Read and see what the future will bring: A film about the deliveries of tomorrow and the complete ZF Future Study 2016 "The Last Mile'' is available at www.zf-zukunftsstudie.de
ZF Future Study Ready for Package Robots?
Changing consumerism and a growing package services market: The logistics industry is facing significant challenges, in particular on the final miles to customers. The ZF Future Study 2016 "The Last Mile" shows in which direction the industry is moving.
The customer is king. On the Internet, too. Where consumers are no longer restricted by opening hours and can place orders day and night, the demands on the speed of deliveries are changing. Purchasers want to have their items immediately. We are no longer talking about delivery in two to three working days or express delivery over night, but on the very same day or within a few hours. The growing preference for Internet shopping is reflected very clearly in numbers; three billion packages were sent in Germany in 2015 – that's one billion more than in 2005. This trend will continue to rise in the coming years due to the rising popularity of ordering online.
ZF Future Study 2016 "The Last Mile"
The challenges of a growing package services market will become particularly visible on inner-city roads. Individual delivery requirements, low-emission and low-noise zones, the availability of qualified employees, the regulation of delivery vehicles and the requirements of a secure supply chain are factors that determine the playing field for transport companies. In this process, the pressure to keep costs low and increase innovation remains high.
How is the industry reacting to these changes and which trends on the last few delivery miles will become standards in the future? ZF and the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) explore these questions in the ZF Future Study 2016 "The Last Mile."
Delivery by air or land? Will packages soon be delivered to us by air instead of in vans? Online giant Amazon and German logistics provider Deutsche Post DHL are already testing drones for deliveries by air in selected areas. However, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Uwe Clausen of the Fraunhofer Institute, scientific director of the ZF Future Study, is skeptical that drones are a comprehensive solution: "Drones may be enjoying a high level of popularity but they will not take over as a standard mode of transport on the last mile. Air space safety risks and the civic requirements of privacy and quiet pose obstacles here.''
Autonomous driving lessens the burden for delivery staff. The ZF Future Study forecasts that delivery logistics will become more autonomous without making drivers superfluous. There are conceivable scenarios in cities, such as the delivery agent being autonomously followed by their vehicle while walking from door to door. In rural areas, however, that are becoming ever harder to maintain in a close-meshed logistics network due to lack of drivers, delivery robots are to make deliveries to the houses. Parcel delivery service Hermes is already testing the use of self-driving delivery robots, which are able to transport a maximum load of 15 kilograms up to five kilometers. Provided that necessary legal regulations are effective, the robots could move around completely autonomously on sidewalks in the future.
Goal of "zero emissions." Urban centers pose a particular challenge to deliveries on the last mile at peak times. Electric drives, which are not perceived as noise disturbances and also reduce fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions, mean that deliveries can be delayed until night-time hours in the future, thus taking the strain off of roads. "Electromobility will play an extremely decisive role in logistics in the future, both in inner-city areas and also in megacities," remarks Fredrik Staedtler, head of ZF's Commercial Vehicle Technology Division.
Modified consumerism thanks to e-commerce. Customers are demanding ever-faster delivery, often on the same day, frequently within a few hours and not just for fresh produce. These demands can only be met with shorter logistics routes. The way forward is to establish local distribution centers and decentralized organization to cut distances to customers.
3D printing to make deliveries redundant. It is new technologies in particular that will bring the most significant changes in logistics in the future, making transport unnecessary. Many goods can be produced on-site using 3D printing, taking the strain off of roads completely. Copy shops for hard copies and printouts could be replaced by 3D printing shops, where goods ordered can be collected. This will have a significant impact on the streetscape.
Digitizing the logistics industry. Thanks to digital networking, it will be possible to anticipate orders and transport requirements before they become necessary in the future. Ideally, the goods will already be in the direct vicinity of the customer while they are placing their order. The logistics industry is stepping up to this trend of ever more individual services by increasing the digitization of the delivery process. Tracking, data communication and proactive customer information are already contributing to decisively improving existing processes on the last mile. This applies especially to timetable, itinerary and route planning, but also to determining suitable locations for distribution centers.