Since the dawn of the automobile, there has been a constant push to continually develop and integrate new technologies in order to provide more value to the customer. From steam power to gasoline engines, leaf spring suspension to air ride shocks, and the transition from radio to 8 track to CD to MP3, the automotive world has seen a lot of innovation which drastically increases the quality of life for the consumer. Up until now, these consumer features have only had an impact on their intended target, the end user. But with the developments being made in technology within the last five years and the integration of tech like onboard telematics and autonomous driving functionality, the logistics world is in a position where consumer features and functionalities could be leveraged and have a huge pay-off if intelligently integrated.
Don’t Fall Behind the Curve
In the automotive logistics world, there is not an aversion to change and implementation of new concepts and ideas, but it does happen slowly. RFID has been a hot topic for years within the automotive logistics community, with most in agreement that it could have positive implications. Even with wide support of the concept, RFID has yet to see widespread implementation and standardization because of one big brick wall: Cost. With RFID devices seen as being mostly one time use pieces, it has been difficult to decide how the cost of such technology can be accounted for and who will pay for its use.
Here is the exciting part: Telematics and autonomous driving features aren’t one time use logistics tools that have to be paid for by the port processor, 3pl, or even the OEM. These consumer-based features and the functionality they offer can be tapped into and utilized by logistics organizations with little overhead. With many OEMs looking toward 2020 as a goal to have telematics included across over 90% of their models, the time to start thinking about how you are going to implement these technologies is now.
A Glimpse into the Crystal Ball
So we have established that technologies such as telematics and autonomous driving are going to change the way finished vehicle logistics is handled, and we have even been able to see that these technologies are value-add benefits that stem from consumer features. But what we have yet to establish is how we can put these technologies to work and what benefits they would be able to bring with them. Here is where we dust off the crystal ball and hope to catch a glimpse of the future.
So let’s say we have hit the fast forward button and we are now in the year 2020. Telematics have become an industry standard and a majority of cars have autonomous capabilities. We may not have made it to mars yet, but at least the Pacific Rim is safe. Anyways, back to logistics. Telematics at this point has made a huge wave in the logistics world by creating a new level of transparency when it comes to vehicle status, and has reduced the amount of staff needed on compound. Onboard telematics systems are able to communicate with the overall yard management system to not only validate current parking positions, but also perform tire pressure and battery checks without needing personnel to physically check and document. This also has eliminated the need for “snake walks” as vehicles can be pinged in order to reveal their location within the compound if they are wrongly parked.
Telematics has drastically improved efficiency by reducing the amount of manpower needed to operate the compound and provides operators with a steady stream of data that is automatically compiled and processed through the yard management software. Work orders can even be automatically created to check vehicles which relay low tire pressure or battery readings.
Autonomous vehicles can further help optimize port operations by being…well…. autonomous. The loading and unloading of ships can all be managed and accomplished again through the yard management software tool as well as the cars’ onboard driving system. Furthermore, cars can be assigned and navigate to their designated parking spot on the terminal, be recalled to a VPC staging area, or directed to a load lane, and every movement is done with no human interaction. This not only reduces man power needed, but also drastically reduces on terminal damages, because let’s face it, humans have accidents. With no doors opening, wrong turns made, or misjudged distances, the amount of damages that happen in transit from the assembly line to customer will be reduced to almost zero.
With telematics and autonomous vehicles, the question is not if they will make an impact on logistics and the world, but when. With multiple OEMs offering cars with telematics already built in and looking to expand upon the integration, the time is now for logistics to start embracing the technology and think about how we can make it work for us in order to create transparency and efficiency. Telematics and autonomous vehicles are two technologies that embody both Industry 4.0 as well as the Internet of Things. The time is ripe for logistics service providers, OEMs, and IT companies to start thinking about how to create the connected environment envisioned for 2020.