The primary focus of CPS applications in transportation is currently on passenger vehicles. This is mainly because the benefits of passenger vehicle automation are manifold: cost, time, comfort, and most importantly: safety. However, perhaps some of the greatest benefits will be gained within the logistics sector. When considering trucking and logistics the primary goal is to improve productivity and the quality of the delivery service. This creates different technical challenges for the application of CPS, not only from introduction of autonomous trucks as we have seen very publicly in demonstrations, but also in terms of coordinating the whole supply and delivery chain from manufacture to customer. The fundamental operating parameters are cost and time, however, there are also other requirements and market differentiators which logistics companies use to provide enhanced value-added services, such as on-demand delivery.
As highlighted logistics these days goes far beyond just delivery. It also includes the synchronisation of the whole supply chain. This starts with receiving goods and material handling, subsequently it deals with workflows of items (within manufacturing sites, intra-logistics), sorting and storage (warehousing), order picking and packing (distribution centres), followed by aggregation and consolidation of loads, shipping, transportation and last mile delivery. So there needs to be great interconnection and exchange of data at all levels and between many diverse systems to synchronise manufacturing, transport of raw materials and products with delivery systems in order to minimise waiting, storage and costs. At the same time the whole logistics system needs to be flexible so that that it can be made to fit the particular circumstances of any customer.
Already logistics companies employ very sophisticated systems to optimise routing for deliveries and there are more and more examples of connections between customers and manufacturers within the supply chain. Fierce competition within the domain is driving this desire to reduce cost and provide timely deliveries, however, future improvements will require the interconnection of many disparate systems together. The key question for companies is how to best interconnect systems and also how to persuade the various actors within the supply chain to share information which may be commercially sensitive?
So it is clear that we will have faster smarter logistics in the future but only if we can be more open and share data throughout the entire supply chain. Is the commercial world ready for this?