Logistics Programming Updates Critical to Preparing Students for Tomorrow’s WorkforceRobert Lee Gordon | Program Director for Reverse Logistics Management, American Public University
The three most important lessons universities can learn from companies and industries concerning logistics are:
- The value of reverse logistics;
- How technology will revolutionize logistics in the next decade; and
- The rise of branded logistics.
All three of these concepts are so important in business today that organizations that fail to recognize the value of these and fail to leverage them will not be successful in the future. Organizations need to learn how to retain customers and convert that loyalty into success. This means that educational institutions need to teach social media and networking. Even hiring has changed from hiring websites to social networking. If you don’t believe the revolution has already happened, explain how Uber has gone from an app to a multi-billion dollar international company that just focuses on logistics.
First, reverse logistics is a subject that all universities need to be teaching. Financial returns alone amount to billions of dollars a year in business. Green technologies, and the industries that support them, are only going to expand in the future. We have already seen more recycling and repurposing than ever before. Space-X is working to be able to reuse primary rockets to lower the cost of space missions. Battery technology has been growing, and there are even projects in the works to have home battery storage units. Southwest Airlines repurposed tons of seat material that normally would have been dumped as part of their recent upgrade into clothing, soccer balls and shoes for people in need.
The industry is repurposing old material into usable goods for different markets. For example, the secondary market for cell phones only is going to explode internationally. There are so many aspects of reverse logistics that many universities are ignoring. Schools need to take a hard look at what is currently being offered in their programs and bring them up to the current standards of business.
For example, more online retailers have improved their returns policy and procedure to make sure that customers remain satisfied with the brand. Defending the brand, which was often just the realm of marketing, should become a primary focus of every company. Making sure that every aspect of business is in line with the clients values remains a critical aspect of business success. Companies like Chipotle have shown that offering fresh and healthy food helps keep the brand in high regards by customers, and this becomes a critical aspect to success that connects back to reverse logistics. Sourcing, environmental and agricultural requirements show that a company is dedicated to offering healthy food.
Second, technology is going to alter the way logistics is accomplished. Consider just three technologies that are exploding currently: delivery drones, 3D printers and self-driving vehicles. The postal service in Switzerland is already delivering the mail by drones, and DHL in Germany is using drones to deliver packages to remote islands off the coast. Currently in the U.S., the largest industry with drone use exemptions is real estate. The FAA has been approving drones for commercial use at a rapid rate. In fact, they have already approved 1,000 companies to use drones and one company has been given the approval to use a fleet of over 300 drones.
3D printing is already changing prosthetics, fashion, and the way we think about manufacturing. We are seeing function and fashion starting to merge. Consider that recently NASA sent up a 3D printer to the International Space Station so that they could engineer replacement parts on Earth and beam up the blueprints to be printed in space. In China, they have built apartment buildings by only using 3D printers. There is at least one new US car company that only uses 3D printers for manufacturing. There is no doubt that these innovations are going to change logistics.
In the future, the average consumer could be printing up many of the things they need at home without even using a delivery company. There are even food 3D printers being developed to offer fresh food alternatives for home use. There is also at least one company working to create a Star Trek-style food replicator to replace a kitchen. Consider how that will change the world of logistics. It makes overnight delivery or even same day delivery look slow.
Self-driving vehicles already exist, and legislators are trying to figure out what to do with them. Imagine the impact upon the trucking industry if all trucks were to drive themselves. Even Uber has been exploring developing its own self-driving vehicles. We already have automated warehouses and receiving operations that are handled by robots. And this technology isn’t limited to ground transportation. We already have planes that can land themselves, and Rolls-Royce is building a self-piloting cargo ship.
The rise of branded logistics means move over FEDEX, DHL, and UPS because their days might be numbered. Amazon has purchased a drone manufacturing company to control the development of delivery drones. What Amazon has done would be like UPS purchasing Boeing so they can customize cargo vehicles to their specifications. Controlling manufacturing means that Amazon will be a brand of logistics. Wal-Mart, the largest retailer on the planet that already is a master of logistics is building proprietary custom delivery trucks. Retail companies are looking to control the entire process, and that will change how people perceive a retail brand.
With the rise of branded logistics, retail brands will seek to own or control every aspect of the customer experience. If one owns the logistics, then one can better coordinate returns and exchanges, as well as to streamline deliveries. The advantage becomes that the retailer then controls the entire process so they will have full visibility in their systems that have to be integrated to other company systems.
All of these innovations in logistics are just a taste of what is being explored. These concepts need to be funneled into the classroom. Universities need to recognize this rate of change and retool the education system to educate the next generation.
Author Perspective: Administrator