The annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has taken over Las Vegas, Nevada this week as tech enthusiasts congregate to see this year's newest products. The CES is the largest technology trade show and will attract close to 200,000 attendees from across the globe. Wearables, connected cars and homes, drones, 3D printing, robots, virtual reality and augmented reality are expected to create the most buzz this year. But will any of these products be used in the supply chain in the near future?
The first CES was held in 1967 in New York City. Originally, the show was a biannual event, occurring once during January in Las Vegas and once again during June in Chicago. In 1998, the show was changed to a once-a-year format with Las Vegas as the chosen location.
Did you know? Some of the most popular consumer tech products in the modern era debuted at the CES, including:
- Videocassette recorder (VCR) 1970
- Camcorder 1981
- Compact Disc Player 1981
- High Definition Television (HDTV) 1998
- Microsoft Xbox 2001
- Blu-ray Disc 2003
- Tablets 2010
So how could this year's CES products impact the freight transportation industry? While the industry is certain to implement some of this new technology in the coming decades, it is possible that we could see some of the on-display concepts over the next several months.
The supply chain community is already talking about implementing a number of these technologies as a way to speed up processes while eliminating human error. However, legal and regulatory challenges are delaying the widespread industry adoption of new technologies such as drones and driverless cars.
Once legal regulations have been outlined, driverless car technology could potentially help alleviate the truck driver shortage, which is currently estimated at around 40,000 drivers. Over the next decade, the trucking industry will need to hire a total of 890,000 new drivers, or an average of 89,000 per year. Industry growth coupled with retiring drivers will result in a substantial gap between available drivers and truckloads. Earlier this year, Daimler Trucks North America took the first step by unveiling the "Inspiration," an autonomous commercial truck prototype. Learn more about the Inspiration here.
Wearables could possibly also improve warehouse processes to streamline operations. Since warehouse workers typically need both hands, a wearable could replace handheld scanners or tablets, making the process more efficient. Just as computers, smartphones and tablets are enabling real-time information, wearables could also provide up-to-the-minute reporting, tracking and tracing for managers, both on the import and export side.
Robotics is possibly the largest force shaping the future of the supply chain. With the average size of container ships increasing, many marine terminals have considered investing in port automation technology, including robotic gantry cranes. The Port of Rotterdam has already incorporated robotic cranes to unload container ships, increasing the average number of container moves per hour. However, strong labor unions could pose a challenge to implementation here in the U.S. Robotics could also potentially revolutionize processes in warehouses, loading facilities and manufacturing centers.
Disruptive technology has forced the logistics industry to evolve over the years and this year's CES show could unveil the newest breakthrough in supply chain technology. Follow the event on the CES website here.