The rise of autonomous and electric trucks, drone tests, Blockchain projects,
Each month, Transmetrics Blog was looking into the latest news on the intersection of logistics and technology. And from that perspective, 2018 was truly eventful for the industry. Let’s dive into the highlights and wrap our head around the most important logistics innovation news of the year.
Here is the list of topics in this issue:
- The Rise and Shine of Autonomous and Electric Trucks
- Predictive Analytics in Logistics
- The Year of Blockchain
- The Flight of the Drones
- December Logistics Innovation News
- P.S. Holiday Greetings from Transmetrics
The Rise and Shine of Autonomous and Electric Trucks
One of the most outstanding trends in 2018 in logistics were the announcements connected to the development and deployment of Autonomous and Electric vehicles.
In February, Embark, the startup which develops self-driving trucks, announced that they have completed a test run of their autonomous vehicle from Los Angeles to Florida which is the first-ever coast-to-coast trip of a truck with such technology.
In March, the UPS-led consortium announced the breakthrough in the charging technology that allows to simultaneously recharge an entire fleet of electric vehicles without an expensive upgrade of a power supply grid. It will allow UPS to increase the number of EVs from 65 to 170 trucks operating from the company’s central London site.
Additionally, UPS announced in June that it will buy 950 electric delivery trucks from Workhorse Group, an electric vehicle startup. New E-Vans can travel up to 160 km before they need to be recharged. The cost will be about $6 to travel 160 km, which is significantly lower compared to gas or diesel-powered trucks.
Furthermore, during Capital Market & Technology Days in the U.S., Daimler presented new electric Freightliner trucks for the American market. According to the company, the batteries provide enough energy for a range of up to 370 km or 400 km, depending on the model.
In addition to that, the car manufacturer also revealed that 2 brand new electric Mercedes-Benz Vans are coming to the market – eVito (Cargo space of up to 1048 kg) and eSprinter (Cargo space of up to 900 kg). According to Daimler, both vans will have a range of up to 150 km and a maximum speed of 80 – 120 km/h, depending on the configuration.
In September, several car manufacturers have announced their electric and self-driving trucks. The most notable ones are Vera by Volvo and CitE Electric Concept Truck by MAN.
According to Volvo, Vera is the core part of its vision for a transport solution, which also consists of a control center and can contribute to more efficient, safer and cleaner transportation. The driveline and battery pack are of the same type used in Volvo electric trucks allowing Vera to have a range of up to 300 km while being completely driver-less.
As for the vehicle presented by MAN – CitE 15-tonne electric truck concept is designed specifically for urban cargo transportation. Due to the specifics of the city cargo operations, the vehicle was developed with a low-floor cabin enabling maximum freedom of movement for the driver. The lithium-ion batteries are located under the truck’s frame and provide a range of at least 100 kilometers.
However, while these trucks are just being presented to the market, the existing solutions are already being applied by the logistics industry leaders. In November, DB Schenker and Einride launched the installation for the first commercial use of a T-pod – an all-electric, autonomous truck – at a DB Schenker facility in Jönköping, Sweden. The T-pod will travel continuously to and from a warehouse, paving the way for a sustainable transition of road freight transportation.
On a not-so-positive side, Uber announced in 2018, that it is quitting the self-driving trucks’ development to direct the focus of the entire team towards the self-driving cars.
“We believe delivering on self-driving for passenger applications first, and then bringing it to freight applications down the line, is the best path forward,” said Eric Meyhofer, the Head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group.
As you can see, 2018 was quite a ride for the trucking industry. Now, we have to wait until the big players find the best way to approach these solutions and integrate new vehicles into their operations.
Predictive Analytics in Logistics
Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning are becoming the crucial part of operations in the logistics businesses. It can not only optimize the network and better utilize the capacity of vehicles, but also improve the bottom line and increase the quality of customer service.
The bright example of such implementation is UPS with their online platform called Network Planning Tool (NPT). The tool allows the engineers to see the activity at UPS facilities around the world and route shipments to the ones with the most capacity. In addition to that, the planners can see details about the packages in transit, including their weight, volume, and delivery deadlines. While UPS already has different complex systems in place such as ORION and EDGE, Network Planning Tool provides its users with a complete overview of package volume and distribution across the network.
According to the company, this approach lets UPS organize packages by destination and move them at low cost while still meeting deadlines. It also lets the company’s engineers combine shipments to save time and money—as long as they have accurate information about what’s moving through the network.
For the logistics industry, it is a clear sign that the importance of predictive analytics is undeniable. Only a few largest companies can afford to develop such an AI-based network planning tool in-house since it involves significant investments as well as hiring the whole team of highly-skilled data scientists and engineers. Meanwhile, other players are already benefiting from AI predictive capabilities by implementing available SaaS solutions such as Transmetrics.
By partnering with Transmetrics, NileDutch, a major shipping company, focusing on links between West Africa and the rest of the world, is streamlining their empty container flows and increasing efficiency with the AssetMetrics tool. Namely, the total costs for handling empty containers were reduced by a double-digit percentage. In particular, storage costs have been impacted very positively alongside the improvements for other logistics costs. AssetMetrics system has also helped NileDutch to reduce their fleet size by several thousand TEUs.
Another project which Transmetrics undertook is the partnership with a leading European logistics service provider, Jan de Rijk Logistics. The goal for Transmetrics was to implement its AssetMetrics tool, which would provide daily rolling AI-driven forecasts for major locations of Jan de Rijk 10 days ahead based on the historical data and the external factors influencing the demand.
The Year of Blockchain
In 2017 we heard about Blockchain from almost every source. In 2018 we hear about it much more often. But what is the difference now? It evolved from being just a buzzword to a handful of pilot projects in logistics. And it was about time as Gartner Inc. predicts that blockchain-related businesses will create $176 billion of value by 2025.
Just in the beginning of 2018, Maersk and IBM have announced that they are establishing a Blockchain joint venture for conducting global trade. The main goal of the new company is to provide more transparency, security, and simplicity in the movement of goods around the world, by using a global trade digitization platform, designed specifically for the entire shipping ecosystem.
In March, Lynx, a subsidiary of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, announced the successful integration of Blockchain for its cross-border logistics operations. According to the company, the system is capable to keep track of all the relevant data about an imported shipment such as the details about the production, transport method, customs, inspection, and even third-party verification. Considering the fact, that Alibaba is a parent company for the two biggest e-commerce websites in China, it makes sense that it aims to streamline its logistics processes.
Another big logistics provider that announced their work with Blockchain was Kuehne + Nagel. Its first Blockchain technology project aims to upgrade its Verified Gross Mass (VGM) Portal, a large-scale operational environment with more than 800,000 transactions per month. The enhanced solution will provide shippers with new features that improve the ease of doing business as well as the degree of transparency on the VGM status of all customer shipments and the history of persisted information.
Despite many announcements being made in relation to blockchain in Logistics and Supply Chain, Samsung Group is one of the first big global manufacturers to announce its interest in optimizing the operations through the distributed ledger system. Samsung is considering to use Blockchain in order to keep track of their global shipments. The use of the technology could possibly cut shipping costs by 20%, an enormous number, considering the volume of the Korean electronics giant’s operations.
However, a lot of effort in the blockchain field is coming from startups. As a part of its PortXL annual accelerator, the Port of Rotterdam Authority has partnered with a Blockchain startup CargoLedger to implement a Blockchain solution for tracking shiploads. The technology will be applied to improve quality control in supply chains and establish a transparent and secure system to innovate cargo management and handling. The Blockchain solution, developed by CargoLedger will record and process data from labeled loads, which can be scanned by receivers in Rotterdam’s ports.
Furthermore, dexFreight, a decentralized logistics platform, revealed that it has completed the first-ever blockchain-based truckload shipment using smart contracts. The blockchain platform and machine learning technologies allowed the shipper and carrier to directly connect, negotiate rates, and schedule pickup and delivery. For this first truckload shipment, dexFreight partnered with Netuno= USA, Arel Trucking Inc., and RSK, the first smart contract platform secured by Bitcoin.
However, possibly one of the biggest Blockchain announcements in 2018 is the establishment of Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN), a Blockchain-based open platform. The consortium consists of Yang Ming, CMA CGM, COSCO SHIPPING Lines, Evergreen Marine Corp., OOCL and terminal operators such as DP World, Hutchison Ports, PSA International Pte Ltd. as well as Shanghai International Port Group.
The first prototype will allow shippers to digitize their documents and proceed to automatically exchange data with relevant parties in the supply chain, simplifying and expediting the processes of documents and goods.
The Flight of the Drones
Drones are conquering the air – both indoors and outdoors. 2018 demonstrated that logistics companies are interested in drones like never before. While the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are the core of such projects, there differences lay in sizes, scopes, and goals.
For example, GEODIS and French UAV maker Delta Drone have successfully completed tests for their drone warehouse system, which replaces the need for human labor in the inventory-warehouse setting. The system consists of a ground, battery-powered robot and a quadcopter drone equipped with four high-definition cameras, controlled by geolocation technology.
The main advantages of this system are the productivity gains generated by performing the inventories outside warehouse operating hours, greater safety at work for the site’s employees and reliability of the inventory in the warehouse.
Another good example is a San-Francisco based startup, Volans-i, which successfully tested its new delivery drone designed to carry heavier parts and equipment to construction sites, factories and to the vessels at sea. According to the startup, the drones can travel up to 800 kilometers at a speed of 320 km/h and carry up to 90 kg payload. The most interesting aspect of this drone is that it is powered by rechargeable electric batteries for vertical take-off and landing, and it uses aviation fuel for flying horizontally at high speeds.
Furthermore, Bell Helicopter and Yamato announced their strategic collaboration to become the global leader in electric vertical take-off and landing logistics. In order to create an exceptional on-demand logistics customer experience, the companies plan to work on integration between innovative autonomous unmanned vehicle systems and package handling systems. To demonstrate the viability of the project, Bell will use its expertise in aerial vehicles to design and develop the Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) while Yamato will work on developing a customized detached pod.
One more notable project from 2018 is the pilot project “Deliver Future” by the German drone manufacturer Wingcopter, GIZ, and DHL which proves that the delivery of medicines to remote areas via drones is already a reality. Over a six-month period, they successfully tested the delivery of health commodities using a drone flying to Ukerewe Island in Lake Victoria, Tanzania. During the trials, the autonomous DHL Parcelcopter 4.0 completed the 60 km flight from the mainland to the island in 40 minutes on average. A total of 2,200 km were flown and roughly 2,000 flight minutes recorded during the pilot project.
As you can see, the sky looks clear for the drones, especially when such industry is being noted by governments and they take actions to assess how to regulate drones and how to integrate them safely into the airspace.
December Logistics Innovation News
Hyperloop Cargo Train Pilot Set for Hamburg Port
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced this month the establishment of a joint venture company with Hamburger Hafen und Logistik Aktiengesellschaft, the leading container terminal operator in the Port of Hamburg. The company will focus on integrating the latest container movement innovations with hyperloop technology into the largest rail port in Europe. Additionally, the new company will bring this new technology to ports, shipping, and logistics companies around the world.
DPD UK automates 55% of customer queries with Dialogflow
According to the case study by Google Cloud, DPD UK, the leading parcel carrier uses a rich text-based conversational experience built with
“The app has been incredibly successful. One of the most popular aspects of it is the chat option. When customers address us through the app, they are immediately identified without having to answer frustrating security questions on a phone call. With 100,000 new users downloading the app every month, it became a challenge to keep pace with demand,” shares Sinead Croke, Director of Customer Experience at DPD UK.
SingPost Partners with LogiNext to Introduce Artificial Intelligence to Its Regional Last Mile Platform.
Singapore Post Limited is introducing AI to its next-generation regional logistics platform LaMP, in a move that will provid parcel traceability and reliability for customers across Southeast Asia.
According to the press release, by utilising machine learning and AI route planning software from LogiNext, LaMP will have the capability to autonomously plot optimized courier delivery routes based on multiple factors such as parcel destinations, customer preferences (for instance, “blackout” or preferred times for delivery) as well as real-time ground data including traffic and weather conditions.
P.S. Holiday Greetings from Transmetrics
The time has come to wrap up 2018. It was a challenging and exciting year for the logistics industry, a year of growth and change. Looking at all the technologies and innovations taking place in the sector has never been so exciting.
But the most important part of this journey is that we are sharing it with you – our readers and supporters. You are the people who have all the knowledge and skills to push the industry forward and we are extremely inspired by that at Transmetrics.
We wish you an incredible year and encourage you to keep pushing the logistics forward!
Happy Holidays and warm wishes from Transmetrics Team!