According to DHL’s 2016 Trend Radar, the major influences on logistics and supply chain, what they called “megatrends,” are growing security awareness, the increased shift towards cleaner energy production and transportation, and further digitalization. These megatrends translate into the need to develop more cost-effective, efficient, flexible, and eco-friendly solutions, especially for transportation. A lot of faith is being placed in the “Internet of Things” as the next big source of data that will enable higher degrees of efficiency, effectiveness, and flexibility.
The Asia Pacific Perspective
While these trends won’t bypass Asia-Pacific, it is important to understand that the region has its inherited challenges that should also be addressed. According to data from the Asian Development Bank, Asian economies lose 2% to 5% of their BDP due to road congestion, while the number of vehicles on the roads is doubling every 5 to 7 years. Asia-Pacific is notorious for its lack of unified customs regulations. In fact, every significant indicator shows that the region is very far from being uniform. Everything from the GDP growth rate and GDP per capita up to the percentage of active Internet users and the gross domestic expenditure on research and development varies widely from one country to the other.
This leaves countries in Asia-Pacific in a position where they have to invest in infrastructure so that they can catch up with other regions, they have to work on further integration and cross-border cooperation to present a more unified market, and keep in line with the global tendencies towards a cleaner, safer, and more efficient world.
The Jobs in Demand
Logistics and supply chain businesses in the Asia-Pacific region have three primary drivers on the job market. The growth of the Asian-Pacific economies and the increase of manufacturing operations in the region is not showing signs of waning. The problems with transportation infrastructure and customs require more careful planning to reduce costs, improve shipping times, and make transportation more eco-friendly. There is an industry-wide increase in implementation of the latest technological solutions that will help improve efficiency.
- Solution Design managers
Solution design managers will play a crucial role in bringing the new advancements into the Asia-Pacific markets. Even though there are initiatives in the region towards further trade harmonization, especially due to the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), there is still a discrepancy in the quality of infrastructure between the member countries. And the solution to this problem will not, and can not, be a quick one – the Asian Development Bank estimates that, by 2020, the capacity of airports in the region will be only 41% of needed, the capacity of roads will be 78% of needed, and the capacity of ports will be 48% of needed.
The traditional role of solution design managers as the people who are in charge of developing logistics network strategies, designing transport and warehousing solutions will make them indispensable for businesses who are looking to follow the growth rates of the region and stay ahead of the competition. Solution design managers will also be in demand because there will be a need to integrate the newest developments in robotics and digitalization into the work environment, and to make sure that these developments are utilized to the full extent.
- Transportation Data Analysts
Transportation data analysts will face increased demand for the same reasons as the solution design managers: the need to make transport in the Asia-Pacific region as efficient, cost-effective, and ecologically sound as possible, as well the need to interpret and implement the data derived from the booming technology of the Internet of Things. In 2015, the world was around a hundred million short of having five billions of things connected by IoT. In 2020, that number is expected to rise to over twenty billion, with some sources estimating it will go as high as two hundred billion.
The IoT is expected to present an opportunity for supply chains to gain an unprecedented level of insight. Today, roughly 40% of all units connected to the IoT are in the manufacturing and supply chain industry. Handling that amount of data will be left to cloud computing, but there will be a need for actual people to do a part of the analysis and to advise on the best ways to implement information derived from big data.
- Software and Robotics Engineers
In 2012, the global e-commerce giant Amazon purchased Kiva Systems, a robotics company that dealt in warehouse automatization. Amazon has also announced they will be implementing a program called “Prime Air”, which will allow 30-minute delivery of small packages using drones. Amazon’s initiatives to increase automatization of its supply chain using robotics has placed it on the cutting edge of the trend. FedEx and UPS have also been researching drones, as well as other methods to automate transportation.
While we’re waiting for drones to come into widespread use, companies are continuing to use digital solutions to increase the efficiency of their operations, and to offer more convenience to their customers. Daimler and DHL are launching their “smart ready to drop” program in Germany, allowing DHL delivery personnel to deliver goods purchased online directly into the boot of the buyers’ Daimler smart car – without the need for the buyers to be near their car. The whole process is facilitated by the use of a special app.
It’s still not clear whether the big transportation and logistics companies will buy robotics manufacturers as Amazon did, or if they will look outside of their house for robotics and automatization solutions. It can, however, be expected that there will be an increase in the near future for software engineers and robotics engineers who will develop and maintain solutions for the automatization process, as well as the many smart solutions we are already seeing arise.