How new technologies are driving digital change in transport and logistics
The benefits and challenges of digital transformation – a look at Spain.
In recent years, Spain has set an enormous pace in terms of digitalisation in many sectors of the economy. According to DESI (The Digital Economy and Society Index), Spain will be among the top ten European countries in terms of digitalisation in 2022. The DESI categories “Human Capital”, “Connectivity”, “Integration of Digital Technologies” and “Digitalisation of Public Services” have developed particularly positively. This puts Spain above the EU average and in 7th place in the EU ranking (out of 27 EU countries).1
The use of new technologies offers enormous potential for companies in the transport and logistics sectors in particular and is driving digital change in the country. They enable companies to improve their efficiency and processes, reduce costs and offer a faster and more reliable service. These are all factors that have a decisive impact on a company’s competitiveness and customer satisfaction in a global market environment.2
Digital Transformation Spain: Fruitful ground for digital change
Thanks to its advanced level of digitalisation, Spain is ideally placed to make the most of the opportunities offered by new technologies. However, the country already has a solid basis for digital change in many areas thanks to many strategic and support programmes:
- Digital infrastructure: 89% of Spain covered by fibre cables (the EU is at 50%). In terms of 5G, Spain has increased from 13% coverage in 2020 to 59% in 2021 and continues to show a positive trend.
- Digital intensity: According to the DESI, digital skills among SMEs are more than 10% above the EU average in terms of both basic and advanced expertise.
- Digital channels: The Spanish economy uses digital channels to exchange information electronically and to scale its business.
The digital transformation brings many benefits, but it also presents companies with challenges. Our most pressing questions: What are the changes for the logistics and transport sector and what are the biggest challenges for companies in these industries?
Application examples for new technology in transport and logistics
There are countless examples of the use of new technologies in transport and logistics. We have summarised the most important ones for you:
Mobile applications and management platforms: optimise and accelerate processes
Management platforms provide an overview of the entire supply chain and make it possible to optimise processes in real time. For example, you can plan and track the routes of your goods, control the capacity utilisation of machines and systems and manage stock levels. Mobile applications contribute to greater efficiency in work processes and enable faster response times.
Blockchain: clever supply chain management
Blockchain technology ensures greater transparency and security in the supply chain. It works like a centralised and digital accounting system and provides an unalterable and secure record of all transactions and product movements. This prevents fraud, minimises the potential for errors and guarantees the authenticity of products. Real-time insights make it indispensable for quality management and product tracking in particular.
Internet of Things (IoT): optimisation of warehousing
Manufacturing facilities (production sites) and warehouses benefit greatly from the IoT. Sensors can be used to track stock levels and control the flow of goods accordingly. This can prevent any supply bottlenecks and impending production stoppages in the manufacturing industry. In addition to its use in warehousing, IoT is also used to optimise and plan traffic and transport routes, a decisive factor within supply chains.
Big data and analytics: predictability and cost minimisation
Big data forms the basis for analysing data in order to predict demand and adjust stock levels accordingly. This reduces storage costs, saves resources and ensures that products are available when they are needed. Big data also enables companies to better understand the needs of their target groups and to develop new business areas based on the data. The latter is hugely important in view of the fragile supply chains of recent years.
Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI): automation brings efficiency boosts
Robotics and AI play a decisive role in the automation of warehouses and distribution centres in order to optimise processes and workflows. Autonomous robots can move products efficiently and thus reduce the workload of human employees. AI ensures that products are available and ready for dispatch. This also speeds up the picking and packing process. Operating costs can be reduced through automation, for example when loading and unloading lorries at loading ramps.
3D printing: accelerating design and development processes
In the logistics sector, 3D printing enables the efficient and fast production of customised containers and packaging. In terms of sustainability, this reduces packaging costs and minimises waste. 3D printing can also be used to create product prototypes and models, which speeds up design and development processes while reducing costs.
Electric vehicles and clean energy for more sustainability
Customers are increasingly focussing on sustainability, and the transport and logistics industries are also trying to meet this demand. In order to reduce carbon emissions and minimise the impact of these industries on the environment, the switch to electric vehicles and research into clean energy sources is crucial. The integration of clean energy technologies into logistics also includes fleet management. Companies are looking for environmentally friendly transport solutions such as electric trucks and solar-powered charging systems.
Drones and UAV – deliveries for the last mile
Drones and UAVs are now frequently used for last-mile deliveries. They avoid road traffic and can therefore deliver parcels faster, especially in areas that are difficult to access. They are used in a variety of ways across all sectors: drones monitor facilities, inspect infrastructure and are used for mapping.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)
VR is used to simulate training situations, e.g. driving lorries in extreme weather conditions or handling sensitive goods. This increases safety and efficiency, as employees are trained in a controlled environment.
What are the challenges of digital transformation?
Overcoming these challenges requires careful planning, strategic investment in technology and constant attention to adapting to the ever-changing digital environment. Companies that overcome these challenges will be better positioned to remain competitive in the logistics and transport industry.
Although the level of digitalisation in Spain’s economy is high, there is a need to catch up in the use of new technologies such as big data and the cloud in order to maintain growth momentum. Both technologies are the basis for a successful digital transformation in Spain, but have not yet been introduced in Spain’s companies (99% are SMEs) or the data is not fully used to optimise processes. As in many EU countries, the lack of a digitally trained workforce is also slowing down the integration of digital technologies, especially in SMEs, which urgently need skilled workers with digital expertise.3
Although the channels and processes are digitised in detail, they are often not networked and optimised in order to expand business models, create personalised customer experiences and optimise processes.4
The biggest challenges, and this applies to all EU countries, are: System integration, cyber security, upfront costs, cultural change, education and training, scalability, data analysis, visibility and traceability and sustainability.
To summarise: the use of new technologies is changing the way products are delivered and managed and therefore the entire supply chain. The drivers of digital transformation are efficiency and sustainability. Companies that embrace and utilise these technologies will be more successful in a world that is becoming increasingly connected and automated.5
For Spain, it can be said that the degree of digitalisation of the Spanish economy increased by five percentage points to 22% of GDP in 2022 and could increase by 1.5 to 2.5 percentage points per year until 2025, which could improve the productivity of SMEs by 15 to 25%.6 Overall, Spain can look to the future with optimism. The foundations of the digital infrastructure have already been laid, the population and companies are digitally literate and know how to utilise the new technologies to expand their business and increase efficiency. The DESI figures show that Spain has improved enormously in almost all categories over the last two to three years. This shows that the economic stimulus programmes and the associated strategies and campaigns are working, which will continue to positively drive digitalisation in the country.
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