The major component driving the advancement of the logistics industry is the digital transformation. Emerging technologies offer new solutions to tackle existing challenges such as warehouse automation, last-mile delivery, and transportation optimization. For logistic companies striving to survive in this highly competitive industry, it is vital to innovate rapidly and integrate new solutions.
At StartUs Insights, we are committed to innovation and providing companies like yours with actionable insights on how to develop your business and collaborate with cutting-edge startups. For this reason, we have analyzed 40.000+ emerging startups in-depth using our proprietary AI- and data-driven innovation scouting approach. Let’s go through the results of our Logistics Innovation Map:
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
Considered the ground equivalent of drones in last-mile delivery, automated guided vehicles hold an even greater potential for disruption in the logistics industry. Logistics companies willing to innovate in this area can draw from various use cases such as last-mile delivery, line-haul transportation, and warehousing operations. In warehousing, the main application, AGVs massively contribute to a new paradigm of material handling by meeting full automation. In last-mile delivery, significant progress is made as well with automated guided vehicles even being ahead of drones as the regulatory system is more open towards them.
Robotics & Automation
In less structured environments, robots are already capable of manipulating objects, therefore, supporting zero-defects logistics processes and massively supporting performance as well as improving sensing capabilities up to a point where they nearly substitute manual handling. These robots are either 100% automated or collaborate with people (“cobot”). A few of the use cases are remarkably conceivable: fully automatic solutions unload containers or palletize which establishes new application areas such as collaborative, pick & place, and shelving robots among many others. Whereas large companies focus on integration (building hardware and combining it with vision/tactile solutions), cutting-edge startups tend to specialize on vision and tactile solutions, one of the biggest opportunities in the robotics area as they aim to solve challenges such as speed, picking from random, part quality vision, and color contrast.
Augmented Reality (AR) & Wearables
Wearable technology such as smart clothing, bionic arms or smart contact lenses act as a powerful support tool for the human workforce. Adding an augmented reality system such as wearable cameras or smart-glass displays unlocks additional value for logistics companies, e.g. gamification to train & onboard new employees or the utilization of smart glasses for picking, positioning and scanning to empower employees to work hands-free.
Drones (aka unmanned aerial vehicles) begin to disrupt the industry by offering in- and outdoor use cases such as last-mile delivery, inventory management, security, inspection scanning, serving as collaborative tools for delivering items between employees inside the warehouse as well as certain material handling scenarios. Though drones are not expected to replace ground delivery entirely (see AGVs for reference), this technology has a significant impact on logistics processes.
As the rise of eCommerce has reinforced the importance of customer preferences and demands, last-mile delivery has become a vital aspect for logistics companies. Through making use of smart lockers, a flexible courier workforce along with the power of the crowd, last-mile delivery acts as a key differentiator in terms of customer satisfaction.
Though anticipatory logistics is not yet very common in the industry, it is without a doubt that it will become a powerful asset. Implemented through software solutions, anticipatory logistics predict demand before it occurs. This enables logistics companies to substantially improve efficiency through reduced delivery times and better utilization of their transport capacity and network through predictive algorithms derived from big data.
Machine learning or, as it is sometimes called self-learning, is one technology bound to transform the logistics industry as we know it today. Because this form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) requires very little human intervention and adapts algorithms according to the data received, it becomes more efficient automatically. Some application areas for machine learning in the logistics industry include the optimization of algorithms for shippers to select carriers, route and do quality control, the use of natural language processing (NLP) to speed up data entries, as well as the optimization of storage, order picking, order validation and waste reduction in the warehouse. Ultimately, this results in process optimization and the automation of decision making in logistics.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Logistics companies are widely expected to take full advantage of the Internet of Things as is holds many promises. Some of the many application areas include smart objects taking part in event-driven processes, asset tracking within the warehouse and in the delivery status, environment sensing (e.g. freshness monitoring), and fleet management. Overall, the IoT adds massive value across the entire supply chain including warehousing, last-mile delivery, and freight transportation.
Disruptive Startups In The Logistics Industry Include:
- French startup Scallog optimizes order fulfillment utilizing automated guided vehicles to lift up to 600 kg and carry storage shelves at a speed of 1 m/s thus dramatically improving warehouse efficiency.
- Germany-based Smart-Robotics builds collaborative robotic arms (“cobots”) in different size variations to suit a wide range of needs. The arms “mimic movements of human hands closely due to unrivaled flexibility provided by the six joints”.
- German oculavis produces smart glasses which empower the human workforce to complete their tasks hands-free. The startup makes use of AR to create new applications including picking & placing orders by vision, scanning, and real-time tracking.
- UK-based Unmanned Life is an award-winning startup operating at the frontiers of drone technology. The company currently works on building “the world’s first and only fully autonomous drone-based parcel sorting center”.
- Quiqup provides businesses with affordable on-demand logistics services. The startup’s Quiqees fleet shops, picks up and drops anything needed, offering transportation of a package by car, scooter, or bike while providing real-time tracking for each delivers.
- Bulgaria’s Transmetrics is on a mission to end delivery inefficiencies by providing logistics companies with network optimization and demand forecasts using predictive analytics and big data.
- Sentenai facilitates the use of sensor networks to support real-time intelligence across logistics networks or in the cloud. The startup’s stream learning system gathers a company’s data to increase the intelligence of their systems, which is able to adapt to changes as it can relearn a stream’s structure.
- IoT startup CargoSense lets companies easily track valuable assets via their platform. The startup’s software taps into data provided by internet-connected sensors, thereby guaranteeing logistics companies full transparency as to what happens to a package until delivery.
As mentioned earlier, the digital transformation is the main disruptor in the logistics industry and will account for €1.42 trillion in investments that are to be allocated to logistics by 2025.
The eight innovation areas outlined in this Logistics Innovation Map scratch the surface of what we found during our analysis. Blockchain, logistics as a service, cloud logistics, digital identifiers, and additive manufacturing are all areas bound to significantly impact logistics companies one way or the other. Identifying new opportunities and emerging technologies to implement into your business early on goes a long way in gaining competitive advantage and becoming an industry leader.