What to Expect from the Logistics & Shipping Sectors as E-Commerce Grows Up

Driven by new technologies and e-commerce growth, changes in the global supply chain are expected to impact industrial real estate for the foreseeable future.

Since 2012, Amazon has been aggressively expanding its logistics and shipping services worldwide, disrupting traditional supply chain operators with direct competition for their business.

Chinese “e-tail” giant Alibaba, meanwhile, has deployed technology that cuts into a portion of third-party logistics (3PL) operator profits.

Alibaba’s “One Touch” platform automates export-related services, such as customs clearance and logistics, to make it cost-efficient for small/medium-sized merchants to participate in the global marketplace.

Cyclical and structural factors, including overcapacity in the container shipping industry and greater use of technology in manufacturing, retail and logistics industries, are also disrupting the sector.

Automation and robots are replacing manufacturing, logistics and warehouse workers. A survey by PwC found that 59 percent of all U.S. manufacturers are using robots for some tasks.

A recent report from real estate services firm Colliers International analyzes how these changes are impacting the logistics landscape. The report also looks at the impacts on industrial and logistics properties.

Report author Bruno Berretta, associate director with Colliers International who leads the firm’s pan-European research activities, says that Amazon Prime has entered the logistics market to take control of its supply chain and improve delivery times. He notes that unofficially Amazon is becoming a 3PL service to third parties.

The company is making a big push to establish a logistics network, opening smaller distribution facilities near customers, according to Berretta, who suggests that Amazon is likely to start competing with traditional 3PL services as it opens new markets.

Additionally, Amazon wants to reduce shipping costs, which have a big impact on profits. The Colliers report notes that in 2015 Amazon spent $11.5 billion on shipping costs, which equated to 10 percent of its global sales. By delivering its own goods and using technology to streamline deliveries, the company estimates it would save $3 per package, or $1.1 billion annually.

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