With the spread of the concept of industry 4.0, another concept that is closely related to logistics processes is gaining ground: this is the concept of logistics 4.0. For some time now, the digitization of these processes has been leading to an epoch-making transformation that will lead to a new way of understanding logistics. In this article, therefore, we will give a definition of logistics 4.0 and explain which are the changes that this transformation will cause.
The logistics 4.0: what it is and all that there is to know
Logistics, by now, we all know what it is. In recent years, then, we have also learned about integrated logistics, as an evolution of the simplest basic concept. The spread of digital technologies, which are already revolutionizing every industrial sector, inevitably has consequences also on logistics. Here then is the spread of logistics 4.0, which is often also called supply chain 4.0, now become necessary to respond to an increasingly efficient production. What exactly, however, is logistics 4.0? Let’s try to give a definition.
What is logistics 4.0? Here is a definition
Logistics, as we know, is an efficient planning of the storage flow of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products in order to satisfy the customer. In order for it to be always efficient, as industrial processes change, it will have to change accordingly. For this reason, since the concept of industry 4.0 became widespread in 2011, a slow and inexorable change towards a logistics that meets the criteria of this new way of producing has begun.
So, what is 4.0 logistics? A real definition, in reality, does not exist. In the last analysis, we are always talking about logistics. Yet, the transformation is so important, that one cannot at least try to define the general characteristics of this revolution. Therefore, on the escort of the definition of industry 4.0, a definition of logistics 4.0 can be the following one:
«Logistics 4.0 is the planning, through the use of enabling technologies, of the storage flow of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products in order to meet customer requirements».
To understand this definition, it is necessary to specify which are the enabling technologies. This list, for example, includes advanced robotics, advanced reality, internet of things, big data, etc.. In practice, what are we talking about?
The changes introduced by 4.0 logistics
Essentially, the changes introduced by 4.0 logistics are developed on three axes: automation, connection and decision making. We analyze each of these axes.
The first concerns the combination of activities performed automatically and manually. Logistics 4.0 processes, in fact, are not the simplistic automation of every activity. They also include activities carried out entirely or partially by hand. In this sense we speak of complete, hybrid or absent physical automation.
The second axis, instead, concerns the objects themselves and the equipment used, which, in 4.0 logistics, have the ability to collect data and transmit them through their own connections. In the practical field this is what happens, for example, in modern goods handling systems and the goods themselves.
Finally, the last axis concerns the data themselves, whose collection, eventually decentralized, becomes essential to facilitate the decision-making process. This, in essence, can lead to greater autonomy of action and configuration in standard situations.
Although all this may appear extremely theoretical, in reality logistics 4.0 has practical advantages, which it is good to deepen.
The practical benefits of 4.0 logistics
The first practical applications of 4.0 logistics have occurred in the production environment. Later, the 4.0 philosophy was extended to distribution logistics. From the very beginning, however, it was possible to see the benefits of 4.0 logistics. Essentially there are four areas in which it can be improved through this approach.
The first concerns productivity: it is clear that a more efficient handling of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products also leads to an improvement in production. Secondly, the wide availability of data offers an improvement in the traceability of each element. This, among other things, means an increase in safety, thus reducing the risk of litigation with customers. Ultimately, the sum of all these benefits leads to a concrete cost reduction that can be estimated at around 30%.