Social trends and technological advances will have a major impact on the logistics industry in the years ahead.

In the fast-changing field of logistics, industry leaders need to be aware of important trends. Some of these are long range and unlikely to make an impact for five years or more – others are just around the corner, ready to shake up established ways of doing business.

The 2016 Logistics Trend Radar is the third edition from DHL’s Innovation and Trend Research Department. Since its first release in 2013, the Logistics Trend Radar has become an industry-acclaimed tool that provides valuable insight and information on transformational changes and the latest social trends and technological advancements likely to shape the future of logistics.

From macrotrends such as the changing energy and trade landscape to microtrends such as logistics startups unbundling the logistics industry, the in-depth report reveals which sectors will be affected by developments and time frames for their potential impact or introduction over the next decade.

On the social front, two of the significant trends that could change the logistics landscape are the movement towards fair and responsible supply chains, and the growing importance of the “sharing economy", a sector originating with startups such as Uber and Airbnb.00

Logistics companies can profit from this by facilitating peer-to-peer sharing – shipping and wrapping shared goods, for example – and by sharing infrastructure and equipment such as forklifts with smaller businesses or even competitors.

Another leading social trend dubbed “on-demand delivery” could result in new last-mile delivery concepts using flexible courier workforces to enable customers to have their purchase delivered when they need it, where they need it. Yet while social trends are worth keeping an eye on, technological developments are expected to have the biggest impact on how logistics providers do business.

Some are headline grabbing, such as autonomous vehicles. Whether in the air or on the ground, self-driving vehicles capable of making deliveries without human help continue to intrigue logistics providers.

The Internet of Things (IoT), meanwhile, has the potential to connect virtually anything to the Internet and accelerate data-driven logistics. It is estimated that by 2020 more than 50 billion objects will be connected to the Internet, presenting an immense $1.9-trillion opportunity in logistics.


Yet with increasing consumer demand for personalization, a hot new trend on the radar is “batch size one” – product runs of a single item, requiring tremendous investment in automation and complex supply chains. “Highly automated ‘speed factories’ will utilize cutting-edge robotics, automation and 3-D printing technologies to rapidly produce individualized goods,” notes the report.

Indeed, 3-D printing is a disruptive technology that could revolutionize the industry by eliminating the need for warehouse spare parts, as downloadable specifications and a network of 3-D printers could do the job instead. “Imagine being able to use the same machines for a wide variety of product types without the need for hard tooling,” says Joseph Scott Schiller, Head Market Development HP 3D Printing. “This would mean much more flexible, efficient capital investment, which could be distributed to put supply closer to demand.”

Coming full circle, bionic enhancements such as exoskeletons may soon offer a way for companies to use technology to help workers be more effective and safe, extending their effectiveness as they age. Other trends, such as cryptocurrencies (think Bitcoin), have dropped off the radar, while others, such as real-time services and urban logistics, have become the industry’s “new normal".

– Andrew Curry for Delivered. The Global Logistics Magazine

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