COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on businesses around the world. The transport and logistics sector, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, has been one of the hardest hit. Companies had to quickly pivot their strategies to cope with new challenges brought on by the pandemic, with initial success.
Major logistics providers are grappling with the short-term effects of country-wide lockdowns, as shuttered borders continue to restrict movement of goods and services. DHL reportedly suffered an impact of US$79 million to their February earnings.
Shipments of cargo from China have seen a four-to-six-week delay; likewise, in India, over 500,000 cargo trucks were reported to have been stranded on highways.
“Throughout the supply chain, COVID-19 presented specific challenges from contactless delivery, the shutdown of truck stops, and the closure of back offices, which caused disruptions between suppliers, distribution hubs, and retailers/consumers,” explained Kangrui Ling, research analyst at ABI Research.
Fleet managers have a crucial need to enhance visibility and improve connections between operations, drivers, and customers. Real-time location monitoring and dynamic routing have been key in allowing network operation centres to optimize routes on the fly and improve customer satisfaction by reducing late deliveries and bettering goods tracking.
Location-based solutions, including real-time traffic data, estimated time of arrival notifications, and vehicle visibility, are playing an important role in tackling these challenges, according to ABI Research.
For instance, major e-commerce and delivery companies—such as Meituan Dianping, Alibaba, Grab, and Gojek—have implemented distancing measures and contactless delivery to ensure the safety of their drivers and customers.
Autonomous deliveries have advanced due to the pandemic. JD.com began using drones to deliver goods to remote locations in China earlier this year, making them the first e-commerce firm to do so. The Chinese giant also deployed land-based autonomous delivery robots to aid in last-mile deliveries of medical products and groceries.
“In the long term, we do see supply chains and fleets becoming more automated and robust through the use of technologies such as ADAS, fleet telematics, artificial intelligence, and big data,” concluded Jun Wei Ee, research analyst at ABI Research.
“In addition, the focus will shift toward autonomous delivery form factors, as the pandemic continues to alter consumer behaviours. Within all these developments, location technology will be key.”
ABI Research forecasts that commercial telematics system revenue in Asia-Pacific will nearly double from US$7.3 billion in 2020 to US$14.1 billion in 2025, at a CAGR of 13.9%.