It may have been a few years since word first came out that Amazon were trialling 30-minute delivery-by-drone, but that doesn’t mean new technology hasn’t been exerting its influence upon the supply chain since. From robot pickers to self-driving cars, there are a multitude of ways in which tech will impact the supply chain.

Given that 87 per cent of shoppers in the UK make their retail purchases online and wholesale ordering is becoming increasingly cloud-based, most of us are already familiar with the changes to the first step in the chain – but what is the potential after the order button has been pressed?

In the warehouse

Let’s start in the warehouse: automation here is nothing new, but it is becoming more sophisticated and the likelihood that a robot may have picked your order is increasing. The obvious bonus here for businesses is the reduction in labour costs, but automation can also minimise damage and delays caused by human error. Perhaps even more importantly for the warehouse of the future, robots can work around the clock, satisfying today’s consumers demands for faster delivery.

At the border

It’s a potential issue that the UK government have been, er, practising for; new border controls will affect transit post-Brexit. While anything discussed at the moment is still pure speculation, it seems an inevitability that checks at the borders will have to change. There’s been some argument between experts – naturally – as to the extent to which technology can solve all of the issues presented by any Brexit scenario, but there are a few pieces of tech that could be implemented to ease delays between borders. X-ray scanners are used on both the border between the USA and Canada and the USA and Mexico, where ANPR also plays a part. There’s potential, too, that drones could be used to monitor the flow of traffic and to track movements between countries.

Out for delivery

We’ve already mentioned drones making deliveries but in reality we still seem some way away from seeing this as commonplace, with financial, legal and logistical challenges remaining firm.

What seems more likely to appear in the near-future is autonomous delivery vehicles. Although Apple have made cuts to their own Project Titan recently, there are plenty of other big-hitters making strides in self-driving vehicles. Just like the warehouse robots, the possibilities for fast, 24-hour delivery are huge.

It’s not just roads we might have to share either, as businesses like Starship Technologies work with food delivery enterprises to deliver meals with robots designed for pavements.

At every stage

Perhaps the biggest change across the entirety of the supply chain is the loss of a human touch. Jobs are at risk at every stage – from warehouse to delivery to back office functions – as automation promises to take care of the menial tasks to free up human skill on more complex and creative processes. With the opportunity to reskill for personnel, they could still play their part in the future of the chain, but automations impact on the industry is just getting started.