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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How IoT logistics will revolutionize supply chain management

As with many other areas of the economy, the digital revolution is having a profound effect on delivery logistics.

The combination of mobile computing, analytics, and cloud services, all of which are fueled by the Internet of Things (IoT), is changing how delivery and fulfillment companies are conducting their operations.

One of the most popular methods for fulfilling deliveries today is through third-party logistics, which involves any company that provides outsourced services to move products and resources from one area to another. Third-party logistics, or 3PL, can be one service, such as transportation or a warehouse, or an entire system that maintains the whole supply chain.

But the IoT is going to change how this process operates. Below, we’ve outlined the impact of IoT on supply chain, and how IoT management will transform inventory, logistics, and more.

Internet of Things Supply Chain Management

One of the biggest trends poised to upend supply chain management is asset tracking, which gives companies a way to totally overhaul their supply chain and logistics operations by giving them the tools to make better decisions and save time and money. Delivery company DHL and tech giant Cisco estimated in 2015 that IoT technologies such as asset tracking solutions could have an impact of more than $1.9 trillion in the supply chain and logistics sector.

And this transformation is already underway. A recent survey by GT Nexus and Capgemini found that 70% of retail and manufacturing companies have already started a digital transformation project in their supply chain and logistics operations.

Asset tracking is not new by any means. Freight and shipping companies have used barcode scanners to track and manage their inventory. But new developments are making these scanners obsolete, as they can only collect data on broad types of items, rather than the location or condition of specific items. Newer asset tracking solutions (which we’ll get into shortly in the next section) offer much more vital and usable data, especially when paired with other IoT technologies.

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