Logistics 4.0: these trends will determine the year 2024

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
In a logistics warehouse, a delivery drone with a controller is lying on a table next to a scanner.

Logistics 4.0 – the fourth flap? The term “Logistics 4.0” refers to the fact that processes, partners, and customers along the value chain are becoming even more closely interlinked thanks to information and communication technology. Increased transparency, faster and more secure communication and the automation of logistics processes all contribute to this. In short, the digital transformation ensures that logistics can operate reliably despite increasing customer requirements, volatile volumes, growing environmental challenges and the like. Find out here which trends and technologies will be particularly important in 2024.

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Value Added Services: increase customer loyalty

Germany is changing more and more from an industrialised to a service society. The focus shifts from the pure product towards the associated services. For logistics, this means that value added services (VAS) are on the rise. In addition to pure transport, handling and warehousing processes, additional services are therefore often provided. A distinction is made between product-orientated and process-orientated VAS.

Product-orientated value added services:

  • Assembly/disassembly work
  • Repair
  • Packaging/outer packaging
  • Product refinement
  • Quality control

Process-orientated value added services:

  • Labelling
  • Order picking
  • Customisation
  • Shelf service
  • Returns management
  • Customs clearance

These value added services can be tailored precisely to customer requirements. The supply chain can thus be organised more efficiently: For example, if quality control is carried out directly by the shipper, the product does not have to be sent to another external provider who extends the supply chain – this saves time, money and minimises the risk of interruptions along the supply chain. These additional services are a perfect way for companies to set themselves apart from the competition in fulfilment logistics and become even more indispensable for customers.

Multimodality: reduce transport costs, shorten delivery times

Road, rail, water, air – you could call them the four elements of logistics. For some transport processes, it is necessary to use several modes of transport. In the past, this meant a lot of uncertainties and a lot of paperwork – but in the age of digitalisation, this should not be the case.

Digital programmes help enormously when it comes to finding the best means of transport. Timetables for rail or sea transport are often stored so that planning tools can automatically obtain the necessary information and calculate the optimal route. Thanks to the automatic calculations, shippers can therefore be sure of being offered the best transport option. Journey times including buffers, unloading and loading times are included in the calculations so that there is no time stress. Orders that require more than one carrier can also be conveniently managed digitally with the help of shipment planning tools. This means that all partners involved always know where the consignment is and when it will arrive. Delivery times can thus be reduced to an absolute minimum, which naturally lowers transport costs

Environmental awareness and sustainability in logistics still on trend: electromobility and smart grids as part of the solution?

Some trends do not change but prove to be perennial favourites: this is currently the case with sustainability in logistics. The general situation is becoming increasingly precarious – reducing emissions is therefore still one of the most important tasks on the agenda for 2024. Electromobility offers a solution, but there are still some question marks here – the charging infrastructure is not yet able to keep up with the e-mobility boom, and the changeover is also associated with enormous additional costs for companies.

Smart grids could also be part of the solution. Thanks to sensor and actuator components such as measuring devices, smart meters or adjustable storage systems, intelligent energy grids enable automated grid control. Renewable energies, which sometimes fluctuate greatly in their availability, can also be integrated into a company’s energy system more easily and with fewer losses. Thanks to digitalisation, energy flows can therefore be controlled much more precisely, which saves a lot of energy.

However, existing systems can and should also be further optimised in 2024. With efficient route and time slot planning, logistics can not only save a lot of time and therefore money, but also CO2. With the help of real-time data exchange, routes can be planned more precisely and, if necessary, optimised at short notice. Track and trace systems ensure that the transport status of a consignment can be viewed at any time. A reliable ETA enables shippers, freight forwarders and all other parties involved to plan precisely, so that time slots can be calculated more accurately and unnecessary waiting times in front of and at the yard can be avoided.

On-demand deliveries, crowdshipping and drones: Creative ideas for last mile solutions

A trend that will continue in 2024: E-commerce customers will not become less demanding. Express delivery solutions are on the rise, and customers should always be able to track the delivery precisely and also determine the time of delivery. However, the last mile in particular is a challenge for logistics: if customers are not there, the parcel often has to be taken to a parcel shop, which means extra journeys. The generally increased volume of traffic and the lack of drivers do not necessarily make the task any easier. How good that there are creative ideas for last mile solutions! Crowdshipping, for example, could be a trend that relieves the burden on CEP services in 2024. The motto here is: “Anyone can be a courier.” The planned delivery can be stored in an app, for example, which the drivers can then access.

On-demand deliveries can also provide a remedy for e-commerce logistics. What may initially sound like extra work for senders – after all, we’re not in the land of make-a-wish – ultimately has a positive impact on the delivery rate and the return rate in e-commerce. If end customers can have a say in the delivery date, delivery options and address changes, this flexibility ensures a positive shopping experience and more successful deliveries.

The first pilot projects testing parcel delivery by drone also show ways to relieve the burden on CEP services. As the parcels cannot be particularly heavy or large and it will never be possible to pack as many items together as in a delivery vehicle, drones are unlikely to completely revolutionise the parcel industry. However, drones could establish themselves as a reliable means of transport in the coming years, particularly for the urgent delivery of important goods such as medicines, even to remote locations.


Logistics 4.0: reliable data is the key to success

The best is saved for last, as the saying goes. We have therefore saved the message that has been quietly echoed throughout the article for the end to make it very clear once again: efficient logistics processes in 2024 will not be possible without reliable data. After all, this is what the concept of logistics 4.0 is based on – smart objects and processes that control themselves to a certain extent cannot function without being fed reliable data to decide what to do.

In 2024, logistics companies should therefore pay even more attention to reliably digitising data and making it usable in exchange with partners along the supply chain. Creative ideas are needed to ensure reliable deliveries despite driver shortages, volatile volumes, and global crises. The “technologies of the future” are already here today and provide reliable support along the supply chain – if they are used correctly. The focus should be on environmentally conscious and sustainable methods. And last but not least: value-added services are a great way for shippers to increase customer loyalty and make the supply chain a little more resilient at the same time. With this in mind: here’s to a great 2024 – let’s get started!

Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert

As a design guru, the software developer delves into logistics service providers' requirements like no other. He is passionate about exchanging information securely and efficiently and thus speeding up the physical logistics process.

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