DHL identifies future trends for logistics

  • October 31, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Decarbonisation, robots, big data, supply chain diversification and alternative energy will be the biggest trends influencing global logistics in the next decade, according to the sixth edition of DHL’s Logistics Trend Radar.

The report brings together forty trends that will help shape the direction of businesses, societies and technologies for the global logistics community in the next decade. Of those, decarbonisation, robots, big data, supply chain diversification and alternative energy will have the biggest impact in transforming logistics.

The report is the result of an analysis of macro and micro trends as well as the insights from numerous customer engagements and a large partner network including research institutes, tech players and start-ups.

“The events in the last two years have shown us the importance of having robust supply chains and logistics,” said Katja Busch, chief commercial officer at DHL. “We are therefore seeing businesses transform logistics from a quiet, back-end operation to a strategic asset and value driver. We believe that being successful in the future requires inspiration and innovation, open exchange and intense collaboration.”

Published every two years, the DHL Logistics Trend Radar illustrates the most important social, economic and technological trends for the logistics industry, tracking their evolution. Since 2015, more than 70,000 visitors have come together at the DHL innovation centres to exchange with DHL experts and each other. These findings are consolidated and reflected in the Logistics Trend Radar, which acts as a resource for the global logistics company to help shape the direction of businesses and technologies.

“The DHL Logistics Trend Radar is used like the North Star to navigate the future by our customers, partners and colleagues and has now been in existence for nearly ten years,” said Klaus Dohrmann, vice president at DHL. “In this year’s edition, we introduced new trends that became more relevant to the logistics industry like computer vision, interactive AI, smart labels and DEIB [diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging], while the many other trends are further clarified from the previous edition to offer more detail. For example, the fifth-edition trend sustainable logistics – which was the hottest topic of last year – is further split into circularity, decarbonisation, alternative energy and other trends. Sustainability is definitely still a top-of-mind topic for our customers today but ensuring resilience in the supply chain is taking centre stage in the transformation of logistics. The supply-chain status quo narrative of efficiency and operational excellence is now being complemented by an understanding that the supply chain is an essential driver of tangible value creation.”

As climate-related disasters and geopolitical interferences become more prevalent, organisations look into diversifying their supply chains in an effort to make their operations more resilient. Multi-sourcing, the partnering with multiple competing suppliers, and multi-shoring, selecting providers in more or different countries or regions, are some of the strategies organisations can take.

Broadening the supplier ecosystem and expanding manufacturing and distribution networks can achieve increasing resilience, agility, responsiveness and competitiveness. Three-quarters (76%) of businesses surveyed are planning to make significant changes to their supplier base within the next two years to ensure supply chain resilience.

The key to building resilient supply chains is having visibility. In this case, big data help analyse large quantities of data to reveal past patterns, highlight real-time changes in the status quo, and create predictions and forecasts for the future.

Those organisations at the forefront and seeing the greatest gains in their supply chains are those capable of analysing vast quantities of quickly accruing, unstructured data, while those who only look at core transactional data are missing out on visibility opportunities.

Digital twins, another emerging trend to help with business visibility, can reinforce predictive maintenance procedures in operations, reducing industrial breakdowns by 70% and keeping supply chains running. Computer vision – another example – enables more efficient processes and more secure operations.

The topic of environmental sustainability continues to gain relevance in the world, and this year’s report further delves into specific sustainability trends, expanding into systems and processes and not just technologies. The new trends that have emerged carrying a significant impact are decarbonisation, alternative energy, circularity and environmental stewardship.

On decarbonisation, the World Economic Forum recently found that a net-zero supply chain will, on average, increase prices by no more than four per cent. With many customers now willing to pay extra for more sustainable options, companies are investigating the various existing decarbonisation options for their supply chains.

The repost says 85% of consumers have become greener in their purchase behaviour in the past five years, and 65% are making modest to total lifestyle changes, pushing companies to inspect ways to make their products greener, often focusing on their supply chains.

Regarding alternative energy, companies should investigate in planning an electric fleet. Of the $755bn invested in the energy transition in 2021, 36% was invested in electric transport.

One trend that has the potential to change business models is circularity. Currently, only 8.5 per cent of society’s total material consumption is recycled or reused. Logistics organisations face major opportunities in all supply-chain segments to improve their sustainability effort with circularity principles, and thus respond to the needs of their customers.

To keep up with growing consumer demand, companies will need to start looking into automation and efficiency technologies to help with productivity. Important trends to mention here are indoor mobile robots and stationary robots, further extending a hand to staff on the ground. Indoor mobile robots have diversified over the years with continual technological advancements. These indoor mobile robots can now move goods from one point to the other, help with loading and unloading containers or trucks, and even assist in facility support with cleaning and security. Stationary robots can be placed in warehouses or hubs to optimise processes. In the future, it will be impossible to imagine logistics without automated processes using collaborative robots.

DHL has four innovation centres, in Germany, Singapore, USA and United Arab Emirates. These creative hubs host workshops, innovation centre tours, events and collaborative innovation projects to understand customer needs and identify actions to solve key supply-chain problems.