April 19, 2017

Autonomous vehicles and automation are the logistics trends of the future

CBRE has released a study investigating current innovations and automated technologies which transform the global supply chain, affecting not only logistics processes, but also the logistics & industrial real estate market. The future of logistics is autonomous vehicles, 3D printing or automated technology in warehouses and vertical logistics solutions.

Autonomous trucking technology is currently being tested all over the world. Self-driving vehicles have great potential to provide common and routine logistics operations. The growth of e-commerce has also increased logistical requirements related to storage space and transportation. However, truck transportation is still fully dependent on manpower.

Autonomous trucking technology can speed up the transport of goods to final consumers with lower distribution costs. In addition to savings in the form of wages for drivers, the use of self-driving vehicles is also time efficient, since it is no longer necessary to abide by laws requiring breaks for drivers and maximum weekly limits for driving trucks as is the case with human labour.

Bert Hesselink, Senior Director Industrial & Logistics at CBRE, said: "I anticipate that lower transport costs will mean that the supply chain will need fewer but larger high-capacity warehouses mostly on the outskirts of cities and in remote locations.”

According to a survey done by Eyefortransport (EET), 59 percent of respondents anticipate driver-less trucks in their operations in the next nine years. Decreasing labour costs devotes more resources to innovative technologies and building logistics systems with an effective way of controlling the supply and availability. In addition to the fewer number of warehouses anticipated, which will be substantially larger and placed in remote locations, we can expect two additional trends in the logistics real estate market and warehousing. Warehouses and last-mile delivery facilities will need to be equipped with extensive battery loading stations. And an integral part of the warehouses will be also a courtyard or space allowing automatic manoeuvring.

Another new technology is the emergence of 3D printing. The boom of 3D printing and its impact on industrial and logistics real estate is not likely to be dramatic. We can expect a slight decrease in the number of large manufacturing plants and central HUBs as companies shift part of their production directly to “last-mile delivery” facilities. Furthermore, there will likely be an increase in bulk transport, enabling more frequent use of autonomous vehicles and generally automate the logistics process.

This automation of logistical processes that is allowed by the development of automated technologies is another trend affecting the logistics real estate market. In the case of automation, the entire storage area is connected to advanced IT infrastructure and software, which transfers part of human labour to robots. Using automated logistic solutions and robotic systems reduces the requirement for daylight or height limits of warehouse space, thus resulting in the trend of vertical logistics solutions. Vertical warehouses maximize the availability of the logistics area, including the previously hard to reach places in terms of height, while reducing the distances inside the warehouse and speeding up delivery processes, which has a positive impact on the overall transport and storage costs of goods. However, property prices of atomized warehouses and rental prices will rise due to the need for more advanced technology.

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