Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
November 30, 2016  |  ByPaul St. Germain, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author
NAW-Drones and Driverless Vehicles - Wholesale Distribution Trends #13

Driverless-Vehicles in Wholesale Distribution Developing technologies such as drones and driverless vehicles have the potential to ease many aspects of a business operations and logistics.

Driverless-Vehicles in Wholesale Distribution

While still in the early stages, driverless-vehicle technology is advancing rapidly. Already, driver-assist capabilities are available in passenger cars (for example, parking assist or self-parking, blind spot detection, and lane-departure warnings). Companies are using these features in designing autonomous vehicles.

Real-world examples of driverless vehicles already exist, some of which may prove to be considerable disruptors to the wholesale distribution industry. For example, a convoy of 12 self-driving trucks completed a trek around Europe spanning, in one case, more than 2,000 miles. The vehicles traveled as a platoon, following each other about 30 feet apart at a constant speed. The vehicles were connected by Wi-Fi, allowing each truck and the platoon as a whole to brake about 25% faster than human reaction time.

Autonomous truck fleets could help address the shortage of truck drivers and provide other important benefits to distributors such as increased safety, reduced labor expenses, reduced fuel consumption and reduced Co2 emissions, lowering shipping costs and increasing delivery speed by overcoming driver regulations for sleep and rest.

Drones in Wholesale Distribution

Drones are clearly here to stay, with many sources estimating that almost one million were purchased in the 2015 holiday season. While the commercial use of drones in the United States is still up in the air due to regulatory and safety concerns, companies are still moving forward with testing and expansion of drones’ potential services in order to be ready when the hurdles are removed.

In August, 2016, pizza delivery by drone was tested in New Zealand, with plans to launch the first commercial drone delivery service in the world in the latter part of 2016.

Drones are not restricted to being used outdoors, with a large retailer testing the use of flying drones to handle inventory at its warehouses.

Drone technology has potential in many lines of trade, but those focused on construction and similar markets are seeing early applications. A company uses drones to provide aerial imagery and, coupled with data analytics and 3D modeling algorithms, can provide accurate measurements and material requirements for construction, such as roofing.

For example, a contractor can be supplied with all the details of a complex roof with multiple facets, ridges, valleys, and pitches to determine the material requirements without having to climb up on the roof.

There is a similar application of camera-equipped drone technology for inspections of utility and oil pipelines in remote areas. Others have posited that distributors serving pipeline and municipality waterworks, power distribution, or HVAC and other building maintenance equipment customers might employ drones to fly over lines or a rooftop HVAC installation to conduct visual inspections for possible leaks or damage. Armed with information provided by drones, the distributor could offer products and services to repair any discovered problems.

In the brand-new 11th edition of Facing the Forces of Change®: Navigating the Seas of Disruption, you will find much more detail on all of these topics, including strategies and examples from leading distributors, along with suggested actions to understand and minimize the effect of disruption on a business, or present the opportunity to become a disrupter.

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Paul St. Germain, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author

Paul St. Germain, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author

While working for IBM, Paul St. Germain was responsible for managing IBM’s business and strategic initiatives within the global wholesale distribution industry. He researched critical issues and trends, developed IBM’s point of view on industry imperatives; guided IBM’s industry offerings and solutions; and engaged with wholesale distribution executives to help them transform their organizations.
Paul St. Germain, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author

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