A Look to The Future – How Can Technology Help (Or Hinder) Operations

A Look to The Future – How Can Technology Help (Or Hinder) Operations

The 2nd Session of TLME's Future of Logistics Conference discusses the state of digital adoption within the logistics industry

Moderator Lars Jensen set the stage for the second session TLME’s Future of Logistics Conference Part II by saying that technology today has already become an integral part of the supply chain. The pandemic actually demonstrated to the world just how advanced the logistics industry is in terms of technology.

The Panellists for the Session:

  • Fadi Amoudi - CEO, IQ Fulfillment

  • Maximilian Weigelt, Director, Business Development Middle East & South Africa, project44

  • Eng. Khaled A. Bakry, Deputy Minister, MCIT - Saudi Arabia

  • Michael Schneider, Executive VP, Siemens Logistics

  • Irina Albanese, Head of Innovation Middle East & Africa, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation, MEA Innovation Centre

  • Joe Beydoun, Chairman, TLME

The first questions Lars asked the panellists was how they have specifically changed the use of technology over the last two years? And what further changes they planned for the future that will not only optimize their own operations but also provide customers with opportunities to better their operations in turn?

Maximilian Weigelt of Project 44 began by saying that the recent emergencies in the supply chain like the pandemic and the Suez Canal blockage had highlighted the need for greater visibility in the supply chain to better deal with the situations. Project 44 aimed to provide companies with real-time visibility of their cargos even in such critical times.

Providing a government perspective Eng. Khaled A Bakry of MCIT said that technologies today were of two kinds, the sustainable and the disruptive. Disruptive technologies have hugely impacted the supply chain and increased efficiencies through the whole value chain. Things like big data, IoT and robotics were no longer futuristic technologies but were being deployed in operations today.

Eng. Khaled then went on to talk about his own experience during the pandemic when had just joined MCIT in February 2020 and the pandemic soon hit Saudi Arabia. The two sectors that MCIT considered critical and focused on at the time were delivery apps and courier companies. Thanks to technology Saudi Arabia could successfully meet the challenges in these two critical sectors during the pandemic.

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Speaking on technology in the logistics industry Irina Albanese from DHL said that today 30% of all tasks have been automated already and the forecast was that by 2025 half of the tasks in the logistics industry will be done by machines. In the future there will be further acceleration of automation simply because volumes will continue to grow and the industry will continue to struggle to find blue collar workers.

Ms Albeneese then added that technology was also getting cheaper and smarter thus further driving up adoption rates. The future supply chain will be much more connected, data driven and sustainable. Technology will also create much customer-centric operations in the supply chain.

Michael Schneider said that the pandemic had accelerated the use of technology particularly in transparent digital communications across the supply chain and Siemens Logistics had provided many customers with the “digital twins” solution so they had complete visibility “at the click of button.”

Mr Schneider felt that instead of guarding their data, different players in the supply chain should collaborate and share data to create greater efficiency and economy in day-to-day operations.

Joe Beydoun then brought in Fadi Amoudi of IQ Robotics asking him how he saw automation scaling up in the industry?

In his reply Mr Amoudi brought in a very important point by saying that technology by itself is not enough. It’s the solution that you build with the technology that matters and how easy and profitable it is to use that solution.

Mr Amoudi then went on to talk about the IQ Hybrid solution based on a licensing model that was introduced at the Dubai Expo 2020. IQ Hybrid unlocks global growth for customers through its partner ecosystem and core markets. “And everything is provided in a box”, said Mr Amoudi.

On people, Mr Amoudi they were critical for technology to actually work and with the right amount of up-skilling will make technological adoption can be more successful.

Ms Albaneese said, “People are the enabler.” In a recent DHL inhouse survey 90% people felt that technology had made their work easier and better. However, 50% of people working in logistics also felt their jobs are threatened by technology. Technology is helping people work better but it could also take over people's jobs. Then they asked if they would be willing to upgrade their skills and 87% said yes. So it’s a question of figuring out if people are ready and looking at the new generation who are more adaptable to technology and want to collaborate with technology.

So in conclusion Ms Albaneese said that “people are ready” for technology and they were also ready upgrade their skills to best make use of it.

Fadi added to that educating the workforce was critical to successfully deploy technology in supply chain operations.

Lars Jensen said thanks to technology, visibility has now really been embedded within supply chain operations. However this visibility also creates vulnerability for data. So how are companies planning to mitigate the cyber security risk as the supply chain gets more and more digitised?

Maximilian Weigelt said that before the pandemic most cargo owners were working with contact lists and most people would not even know if there was a cyber attack on their freight forwarder or the shipping line. project44 provides customers complete visibility even in the face of cyber attacks and other emergencies by combining various data sources to create a complete picture of the status of your cargo and what are your options are in case of emergencies.

Michael Schneider stated that cyber security plays a much bigger role in the supply chain than it did 5 years ago. As we move data on to the cloud we need to build networks that can isolate their different parts in case of an attack to keep it from spreading further.

Cyber attacks cannot be eliminated altogether but we can set up our systems so that the damage they could do could be minimised as much as possible.

In a lighter vein Ms Albaneese said, "I am happy I am not working in IT". She then added that it’s critical that all workers are made aware of cyber security issues and given the right training to respond accordingly.

Mr Khaled Al Bakry said that collaboration was key to maintain security across the supply chain.

Taking the data security issue further Joe Beydoun asked the panellists if they were taking any steps to secure not only their own but the data of their customers as well?

Michael Schneider said data privacy comes down company policy and how its implemented. Siemens employees get regular training on how to handle customer data and conduct regular audits to ensure that there is no misuse of customer data. Data is there to make life easier and if you want to take advantage of data you will have to build more trust by implementing robust data security systems.

Joe Beydoun then threw in a curve ball and asked everybody, including the audience, if the logistics industry was ready to go completely paperless?

Lars expanded the scope of the discussion further by saying that the same question should also be asked of various governments around the world if they were ready to go paperless? And if yes, then global data standards need to be established.

Fadi Amoudi said that the industry was “more than ready” to go paperless. He said that logistics companies simply had to start taking the first steps towards digitalisation and the rest will follow.

Making a critical point in her reply Ms Albaneese said that we should not try to digitise existing processes but use technology to create altogether new more efficient processes. Technological adoption has not been uniform across the supply chain but it is a gradual but inevitable process.

Maximilian said that project44 was 100% paperless company and the recent crises and disruptions were driving innovations like never before and there is a change to paperless operations going on.

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