Understanding the great technology debate

Understanding the great technology debate

In the transport industry, the logistics sector has been found to be the most enthusiastic about investment in new technology and, together with the rail industry, sees clear benefits in greater integration with other forms of transport

This is according to Norton Rose Fulbright’s The Way Ahead Transport Survey 2017.

Participants said that investment in new technology is viewed as the optimal investment for the logistics industry.

According to 36 percent of the participants, the ability to anticipate consumer behaviour and to predict repair and maintenance issues, together with the adoption of big data and predictive analytics, are seen to be the most likely issues to transform the industry over the next five years.

Autonomous vehicles were cited by 23 percent of the respondents. Drone technology, as adapted for commercial deliveries, was selected by 18 percent.

While the vast majority of the participants in the logistics sector in the survey are internationally based, the trends identified are also relevant to the local industry.

Another interesting trend, identified by the survey, is that more than 50 percent of participants believe that integration with other forms of transport, to tailor the supply chain, will benefit the logistics industry the most over the next five years. They also felt that greater investment in new technologies will assist with the integration of multimodal transportation.

In addition, 37 percent of participants believed that investment in road infrastructure would be the most beneficial to the industry.

Given the incredibly high dependence on road, and the fact that rail infrastructure is inadequate, it would be expected that the local logistics community (especially those who apply their services cross-border in other African countries) would favour greater investment in road than in other logistics services.

However, logistics service providers in Africa will identify with the trends towards multimodal transport, and the creation of bespoke supply chains, with the assistance of the development of corridors.

There can be no doubt that the development of new technology in the logistics sector will be significant in the coming years, and will be demanded by logistics consumers. Other new examples are block- chain technology (also referred to as distributed ledger technology) and smart contracts.

Interest in block-chain technologies has grown dramatically over the last 12 months. Block-chain technologies are being considered for use in the shipment of cargo, effectively automating documentation currently used for the bills of lading.

Block-chain technologies can also be used to facilitate record transactions down a supply chain, and assist in efficient supply chain management.

Understanding new technologies also includes understanding the new risks posed by our ever-increasing technological environment. Cyber crime is now a reality, and investment in comprehensive cyber-risk management is a business necessity.

Based on the results of Norton Rose Fulbright’s The Way Ahead Transport Survey 2017, it appears that the logistics industry appreciates the risks and opportunities to grow their businesses posed by new technologies and innovation.


Peter Lamb is a director in the Norton Rose Fulbright admiralty and shipping team, based in Durban. A qualified attorney, Lamb has an LLM in shipping law from the University of Cape Town. He focuses on shipping, logistics, and marine insurance law. Lamb is also able to advise logistics service providers, and users, on numerous commercial aspects and risk management, with a focus on Africa. You can read more from Lamb on the Norton Rose Fulbright insideafricalaw.com blog.

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