Frans Kok, General Manager of AEB Asia Pacific, shares his insights into the fast-moving trends in Asia's supply chain and logistics sectors.
Q. It has been pointed out by AEB that the technologies that logistics companies must watch out for in 2016 include the cloud, predictive analysis, 3D printing, automation and crowdsourcing for last-mile delivery. Which of these technologies do you see making the most impact on the industry?
I think that partly depends on where you are in the region. Singapore, for example, has slightly different dynamics. Its high cost of labour and limited land availability mean that last-mile fulfilment drones are more applicable here than in Vietnam or Thailand.
Across Asia, we are seeing a lot of innovation in logistics, especially in last-mile delivery. Even within last-mile innovation, there is a clear divide between the urbanised market – where there is lots of traffic congestion but it’s easier to scale – and non-urban, which can be very remote and where solutions are tougher to apply. Many companies, like Singapore Post for instance, are building hub stations near high-density urban areas such as malls and residential estates, where parcels are delivered and picked up.
There has been a lot of research on last mile, and it is becoming clear that someone’s mobile data is now far more interesting and useful to the logistics business than their physical address. Companies are increasingly leveraging the capability to use your location at a particular point in time to make a delivery or collection.
The cloud has single-handedly transformed last-mile delivery, facilitating a retail-to-customer model rather than the old factory-to-distribution model. Most e-commerce companies don't keep inventory. There are fewer bulk shipments and lots of smaller, individual parcels. That’s where density in a network makes a difference, and companies start using a van or someone’s car for delivery instead of a truck. So you now see crowdsourcing, too, affecting logistics.
There’s also a lot of talk around the use of big data in logistics, but few players make full use of big data and predictive analysis to, for example, streamline reservations for truck or air cargo space. Despite the fact that there’s much more data available, the question is who is really using it?