Key technologies set to reshape the supply chain, logistics industry in 2021

​While we may not dare to declare 2021 a post-COVID world just yet, Nishan Wijemanne, managing director APAC at Körber Supply Chain Software, discusses the top trends to watch out for in 2021.

With a national lockdown from March to May, and a second Auckland lockdown in August, stay-at-home directives dominated 2020.

The pandemic forced many businesses to throw caution to the wind and make snap decisions around investment and adoption of new technologies to respond to the rapidly changing world.

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

Here’s key trends Wijemanne forecasts that will dominate the logistics, retail and supply chain space in New Zealand this year.

Leadership shift

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

Consumer confidence in New Zealand is rising, with total spending since March 2020 ahead of the same time in 2019. As a result of changing consumer behaviours, many leaders have been forced to switch from an old school mindset to a quick-thinking agile approach.

A change in management style, says Wijemanne, is required to ensure the nation sees a strong economic recovery in 2021. Leaders who can demonstrate agility and flexibility will be in high demand as we avoid supply chain and freight delays and get ready to take on this challenging year.

Nishan Wijemanne – Managing director Körber Supply Chain APAC and global AMR solutions leader

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%, fuelling an acceleration of productivity and innovation.

This has already started to take shape, with some of New Zealand’s largest retailers and logistics providers investing in dynamic and scalable solutions such as Android-based Voice and an array of flexible and mobile automation solutions for expediting workflows and scaling fulfilment operations.

Throughout this year, organisations will be looking at opportunities to reduce reliance on manual work methods and replace it with automation, but this doesn’t need to be large-scale fully automated warehouses. Instead, the trend will see distribution centres with a combo of fixed and flexible automated areas as well as plug-and-play technologies for speedy workflows allowing businesses to spread their investment and ROI goals.

Micro-fulfilment: the mega advantage

On December 21 last year, NZ Post announced it had delivered almost 14 million parcels across the holiday season and was delivering around two million parcels a week at peak. During November 2020, retail shopping volumes reached an all-time high and were up 27% on the same month in 2019.

Since March 2020, New Zealand have experienced the highest growth period for online shopping in its history. This fundamental shift has led to retailers shifting their focus to getting online orders out 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 of 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.

Körber’s collaborative AMR solution in partnership with Locus Robotics

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.

Recent customer led demand and trends have led to the rise of robots-as-a-subscription, where the hardware is offered as a pay-as-you-go subscription model. As a result, Körber is set to offer this solution in 2021.

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.

New product offerings are set to reach the New Zealand market in 2021, with Körber partnering with Silicon Valley-based Fetch Robotic as well as award-winning Locus Robotics, we see opportunities for our customers to deploy innovative solutions on a monthly model in 2021.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are set to evolve this year from buzzwords to reality as providers find logical applications for the technology.

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, which will be critical 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.

Körber AutoSort Mobile table-top sortation AMR solution

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