In the last few years, there have been significant advancements and innovations in the world. Key developments and trends, such as the Industry 4.0 movement, played a critical role in its digital transformation, which was also further accelerated by factors such as the pandemic. Hence, as businesses enter a recovery phase post-pandemic, they must take stock of the lessons learned and continually assess their supply chain operations to maintain efficiency and stay ahead of the curve.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on global supply chains, with 72 percent of companies reporting negative effects such as disruption to their workforce. This has emphasized the importance of logistics in a myriad of ways – from ensuring the delivery of essential goods to managing the disruptions in the supply chain like bottlenecks, delays, and shortages. All these have highlighted logistics as an important component of the supply chain, connecting businesses with customers and retailers.

As such, to remain competitive and grow in an environment where market conditions are constantly changing, logistics players must not only embrace but also seek progressive innovation through their workforce and technology, which involves adopting new innovations that optimize processes, investing in automation to streamline operations, leveraging data to gain insights and making data-driven decisions to ensure that its workforce is future-ready.

Evolving for a digital tomorrow

This rings especially true in Southeast Asia, where a digitally savvy population has led the way for e-commerce to flourish. In fact, Southeast Asia as a region has seen accelerated digital transformation  – a report by Google, Temasek, and Bain has shown that 100M additional internet users have come online in the last three years in Southeast Asia, and that e-commerce is nearing full adoption among digital users in urban Southeast Asia. As the region shifts towards digitalization, so too will the preference of consumers pivot online, as they gain access to products beyond their own shores. As such, merchants’ requirement to ship their products cross border will continue to be strong drivers in the logistics industry, making international cross-border shipping an important service for logistics players to tap on.

This upwards trend in digital users and demand for a holistic end-to-end consumer experience illustrates the need for logistics players to move the needle and implement new technologies and introduce innovative solutions – in this case, to upgrade systems to be more integrated, efficient, and bring convenience to customers.

Additionally, cutting-edge technologies like generative AI also have the potential to revolutionize the logistics industry by increasing efficiency, improving accuracy, and reducing costs. J&T Express Singapore, for example, developed the JMS, a transportation management system to plug the efficiency gaps that often hamper logistics management by equipping the company with end-to-end visibility of all departments whilst providing them with comprehensive analytics. Equipped with AI functions, JMS allows J&T Express to simultaneously coordinate their resources and support customers’ needs while expending fewer resources, which in turn reduces costs that would have been passed on to customers.

Beyond tapping on AI, the implementation of robotics in logistics services is another promising piece of technology. Currently, companies globally have looked to robots to fill labour gaps and speed up deliveries. These robots can help with processes such as the sorting and fulfillment of parcels, increasing efficiency and reducing the risk of errors. Similarly, delivery using robots and drones can help to further streamline the delivery process. However, progress toward the adoption of these innovative technologies will also change the skill requirements of logistic roles, expanding the pool of potential recruits in a tight labor market.

Importance of talent in pushing the future of logistics

This brings us to the importance of having a skilled workforce in the logistics industry, which cannot be overstated, particularly in light of the technological advancements that are shaping the future of this sector. Undoubtedly, with the rapid pace of innovation, logistics players will equally need a specialized workforce that can keep up with the upheaval of technologies as they pivot to become more sophisticated and agile.

To do that, logistics players would have to hire the necessary talents that can keep up with this digital transformation. Talents such as programmers, application developers, cybersecurity experts, and data analysts would be required to drive initiatives such as the integration with e-marketplaces and payment platforms. Yet, companies should not be limited to hiring as they can relook into how they can empower current employees to explore their different strengths and capabilities within the organization.

For example, logistics players can tap into government schemes such as SkillsFuture, a national movement for lifelong learning in Singapore, to provide their employees with a supportive environment for growth. This allows logistics companies to tap into the full potential of their workforce, opening themselves for versatility and adaptability.

Painting the future of logistics

Looking forward, the use of technology in logistics will continue to be a game changer, from robotic arms and automation that can significantly improve sorting and fulfillment operations, to generative AI which would help in enhancing delivery efficiency and speed. These technological advancements not only increase productivity but also allow for cost savings and greater customer satisfaction. Additionally, these innovations can provide a safer work environment, which is essential for a traditionally labor-intensive industry like logistics and opportunities for workers to be upskilled.

As the logistics industry shifts towards a more digitalized future, the adoption of these technologies will become essential for logistic players if they wish to remain competitive. Even so, the human element remains an integral part of the industry, and investing in employee training and development will be crucial to ensure that the workforce is equipped with the skills necessary to effectively utilize and manage these technologies. The future of logistics is bright and full of possibilities, but it will require both technological advancements and a skilled and adaptable workforce to make it a reality.

Martin Tan is Operations Director at J&T Express Singapore. Mr. Tan oversees the overall performance of operations within the company including capacity, budget, inventory and service excellence. He was integral in the setup of the company’s warehouses that now houses a state-of-the-art automated sorting machine. He has more than 20 years of experience in the aviation and logistics sectors.

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The new era of e-commerce demands a tech-enabled ‘human’ customer experience