Supply Chain Inching Closer to Self-Orchestration

Supply chains are evolving in unprecedented ways, and the supply chain of the future could well end up being entirely autonomous. Here is a look at some of the ways modern technology can help push this transformation along.

Autonomous Fleets

New autonomous forklifts can help reduce or eliminate the need for time-consuming human travel throughout a warehouse. Vision-guided, fully autonomous mobile robots can also help process orders at a rate that is four times faster than humans can manage. As autonomous vehicles continue to evolve, entire fleets could become completely autonomous in the next decade or two. In fact, semiautonomous trucks are expected to achieve a 5 percent penetration rate by the year 2030, while Rolls Royce is planning to launch its own autonomous cargo ships in the same time frame.

Putting Data to Work

Companies like Amazon are working hard to cut through data spam—which some estimates place as high as 90 percent of all data collected—to develop accurate predictive analytics for consumer buying behaviors. Their ultimate goal is to ship products to consumers before they even realize they want them. They can’t compete with physical stores right now in terms of offering instant gratification, but they are making inroads with drones and robots to significantly cut down on delivery times.

The firm has now patented “anticipatory shipping”, which will entail getting deliveries out to certain zip codes to get them closer to people, and then completing the address and routing it to someone who orders it in the meantime while it’s already in transit.


New freight approaches are likely to be seen as businesses become more mobile-based. Referred to as the “Uber-ization of trucking”, mobile-based freight brokers will likely develop their own software solutions in partnership with telematics providers, freight brokers, and OEMs. Mobile apps could be used to match shippers with truck drivers based on schedules, routes and rates, thereby automating many parts of the delivery process.

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