Logistics 4.0 for Industry 4.0

What is Logistics 4.0? In a world in which the number of acronyms and new terms does not stop growing, there are few that finally remain in time due to their usefulness. If we go by its importance, Logistics 4.0 has many chances to be long-lived, since it will be essential in the latest revolution in the business world: Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is the name by which the fourth industrial revolution is known. The first, which began in the 18th century, arose with the application of steam to manufacturing processes. The second, in the 19th century, has electricity and chain production as protagonists; while the third, in the last century, witnessed the first automations.

Industry 4.0, named in 2011 at the Hannover Messe fair (Germany), is a new paradigm characterized by the integration of the digital and the physical, as well as the blurring of the barriers between the two concepts.

What is Industry 4.0

A report from the Ministry of Industry of Spain highlights five characteristics of Industry 4.0:
cyber-physical systems

These types of systems are made up of a material part -physical- and a digital and computerized part, which carries out monitoring, control and even decision-making tasks. The software is closely intertwined with the operation of the machine itself and it is here that the barriers between the ‘cyber’ and the ‘physical’ are blurred.
Industry and smart products

Faced with the massive processes and endless assembly lines of previous industrial revolutions, Industry 4.0 is committed to customization. Also due to the ability to know the manufacturing status at all times and of each product -and act depending on it in real time-, to be more capable of customizing them, offering more options and shortening production processes.
internet of things

The growing ability of all kinds of objects to obtain information from their environment and to communicate with each other represents a huge change for the industry. By being able to communicate its status -temperature, location, proper functioning, needs…- with the rest of the elements of the factory, the automation potential increases exponentially.

Some studies suggest that by 2020 there will be more than 5,000 million devices connected to the Internet. Tablets, mobiles, household appliances… are the devices that ordinary citizens usually think of. But the industry is also going to make use of these technologies. The machines will stop being isolated elements to be part of a really connected gear. Without forgetting customers, who are also changing their purchasing, consultation and consumption habits thanks to the new tools, with which omnichannel will gain prominence.
big data

As expected, this jump in the number of devices connected to the Internet and interconnected with each other gives rise to a huge amount of data. However, the mere accumulation of data does not add value. That is where Big Data comes in, in extracting that meaning, which can either be used directly by machines or presented in such a way that people can make decisions thanks to them.

Industry 4.0 cannot be understood without logistics 4.0

Challenges for logistics 4.0

Where does Logistics 4.0 come in then? The ministry includes it among the challenges of this new type of industry, how could it be otherwise. It is difficult to think of a manufacturing and distribution process in which, during the manufacturing phase, we have a process with a great presence of digital, of the interaction between machines and of robotization and that, once it reaches transport, these characteristics do not have continuity. .

Among the challenges that the ministry points out and that are applicable to logistics we find:

Manage run sizes and shorter response times.
Adopt intelligent logistics models.
Adapt to channel transformation and omnichannel.
Take advantage of information to anticipate customer needs.
Manage end-to-end traceability.

To face these challenges, logistics 4.0 must continue to deepen and innovate on issues such as inventory management, demand forecasting, warehouse automation, traceability transparency… In other words, in all those aspects that are more accessible thanks to the development of technology: hyperconnectivity, big data, cheaper RFID tags, etc. Until we manage to integrate them all, make them ‘talk’ to each other and close the circle of this industry + logistics 4.0.

What could a 4.0 process be like?

The development of the possibilities of this 4.0 world allows us to let our imagination run wild. However, many of these possibilities are already a reality. Sometimes already daily, such as warehouse automation, or in initial stages, such as distribution in autonomous vehicles (from drones to driverless trucks).

Throughout an entire supply chain, there are many points where this 4.0 can be present. For example: the purchase of a product at the point of sale triggers our demand forecasting system, which, through Big Data, compares these sales with other very diverse factors (from the sales history to the environment in social networks, the news or weather forecast…) to produce a replenishment order.

The manufacturing process will be made up, partially or totally, of machines capable of treating the merchandise, of taking it from one point of the chain to another, of evaluating various variables (state of the product, maturation of the food, detection of defects, time spent in a certain place) and act accordingly. There is also talk at this point of the importance that 3D printing can have in the ability to personalize and shorten response times.

Once manufacturing is finished, a 4.0 process could even automatically request transport and even choose the most convenient among the various options. Considering not only the product itself (destination, weight, dimensions), but also external conditions (road cuts, areas to avoid, places that have suffered natural disasters, quality of the different suppliers…). It would also be able to know in real time and exactly the status of our stocks, assessing how much quantity we need to send to each place at any given time and continuously analyzing the appropriate stock levels.

Once the shipment has been made, logistics 4.0 can detect problems in the cargo -breakages, problems with temperature, deviations on the route- through the use of sensors, which opens the door to know possible problems beforehand and to be able to send a new one. shipment of product long before the problem is detected at destination.

The growing intelligence of vehicles and their interconnection would allow them to know the most efficient routes, change their route in real time as traffic circumstances change (accidents, strikes, traffic jams…), shipping (customers indicating that they are absent or changing their delivery time preferences) or the route of the logistics operator (new collections or deliveries to be made). Even recognizing patterns in customer and recipient behaviors could reduce the number of failed deliveries. And to all this we can add the presence of autonomously driven vehicles, with which they have been experimenting for some time.

All this means that an Industry 4.0 cannot be understood, and it cannot be complete, if it is not accompanied by a Logistics 4.0 that accompanies it.

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Khaterine William

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