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Logistics 4.0

Logistics 4.0: Trends for digitally automated supply chains

Logistics 4.0 is the key to the future. Digitization is providing companies with new ways of networking and automating their supply chains and deriving more value from them. The essential ingredients are "intelligent" pallets and containers, warehouse management systems and driverless transport systems.

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Logistics 4.0: Trends for digitally automated supply chains

Logistics 4.0 (also known as "Digital Logistics") has taken on the same importance for supply chains as Industry 4.0 has for factories. It helps companies further automate their supply chains and how they add value, including gapless monitoring and overall efficiency boosting.

Logistics 4.0 is paving the way to the future

Logistics 4.0 makes it possible to integrate and optimally coordinate processes across corporate boundaries. When successful, the logistics issues related to both inbound and outbound material flows can then be streamlined significantly. Companies are using Logistics 4.0 to network all their product lines and processes.

This also helps companies to work more effectively than ever before with customers and partners, e.g. suppliers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and logistics providers. The ultimate goal: self-monitoring and self-adaptive logistics.

Scenarios for Logistics 4.0

The technologies for this futuristic vision of Logistics 4.0 are already available. In many factories, communication between containers and goods is a reality. Many of the classic daily tasks for warehouse employees are being optimized with the latest technology, for example with smart shelves and data glasses to help workers pick items quickly and without errors.

Another major efficient boost is coming from transport systems that can make autonomous decisions, e.g. by means of optical sensors to choose which route to take based on their surroundings or the tasks that can be undertaken at any given time with the resources currently available.

When it comes to transport, smart trucks, containers and pallets are opening up new approaches to monitoring. Sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling goods to report when a threshold value has been exceeded, e.g. temperature, tilt or incoming light intensity. The freight being forwarded remains in clear view across the entire supply chain.

For purchasing departments, too, sensors are also becoming increasingly important – namely as a way of facilitating inventory monitoring and automated reordering. Another advance: Communication portals are helping to make purchasing processes more efficient and transparent. This is a major plus in the face of complex vendor landscapes.

Such comprehensive digitization across every link in the logistics chain is inherently increasing the volume of data available in real time, thus permitting new insights. For example, it is clear at all times how long which supplier will require for which route, and why quality issues arose in which batches.

It all adds up to comprehensive and highly flexible digital supply chain management systems powered by autonomously acting elements.

The technologies behind Logistics 4.0

Logistics 4.0 hinges on a colorful mix complementary technologies, among which are GPS, barcodes, DataMatrix codes, radio frequency identification (RFID) and sensors, electronic data interchange (EDI), the Internet and telematics, as well as on-site and cloud architecture and software.

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