IDC, a global market intelligence firm, by 2022 technology will expand the functionality and effectiveness of the workforce by 25 per cent, fuelling an acceleration of productivity and innovation.

This technology not only produces efficiency and productivity gains, but it also improves accuracy and enhances the picking experience for the staff.

With low set-up costs and the ability to move solutions around the warehouse, we predict that there will be a huge uptake in flexible technological solutions that enhance and empower crucial roles throughout the warehouse, resulting in allowing the workforce to be applied to much needed areas of the operations and bottlenecks such as stock receiving, outbound and customer service.

3. The Micro-fulfilment advantage

As 2020 came to a close, Australia Post announced it had broken all previous records and delivered 52 million parcels during December, up 76 per cent when compared to the same month last year.

With e-commerce numbers at an all-time high, retailers’ priorities lie in getting orders to customers as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Pair this with a complete overhaul of commercial property in built up areas due to a COVID-driven fundamental shift in working patterns, and it creates the perfect storm for micro-fulfilment centres to take centre stage in 2021.

Coming in a number of different guises, micro-fulfilment can mean converting current space into a physical store into a micro-fulfilment centre or it can be building a dedicated centre close to urban population.

The rise of micro-fulfilment will also be evident in large shopping centres that have been impacted by closure od bricks and mortar stores and will allow leased tenants to explore micro fulfilment-as-a-service within the shopping centre to extend a better experience to consumers.

4. The rise of Robots-as-a-subscription

Robots-as-a-subscription is a rapidly growing industry. ABI Research predicts that by 2026, there will be 1.3 million installations of Robots-as-a-subscription, generating a revenue of more than $43 billion.

By offering a pay as you go, or subscription model, organisations can take advantage of the benefits of introducing robots by leasing devices and running a cloud-based subscription service as opposed to making an outright purchase.

With new product offerings reaching the Australian market in 2021, with Körber partnering with Silicon Valley-based Fetch Robotic as well as award-winning Locus Robotics, and as a solutions provider with offerings across the entire breadth of the supply chain, we see opportunities for our customers to deploy innovative solutions on a monthly model in 2021.

5. Machine learning and artificial intelligence

As more and more steps of the supply chain become connected through technology, we have access to enormous volumes of data. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are set to evolve this year from buzzwords to reality as providers find logical applications for the technology.

Furthermore, organisations are looking for more effective methods of data interpretation and visualisation to make informed decisions. With this comes a need for simplified user experience design, and we see this as important criteria when selecting supply chain software solutions.

With a significant part of supply chain operations now carried out using automation and technology, there is a huge opportunity for supply chain operations to discover patterns and make decisions based on data to drive efficiencies and create more accurate inventory control.

Major players such as Amazon have already started to take advantage of this technology, with predictions around which stock needs to be held at which locations for faster delivery times.

We see machine learning and artificial intelligence as a way to take investments in technology to the next level and we are sure to see more of this throughout 2021.

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