Exploring the Potentials of Automation in Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Paving the Way for Autonomous Supply Chains

A special issue of Logistics (ISSN 2305-6290).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 April 2021) | Viewed by 43300

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Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Institute of Technology and Management, Berlin University of Technology, Berlin, Germany
Interests: international logistics networks; supply chain volatility; automation in logistics and supply chain management; autonomous logistics networks; supply chain twins; agri-food supply chains; the role of Africa in international logistics networks
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The automation of physical and informational processes is one of the major trends in logistics and supply chain management (LSCM). Companies that master this trend can react more efficiently to rising cost pressure, increasing product and supply chain complexity, as well as rising customer demand for greater individualization. Possible application areas of automation in LSCM are diverse, ranging from informational process automation of planning processes (e.g., forecasting, purchasing, capacity allocation, event management) to automation of physical processes (e.g., in-house operations, last-mile distribution) and many others. Due to the constantly growing possibilities in the processing of large amounts of data and the further developments in the area of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it seems like the sky is the limit for automation in LSCM.

Although the potentials of automation in LSCM are diverse and acknowledged by the industry, the majority of companies face huge challenges when automating processes. Lack of data accuracy and quality, not standardized processes, system interface issues, lack of qualified human resources or missing commitment of either own management and staff or supply chain partners (suppliers, customers, logistics service providers) are just a few challenges that could lead to cost explosions for automation projects.

However, if those challenges can be mastered, even more advanced systems, such as autonomous logistics systems that exceed the automation of processes by autonomous decisions (e.g., by software agents), are conceivable and partly already in development. If not already with the automation of processes, at the latest with the development of autonomous logistic systems, the question arises of which role humans will play in these systems in the future. Companies must therefore find ways to increase the social acceptance of such systems and to define new requirements for their employees.

This Special Issue seeks to contribute to the discussion about the potentials of automation in LSCM to pave the way for automated, semi-autonomous, and possibly autonomous supply chains. Authors are cordially invited to submit original research papers, review articles, empirical studies, and case studies (for teaching and training) for the special issue to Logistics until 28 February 2020. Manuscripts or papers can be submitted on the following topics:

  • Investigation of automation applications in supply chain planning and control, purchasing, forecasting, risk management, in-house transportation, distribution, capacity allocation, aftersales, and others;
  • Estimation/quantification of potentials of automation in LSCM;
  • Investigation of success factors of process automation in LSCM;
  • Systematization of use cases of autonomous logistics systems;
  • Autonomous agent-based approaches in LSCM;
  • The role of humans in semi-autonomous and autonomous logistics systems;
  • Investigation of new business models arising from process automation and autonomous logistics systems;
  • Case studies in this field for teaching and training.

This list is not exhaustive. Other articles in the field of automation and autonomous systems in LSCM are highly welcome. I look forward to your submissions.

Dr. Benjamin Nitsche
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Logistics is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • process automation
  • autonomous systems
  • agent-based
  • Supply Chain 4.0
  • robotic process automation
  • artificial intelligence
  • machine learning

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Editorial

Jump to: Research, Review

9 pages, 497 KiB  
Editorial
Exploring the Potentials of Automation in Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Paving the Way for Autonomous Supply Chains
by Benjamin Nitsche
Logistics 2021, 5(3), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/logistics5030051 - 03 Aug 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 6746
Abstract
The world of logistics is changing and entering a new era. The advance of digitalization and technologization enables new business models, increased process efficiencies, novel planning approaches, and much more but, on the downside, there is also the risk of being lost in [...] Read more.
The world of logistics is changing and entering a new era. The advance of digitalization and technologization enables new business models, increased process efficiencies, novel planning approaches, and much more but, on the downside, there is also the risk of being lost in the maelstrom of developments. Within these developments, the automation of logistics processes and ultimately the design of autonomous logistics systems is one of the most defining trends that has far-reaching consequences for the planning and execution of future logistics processes. This Special Issue aims to contribute to the discussion and to get to the bottom of the question of how the path towards automated and autonomous logistics systems should be designed. This editorial lays a foundation by presenting application areas of automation and discussing the theoretical path towards autonomous logistics systems. The articles that follow provide highly practical insights into current research results on the automation and autonomization of informational and physical logistics processes. Full article
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Research

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24 pages, 590 KiB  
Article
Human Factors Influencing the Implementation of Cobots in High Volume Distribution Centres
by Wim Lambrechts, Jessica S. Klaver, Lennart Koudijzer and Janjaap Semeijn
Logistics 2021, 5(2), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/logistics5020032 - 31 May 2021
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 5646
Abstract
Order picking is a logistics component of warehouse operations where substantial productivity gains are possible. In this study, we investigate implementation processes of collaborative order picking robots (cobots) and focus on the influence of human factors on their implementation in high volume distribution [...] Read more.
Order picking is a logistics component of warehouse operations where substantial productivity gains are possible. In this study, we investigate implementation processes of collaborative order picking robots (cobots) and focus on the influence of human factors on their implementation in high volume distribution centres. These human factors are: resistance to change; organisational culture; communication on change; and leadership. Four case companies were selected that have experience with testing and introducing several types of cobot and have successfully implemented (at least) one type of cobot over an extended period. In-depth interviews with operational decision-makers led to the identification of 66 critical incidents related to human factors. The results demonstrate the importance of planning the implementation process in phases. Employees are hesitant or resistant to the change due to a lack of information, experience, and communication. The decisive role of the team leader is crucial to implement cobots successfully, and here the individual character traits (e.g., the variance in commitment, character, and motivation) influence the process as well. Although the introduction of cobots is not yet widespread, and the negative impact on the workforce (i.e., concerning job loss) is currently low, one should be aware of the possible future implications when robotisation becomes structurally embedded. Therefore, this article calls for a stronger link between human factors and the future of work, with a specific focus on reskilling and upskilling of logistics professionals in light of robotisation, rather than binary approaches in which robots are primarily seen as a threat to the current workforce. Full article
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15 pages, 3437 KiB  
Article
An Analytical Approach for Facility Location for Truck Platooning—A Case Study of an Unmanned Following Truck Platooning System in Japan
by Daisuke Watanabe, Takeshi Kenmochi and Keiju Sasa
Logistics 2021, 5(2), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/logistics5020027 - 07 May 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3024
Abstract
Truck platooning involves a small convoy of freight vehicles using electronic coupling as an application in automated driving technology, and it is expected to represent a major solution for improving efficiency in truck transportation in the near future. Recently, there have been several [...] Read more.
Truck platooning involves a small convoy of freight vehicles using electronic coupling as an application in automated driving technology, and it is expected to represent a major solution for improving efficiency in truck transportation in the near future. Recently, there have been several trials regarding truck platooning with major truck manufacturers and logistics companies on public roads in the United States, European countries and Japan. There is a need to locate a facility for the formation of truck platooning to realize the unmanned operation of trucks following in a platoon. In this study, we introduce the current status of truck platooning in Japan and present the optimal location model for truck platooning using the continuous approximation model with a numerical experiment, considering the case in Japan. We derived the optimal locational strategy for the combination of the long-haul ratio and the cost factor of platooning. With parameters estimated for several scenarios for the deployment of truck platooning in Japan, the numerical results show that the optimal locational strategy for a platoon of manned vehicles and a platoon with unmanned following vehicles is the edge of the local region, and that for a platoon of fully automated vehicles is the center of the region. Full article
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12 pages, 549 KiB  
Article
Towards Digital Twins of Multimodal Supply Chains
by Anselm Busse, Benno Gerlach, Joel Cedric Lengeling, Peter Poschmann, Johannes Werner and Simon Zarnitz
Logistics 2021, 5(2), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/logistics5020025 - 26 Apr 2021
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 6676
Abstract
Both modern multi- and intermodal supply chains pose a significant challenge to control and maintain while offering numerous optimization potential. Digital Twins have been proposed to improve supply chains. However, as of today, they are only used for certain parts of the entire [...] Read more.
Both modern multi- and intermodal supply chains pose a significant challenge to control and maintain while offering numerous optimization potential. Digital Twins have been proposed to improve supply chains. However, as of today, they are only used for certain parts of the entire supply chain. This paper presents an initial framework for a holistic Digital Supply Chain Twin (DSCT) capable of including an entire multimodal supply chain. Such a DSCT promises to enable several improvements all across the supply chain while also be capable of simulating and evaluate several different scenarios for the supply chain. Therefore, the DSCT will not only be able to optimize multi- and intermodal supply chains but also makes them potentially more robust by identifying possible issues early on. This paper discusses the major requirements that such a DSCT must fulfil to be useful and how several information technologies that matured in recent years or are about the mature are the key enablers to fulfil these requirements. Finally, a suggested high-level architecture for such a DSCT is presented as a first step towards the realization of a DSCT, as presented in this work Full article
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17 pages, 4985 KiB  
Article
Cloud and IoT Applications in Material Handling Automation and Intralogistics
by Stavros T. Ponis and Orestis K. Efthymiou
Logistics 2020, 4(3), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/logistics4030022 - 21 Sep 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 5877
Abstract
During the last decade, digitalization has borne tremendous changes on the way we live and do business. Industry 4.0, the new industrial revolution, is merging the physical, digital and virtual worlds through emerging technologies that collide with each other and create a distinctive [...] Read more.
During the last decade, digitalization has borne tremendous changes on the way we live and do business. Industry 4.0, the new industrial revolution, is merging the physical, digital and virtual worlds through emerging technologies that collide with each other and create a distinctive paradigm shift. Even though the topic of Industry 4.0, has attracted significant attention during the past few years, literature in this subject area is still limited. The main objective of this paper is to study the current state of the art and identify major trends and research shortcomings. To that end, the authors conducted a methodological literature review based primarily on the SCOPUS bibliographic database. The review returned 49 relative papers dealing with the paper’s subject area. Through a thorough study of the selected papers, four dominant literature categories were recognized and discussed in detail. According to the literature reviewed, it is evident that massive changes are underway for warehouses and intralogistics facilities. Still, despite the intense discussion and appeal of the subject, one of the most important challenges in the scientific area under study, as the literature highlights, is the absence of a matching, to its significance, number of real-life applications. To that end, this paper provides a detailed description of a Cloud-based IoT application drawn from a Distribution Center (DC) that supplies retail home furnishing and sporting goods products to stores in Greece and the Balkan region, with the objective to showcase the feasibility of such an investment, highlight its potential and provide motivation to practitioners to evaluate and proceed in similar technological investments. Full article
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25 pages, 3189 KiB  
Article
Scope of Using Autonomous Trucks and Lorries for Parcel Deliveries in Urban Settings
by Evelyne Tina Kassai, Muhammad Azmat and Sebastian Kummer
Logistics 2020, 4(3), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/logistics4030017 - 07 Aug 2020
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 7861
Abstract
Courier, express, and parcel (CEP) services represent one of the most challenging and dynamic sectors of the logistics industry. Companies of this sector must solve several challenges to keep up with the rapid changes in the market. In this context, the introduction of [...] Read more.
Courier, express, and parcel (CEP) services represent one of the most challenging and dynamic sectors of the logistics industry. Companies of this sector must solve several challenges to keep up with the rapid changes in the market. In this context, the introduction of autonomous delivery using self-driving trucks might be an appropriate solution to overcome the problems that the industry is facing today. This paper investigates if the introduction of autonomous trucks would be feasible for deliveries in urban areas from the experts’ point of view. Furthermore, the potential advantages of such autonomous vehicles were highlighted and compared to traditional delivery methods. At the same time, barriers that could slow down or hinder such an implementation were also discovered by conducting semi-structured interviews with experts from the field. The results show that CEP companies are interested in innovative logistics solutions such as autonomous vans, especially when it comes to business-to-consumer (B2C) activities. Most of the experts acknowledge the benefits that self-driving vans could bring once on the market. Despite that, there are still some difficulties that need to be solved before actual implementation. If this type of vehicle will become the sector’s disruptor is yet to be seen. Full article
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Review

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32 pages, 3607 KiB  
Review
A Systematic Review on Technologies for Data-Driven Production Logistics: Their Role from a Holistic and Value Creation Perspective
by Masoud Zafarzadeh, Magnus Wiktorsson and Jannicke Baalsrud Hauge
Logistics 2021, 5(2), 24; https://doi.org/10.3390/logistics5020024 - 23 Apr 2021
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 5155
Abstract
A data-driven approach in production logistics is adopted as a response to challenges such as low visibility and system rigidity. One important step for such a transition is to identify the enabling technologies from a value-creating perspective. The existing corpus of literature has [...] Read more.
A data-driven approach in production logistics is adopted as a response to challenges such as low visibility and system rigidity. One important step for such a transition is to identify the enabling technologies from a value-creating perspective. The existing corpus of literature has discussed the benefits and applications of smart technologies in overall manufacturing or logistics. However, there is limited discussion specifically on a production logistics level, from a systematic perspective. This paper addresses two issues in this respect by conducting a systematic literature review and analyzing 142 articles. First, it covers the gap in literature concerning mapping the application of these smart technologies to specific production logistic activities. Ten groups of technologies were identified and production logistics activities divided into three major categories. A quantitative share assessment of the technologies in production logistics activities was carried out. Second, the ultimate goal of implementing these technologies is to create business value. This is addressed in this research by presenting the “production logistics data lifecycle” and the importance of having a balanced holistic perspective in technology development. The result of this paper is beneficial to build a ground to transit towards a data-driven state by knowing the applications and use cases described in the literature for the identified technologies. Full article
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