New technologies that changed the logistics industry forever
Innovation has been optimising transport processes ever since the truck was invented
The logistics industry is an important and crucial component of world trade, providing significant financial contributions, not to mention that without it, there would be no way to get goods where they need to go. Today on the blog, we are going to be looking at the new technologies that changed the logistics industry forever.
The very first truck was sold to England
After the invention of the train, the truck was the next new technology to revolutionise the logistics industry. The first truck – initially called a motorised goods vehicle by Gottlieb Daimler – made its triumphant entry onto the world stage in 1896. Well, perhaps not all that triumphant: no-one in Germany, where it was manufactured, was interested, and so the first vehicle that we would recognise as a modern truck was initially exported to England. It had a loading capacity of 1.5 tonnes, and a 5 tonne model followed two years later. These vehicles still mostly resembled horse-drawn carts, although in the case of the 5 tonne model the motor and cooling system were moved to the front of the vehicle, instead of sitting at the back as they did on the 1.5 tonne model. There was no way to transport containers with these primitive versions!
Containers simplified transport and handling
Container shortages are currently a real problem. That’s because the world has come to rely on containers and the advantages they bring: they can be used as part of intermodal transport and are stackable thanks to standardised sizing. This makes them easy to load, unload and transport. Even though container transport has been around since the 1800s, it was only when it was standardised in the 20th century that it truly optimised transports and transport costs.
Malcom Purcell McLean, from the USA, first used large containers made from metal for transporting goods on trucks and ships in 1956. It’s said that in 1937, when he was just a young haulier, he came up with the idea of loading trucks and their cargo directly onto ships to save time and avoid inefficient unloading and reloading processes at harbours. Then he had the idea of simply taking the trailer or semi-trailer and placing it on the ship, together with the freight inside. To realise this goal, he worked with an engineer named Keith Tantlinger to develop the first modern intermodal container; an eight foot wide and ten foot long box made of corrugated steel. They then shared the idea with industrial and manufacturing companies, and it took off; they had created the first standardised container. And this standard was soon adopted in the UK, where it replaced the wooden containers used since 1830 and grew to dominate the industry in the second half of the 20th century.
The global economy is growing, and with it transportation needs
We need containers now more than ever. The transport industry grew significantly in the 1990s: the number of container ships doubled, as did the market for containers. In 2005, approximately 20 million containers were shipped all around the world, during a total of 200 million different journeys. Almost 75% of those journeys were made via container ship. The containers reduced transport costs for global goods trading and sped up processes, allowing for a multitude of consumer goods, raw materials and bulk goods to be imported and exported around the world. These days, around 200 million containers are transported across the oceans each year.
Swap bodies increased fleet efficiency
It’s hard to imagine what the logistics industry would look like without swap bodies, which were used for the first time in 1971. The idea was based on the shipping container model, and the intention was to do away with the need to unload and reload goods, speeding up processes and increasing fleet efficiency. Thomas Simon, son-in-law of Dachser’s company founder, developed the idea during the 1960s. The family run company from Kempten changed the world of road transport forever with the invention of the swap body and the associated fold-out legs. Swap bodies make it easier to optimise the use of vehicles with existing licences and permits. The basic dimensions of a swap body are more-or-less those of an ISO container, allowing both to be transported on the same style of vehicle. And today there are even box and refrigerated swap bodies with two-story loading equipment available, so its easier than ever to optimise loading capacities without the need to stack up pallets.
Digitalisation and transport platforms are forging new logistics paths
One of the most recent new technologies to develop on the logistics market facilitates digitalisation of logistics processes while simultaneously connecting transport industry participants with one another. Long into the 1990s, road transport was an industry that relied on personal contacts and analogue business practices. These days, freight forwarding companies use TMS’s, ERP systems and freight exchanges as the main tools of the trade, but not too long ago the telephone was the road transport industry’s main method of communication.
It was only with the advent of the internet and the networking potential it brought with it that a highly fragmented market could make the best use of digital applications. And so the TIMOCOM Freight Exchange went live in 1997. There were somewhat similar platforms available at the time, but they were hardly worth investing in, being mostly focused on regional connections. The freight and vehicle exchange by TIMOCOM set new standards for logistical processes on the European road transport market.
The platform has been in continuous development ever since, and has introduced features including interfaces for common TMS and telematics systems, as well as multiple additional applications and services.
Innovations optimise logistical processes
New technologies, both analogue and digital, have made the logistics industry into the powerhouse it is today. Intermodal transports would not be possible without the invention and standardisation of the container. The swap body revolutionised reloading for road transport vehicles. But these days, the real innovation is digital. Many companies are reluctant to invest lots of money in new systems, which is where independent transport platforms come in. They offer the option of digitalising processes and entering the world of Logistics 4.0 without the need for large investments. No matter when or what the innovation, they all have one thing in common: they optimise processes used by the logistics industry to transport goods, increase efficiency and lower costs.
If you want to digitalise your transport processes and join a European network comprising of over 45,000 customers, we would love to offer you, as a new customer, a free trial period for our Smart Logistics System. Apply now to optimise your logistics processes.
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