Logistics in 2016: 11 Trends Shaping the Industry

Logistics in 2016: 11 Trends Shaping the Industry

Founded in Germany in 1995, Deutsche Post DHL has grown to become one of the world’s largest logistics companies. DHL operates in over 220 countries, providing a wide range of logistics services under its Mail, Express, Forwarding/Freight and Supply Chain/CIS divisions. Every year, DHL publishes the Logistics Trend Radar, an in-depth forecast report that analyzes upcoming trends set to impact the industry. Published April 2016, this year’s Logistics Trend Radar features a heavy focus on big data and cloud-based trends, in addition to robotics and self-driving vehicles.

High Impact Social & Business Trends

Anticipatory Logistics:

  • A high impact trend expected within the next five years, anticipatory logistics utilizes big data-based predictive algorithms to predict market demand. This enables faster delivery times with enhanced capacity, helping logistics companies to improve their service quality and process efficiency by anticipating when and where their services will be needed.

Logistics Marketplaces:

  • Cloud-driven online marketplaces will become a central tool in the logistics industry, providing businesses and customers with transparent and adjustable service platforms capable of matching varying needs with the appropriate services. Expected marketplace platforms include one-stop B2B platforms, M2C and B2C platforms, plus next-generation freight exchange platforms.

Omni-channel Logistics:

  • Omni-channel logistics will become prevalent within the next few years, facilitating online shopping by providing 24/7 logistics services to retailers. Omni-channel warehousing and fulfilment centers will become more flexible in regards to size, services and location in order to complete deliveries in the shortest time possible. Manufacturers, retailers and logistics providers will use cross-channel omni-channel platforms to maintain a global overview of inventory, keeping operations running smoothly.

On-demand Delivery:

  • Another trend expected to come into prominence sooner rather than later, on-demand last-mile delivery services use flexible couriers to deliver consumer purchases when and where needed. Crowd-based parcel delivery services ensure rapid delivery, while parcel delivery rerouting permits consumers to choose the time and location of the delivery.    

Supergrid Logistics:

  • Supergrid logistics feature integrated global delivery networks with flexible supply chains. It enables modular services and maximizes process efficiency while reducing costs, by opening up new channels between consumers, retailers, manufacturers and logistics providers. Market segmentation and interoperability are driving supergrid logistics, and ‘eForwarders’ will help shape this trend by connecting customers with carriers and shippers.

High Impact Technology Trends

3D Printing:

  • Considered as a disruptive trend, 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) will increase diversity in manufacturing strategies and significantly impact specific logistics services i.e. spare parts deliveries. 3D printing enables manufacturing strategies to move from global to regional supply chains, in addition to creating new market segments such as digital warehouses. Innovative logistics providers can capitalize on this trend by devising hybrid manufacturing networks and utilizing 3D printer networks to offer consumers new services.

Big Data:

  • A high impact trend already benefiting service providers, big data enhances logistics operational efficiency and visibility while helping providers gain more control over supply chains and assets. Big data collects in-depth information from various sources along the supply chain, which can then be used to improve customer experience and minimize risk. Big data is especially useful for creating forecasts, as it helps identify new business opportunities through use of data-based intelligence systems.

Cloud Logistics:

  • As with big data, cloud computing enabled logistics are already in use and will be increasingly adopted by the industry over the next five years. It utilizes efficient modular cloud platforms for on-demand logistics IT services, resulting in a greater ability to respond to the market. Global cloud-powered supply chains move all chain processes to the cloud, allowing users to collect and coordinate multiple pieces of information from different sources and exercise increased control over inventory and asset locations.

Internet of Things:

  • Internet of Things (IoT) objects can virtually connect and send, receive and process information from one object to another. Such devices are highly beneficial for logistics providers as they increase process visibility, distribution reliability and product traceability. Real-time item monitoring can prevent theft and damage, and help improve customer service. IoT objects already feature in other industries, and are expected to become widespread in logistics in the near future.

Robotics & Automation:

  • Technological advancements in the world of robotics are having a strong influence on logistics processes thanks to faster and more efficient warehouse robotics. Flexible automation increases the agility of warehouse operations while collaborative robots can be programmed to aid workers with sorting and packing tasks. Trailer and container unloading robots assist with physically demanding tasks. Such technology frees up warehouse workers and allows them to focus on more complex tasks. 

Self-driving Vehicles:

  • Self-driving vehicles are already in use in the automotive industry, and it won’t be long before this technology is fully integrated into logistics operations. Self-driving vehicles offer a wide range of delivery and transportation solutions, from autonomous warehouse forklifts to driverless trucks, and benefit the logistics provider with greater flexibility and 24/7 operational productivity. It will take some time to fully develop this technology, but it will have a massive impact on the logistics industry.


Big data, cloud computing and advances in automation and robotics are the high impact trends set to have the biggest effect on the logistics industry in 2016. These trends will enable logistics providers to gain greater control over their operational processes, and improve delivery times and customer service. However, some trends will disrupt the industry, requiring providers to innovate and stay up-to-date with the latest technology if they want to succeed.

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Published by Research and Markets