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Automation, an aging population, the rise of the millennial workforce, and the COVID-19 pandemic are greatly transforming work in the logistics industry. Humans working collaboratively with robots, flexible work systems, continuous learning, and upskilling will help businesses future-proof, stay competitive, and attract and retain the workforce of the future.

Key Developments & Implications

After slow growth in the last two decades, the uptake of industrial robots is expected to increase globally almost seven-fold to 20 million by 2030. This will have a major impact on industries including logistics and transform today’s way of working. Other key drivers are influencing the future of work:

  1. The aging workforce and the subsequent labor shortage on a global scale (see Silver Economy).
  2. The rise of millennials and Gen Z as they gradually replace retirees, seek jobs with more purpose, less repetitive tasks, and more flexible and enjoyable work environments.
  3. COVID-19 introduced significant change as many businesses quickly embraced work policies and remote-work technologies that existed for years.

With the post-pandemic era uncertain, it remains to be seen how these changes will persist in the future.

  • Human-machine collaboration will accelerate in two ways; a growing presence of robots in more supply chain steps and an optimized safety buffer between humans and machines. More humans are exposed to and getting familiar with robots as machines expand in breadth and diversify, handling tasks from picking online orders with robotic arms to processing customs documents through workflow automation software. Also with improved sensors and machine learning, robots have been able to work closer with humans, minimizing the safety buffer and enabling more collaborative work.

  • The flexible, on-demand workforce will be a future model within the logistics industry, including both operational and office positions. As logistics is a labor-intensive industry that is highly sensitive to fluctuations in the global economy, matching the optimal number of workers to operational demand is perhaps one of its biggest challenges. Here, mobile apps and dynamic staff scheduling software that matches temporary workers with facilities and shifts where demand is high are likely to become commonplace in the near future.

  • Training and upskilling will be crucial for businesses to stay ahead of the curve in the new era of work. Many are realizing that they can no longer rely on externally hiring the skills they require and instead will spend fewer resources training existing employees, developing talent, and promoting internally, all the while boosting company morale and attracting future recruits.

Logistics Trend Radar 2018/19

Download the full Logistics Trend Radar to get invaluable insights and inspiration into 28 key trends and innovations that could impact logistics in the next five to ten years. In this edition, we focus on the digital revolution that is happening in the industry and its impact across four key elements defining the future of logistics: customer-centricity, sustainability, technology, and people.

Talk to an Expert

Gina Chung

Head of Innovation Americas
DHL Americas Innovation Center

Gina Chung leads the research and innovation activities of DHL and is in charge of the DHL Americas Innovation Center: a state-of-the-art platform to engage startups and industries on the future of logistics. Since 2012, she has shaped DHL’s global innovation agenda by driving a portfolio of projects focused on the rapid testing and adoption of technologies such as collaborative robotics and artificial intelligence across DHL’s operations.

Prior to her current role, she also led the development of DHL’s trend research series including co-authoring publications such as IoT in Logistics together with Cisco and the DHL Logistics Trend Radar. Gina is based in Chicago and holds two degrees from the University of Auckland.

Ben Gesing

Global Head of DHL Trend Research

Ben Gesing is a global innovation leader with 7+ years of experience developing technical solutions in the logistics, telecommunications, and consumer electronics industry. Today he leads the Trend Research activities at the DHL Innovation Center near Bonn, Germany. He and his team are responsible for shaping the overall innovation agenda at Deutsche Post DHL Group through producing industry trend reports and piloting cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics in live logistics operations together with startups.

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