Global supply chains fear the possibility that technology will disrupt. But the ability for emerging platforms to help SME’s achieve competitive differentiation remains strong.

There is no denying that digitization of the supply chain has evolved at an exponential rate. It has caused many industries to remain on their toes when it comes to increasing consumer demands. From autonomous vehicles to Smart homes, companies must strive to meet the growing need of immediacy. This is combined with 24/7 service by investing in innovative technology.

The supply chain and logistics industry continues to monitor the impact digitization has on current and future production, operations and the overall management of transport. On January 11th, 2018, Morai Logistics reinforced the need for the industry to pay close attention to demand as globalization is making demand difficult to quantify and predict.

AI & Predictive Analytics

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics are two emerging platforms that are receiving positive consideration from supply chain and logistics. Their benefits range from supporting SME start-ups to optimizing transport management systems, and even improving transparency with customers.

This article identifies how leveraging these technologies can yield lucrative results for supply chain and logistics companies. It will also cover how to create competitive differentiation.

Artificial Intelligence & Supply

In March of 2017, a $125 million Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy was proposed by the Government of Canada in an effort to support academics and research. The country’s continual effort to be a leader in AI has positioned this emerging platform as a top investment for many industries, supply chain and logistics included. Research confirms that the market could reach $47 billion within the next two years. These predictions provide an encouraging figure that pushes investigations toward the benefits of AI.

The Information and Communications Technology Council explains that integrating AI “enables machines or the in-build software to behave like human beings which allows these devices to perceive, analyze data, reason, talk, make decisions and act.” For the supply chain and logistics industry this can translate into many benefits in relation to forecasting, inventory and transparency.

How Does a TMS Come Into Play?

InBound Logistics also speaks to the integral role AI will have in optimizing transportation management systems (TMS) to a more efficient level than in the past. Their article details three areas that they believe AI will have a positive impact:

  • Improve the ‘shipment lifecycle’ by simplifying the real-time exchange of Big Data
  • Provide actionable intelligence = Business intelligence + Consulting Intelligence
  • Accurate and efficient mitigation strategies facilitated by assessment, analysis, counsel and execution

Based on the above areas, supply chain companies can expect to see a reduction in operation delays and be able to manage risks using these so-called ‘expert systems’. Although AI is offering a more advanced method to manage logistics, another emerging platforms that will change the game in terms of efficiency is predictive analytics.

Predictive Analytics

A predominant outcome of advanced technology is an unceasing source of Big Data. Yet, a large quantity of data is only useful when there are appropriate tools in place to assess patterns and predict actionable results.

The concept of predictive analytics is best described by global leader in technology, IBM. They identify its capabilities as encompassing:

Ad-hoc statistical analysis, predictive modeling, data mining, text analytics, optimization, real-time scoring and machine learning [implementing this technology] helps organizations discover patterns in data and go beyond knowing what has happened to anticipating what is likely to happen next.

Predictive analytics is adopted by companies, such as Amazon and Oracle, to create efficient processes such as forecasting and real-time visibility. However, how does this create transparency and efficiency in the supply chain? The ability for companies to forecast (predict) possible disruptions in the shipment lifecycle is imperative for devising appropriate mitigation strategies.

In addition, it helps organizations improve customer service by assessing shipments based on previous patterns. Research also indicates that predictive analytics helps 3PLs optimize their solutions. The more insight a company has on their shipments the more visibility they can guarantee to their customers.

Integrating artificial intelligence and predictive analytics has proven to help companies keep up with the increasing demands of consumers. This article has identified only two emerging platforms that are currently being leveraged by the supply chain and logistics industry. With continued investments in innovative technology across the globe, the future of the digitized supply chain will continue to evolve.

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Industry 4.0, also referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has initiated a lucrative transition for transportation supply chains. Research on future trends of supply chain management found that over the next five years about 80% believe ‘digital supply chain’ will be the leading industry model and 72% of global companies will invest over US$900 billion each year on digitization.

Why the need for digital implementation? Well, customers want lower prices, demand immediacy, and expect operations to ‘always be on.’ A highly efficient chain is achieved when innovative technologies are used to boost productivity and operations, lower costs and improve transparency. The benefits associated with building highly efficient digital supply chains are considered to be extremely important.

2,000 companies have already started to digitize their supply chains. How are supply chain and logistics companies implementing new technologies to achieve end-to-end results? This week we thought we would focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how it impacts the logistics and supply chain industry.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution in Supply Chain and Logistics


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This post highlights three strategic areas which many companies overlooked in 2017; strategy, security & interaction, and how to best achieve improvements in these areas.

It’s the second week of January. This means that roughly 30% of people have already stumbled on their New Year’s Resolutions. While many of these resolutions are weight, money or relationship related, for us in the supply chain industry, we have different priorities.

Our goal as supply chain specialists is to get the right items to the right places at the right time. Moreover, we need to be aware of the delicate balance that can be easily disrupted in logistics.

2017 has been an interesting year. Specifically in the major technological, economic and market-driven shifts. This means that being successful in 2018 will require adjustments.

For this reason in today’s blog post, we’ve highlighted some important developments in the world of supply chains and how to best tackle these new challenges.

Paying More Attention to Demand

Given the name of the field ‘supply chain & logistics’, a person could be forgiven for thinking all we’re concerned about is supply. However, supply and demand are intricately tied, which is why it exists after all.

After all, globalization, international business markets, marketing spend, weather, etc. makes demand difficult to quantify and predict. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

On this topic, Jeff Metersky, VP of customer success strategy at LLamasoft, writes:

Supply chain professionals should absolutely strive to better understand demand; after all, demand is one of the most important factors impacting your overall supply chain design. You need to make sure your business has a solid grasp on future demand to ensure sufficient capacities are in place and products are deployed appropriately.

Metersky says that properly predicting demand starts by asking yourself these important questions:

  • Do you have challenges getting internal approval of or buy-in for strategic supply chain initiatives due to lack of visibility into long-term future demand?
  • Are you able to provide insights into company management about how evolving demand trends might impact your supply chain?
  • Are you able to model the long-term impact of demand based on internal company strategic decisions (new product design, current product life cycles, expansion into new markets)?
  • Do you have a solid understanding of and ability to quantify the factors driving changes in demand over the long term?
  • Do you need more reliable long-term demand projections to support strategic decisions about changes in your network design?

Improving Data Security

Many high-profile cyber attacks happened in 2017. They took a heavy cost on both the global economy and consumer confidence. To get ahead this year, organizations need to take advantage of emerging trends in technology and cyberspace to better handle high-risk security risks.

The Information Security Forum recommends that businesses focus on the following security topics in 2018:

  • Crime-As-A-Service (CaaS)
  • Expands Tools and Services
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) Adds Unmanaged Risks
  • Supply Chain Remains the Weakest Link in Risk Management
  • Regulation Adds to Complexity of Critical Asset Management
  • Unmet Board Expectations Exposed by Major Incidents

Take a look here for a comprehensive explanation of each security topic.

Improving Our Everyday Interactions with Other People

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but saying things like “please” and “thank you” tends to get lost once peak time rolls around. While supply chain & logistics continues to be a hot industry, that doesn’t mean that it’s zero-sum with manners. Striving towards being more personable is something we should all aim for in 2018. Whether it be with clients or coworkers.

2018 represents an opportunity to deep dive and find ways to improve the way we do things. Whether those improvements be strategic, technological or just a commitment to being more kind. Properly laying out and adhering to goals is what matters. Let’s be part of that 10% who achieve their resolution.

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A viral video opens up discussions of how private and public sectors are coming up with their solutions to stop package theft at the doors of people’s, deemed ‘Porch Piracy.’

You may have experienced a package being stolen from your porch at some point in your life. It happens. It’s a relatively simple form of thievery for opportunistic miscreants as the risk of getting caught is low; people aren’t always home, etc. Front porch thievery, deemed “porch piracy” by some, was put into the attention of people all over social media as a video by Jaireme Barrow taking measures into his own hands became viral.

Consequently Barrow, an Acoma, Washington man rigged a fake package with fishing wire and a 12-gauge shotgun blank.  Deemed “The Blank Box,”  it was built to (safely) scare off would-be thieves.

Funny as the video is, it highlights a problem that’s been growing recently—package theft. According to a survey by Ring, a home security company, up to 1 in 5 U.S homeowners were victims of package theft in the last year.

More Deliveries Means More Opportunities for Thieves to Ruin Someone’s Holidays

The growing number of package deliveries correlates to the continued rise of online shopping. In fact, as of this year, roughly 80% of the U.S population have purchased something using the internet. Total US ecommerce sales is estimated to be $353.7 billion. That number is expected to rise to $485.3 billion by 2021. As for deliveries, the average American homeowner receives on average, nine packages between Black Friday to New Year’s Day.

Unfortunately, the number of delivery thefts has also grown. A NBC News article quoting a report puts the number of Americans impacted at 23 million. Most people are either working late or staying with friends & family during the holidays. This gives the ‘porch pirates’ more time to steal unattended packages.

Combating Porch Piracy

Thankfully, this problem hasn’t gone unrecognized. In particular, many in the private and public sectors are doing their part to stop would-be thieves.

For example, in Rancho Cordova, California, local police have set up a special sting operation. Undercover officers drove in an unmarked SUV and delivered fake packages to various homes. With the bait laid, they then sat and waited. Once a thief tried to make off with a package, the police then made an arrest. The program only started during the last holiday season, but both residents and law enforcement hope it will act as a deterrent in the future.

Ecommerce and shipping companies are doing their part to fix the problem as well. Amazon, UPS and FedEx have their own creative solutions. Other businesses have sprung up to sell security measure to customers, such as Luxer One.

Packages for Safekeeping

Luxar One is a Sacramento, California-based firm that is,

…Setting up locker systems in luxury apartment complexes, office buildings and retail operations, where packages can safely be kept (typically for a small fee), hopefully preventing so-called porch pirates or other delivery mishaps.

The company’s services are proving to be very popular. According to Thomas’ article:

  • Luxer One reported an 83% increase in package delivery volume to its lockers during the week after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, compared with the week prior.
  • Package delivery volume to its locker units jumped 44% in November this year compared with one year ago.
  • The company currently works with more than 1,200 apartment communities across the U.S.

Porch pirates have been a huge problem for holidays shoppers in recent years. With this in mind, hopefully 2018 will see a decline in such activities. The holidays are already a stressful time for many due to all the planning involvement. People don’t need to added stress of missing gifts and packages.

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As consumer demands for efficiency and immediacy continue to rise, the supply chain industry is seeking out innovative technologies to meet these growing demands.

Canada Business Network provides recommendations to optimize the supply chain management processes of any business size. They advise companies to:

Invest in technology that will quickly transfer your requirements to suppliers and improve your time to market.

The development of improved measures is usually in response to current setbacks or issues within existing supply chain management systems. Research on the challenges facing supply chain and logistics revealed that transparency and visibility are at the top. The Financial Times defines supply chain transparency as:

The extent to which information about the companies, suppliers and sourcing locations is readily available to end-users and other companies in the supply chain.

With the origin of products becoming of interest to consumers, the ability for supply chains to guarantee visibility is an important component to their management systems.

In this e-book, the emergence of online currencies and ledgers will be explored, with specific attention to Blockchain. This beneficial platform is making headlines as a potential benefit for the logistics and supply chain industry.

How Would Blockchain Improve the Supply Chain Industry?


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Companies talk about the possibilities of blockchain tech, but with only 1% of the responding organizations are currently using blockchain in their supply chain operations, few are actively investing in it.

Around this time last year, we commented on a story about Europe’s largest shipping Port, Rotterdam Port, taking part in a Blockchain consortium. Blockchain news in the logistics sector isn’t new, but this instance was unique because of the scale of the project.

Since this story, blockchain technology (as it relates to Bitcoin) has received a lot of coverage recently. Just last week, many news outlets reported on how Bitcoin hit a record $19,340 on Coinbase, before falling to $15,198.83 last Thursday. More impressively, by 2025, industry experts expect over 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) to be tied into blockchain.

These figures have made some organizations in the logistics and supply chain sector curious. However, surveys show that roughly half of supply chain organizations are not even looking at the possibilities of the technology. With this being the case, how big is the gap before blockchain can be used across the industry?

Blockchain in a Nut Shell

Many articles detail the impact blockchain-based technologies are having on different industries. Few actually go into the technical details of how it works. writer,
Marc S. Blubaugh, summarizes some of its the features in his article.

  • Blockchain is a decentralized database or spreadsheet (often referred to as a “digital ledger”) that is maintained and updated by a network of participating computers.
  • This highly secure technology permits parties to create a record (known as a block) that is timestamped and linked to the previous block such that it cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks.
  • The digital ledger is typically available to the public but can also be made private.
  • Blockchain is the technology infrastructure for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
  • Blockchain has many uses beyond cryptocurrencies, much like the Internet has many used beyond email.

High Potential but Little Investment So Far

Supply Chain Management Review writer, Becky Partida wrote an article earlier this week about a survey conducted by APQC.

The researchers interviewed 101 supply chain professionals. They found:

About one-third indicated that blockchain has the potential to create a competitive advantage for their organizations over the next 10 years. About 10% of respondents felt that blockchain would be a potential disruptor for their industry within the same time period

Partida points out, however, that Digital Supply Chain Institute (DSCI) conducted their own study of supply chain professionals. One-third of this group is “either extremely or moderately unfamiliar with blockchain.”

The research conducted by DSCI and APQC indicates that only 1% of the responding organizations are currently using blockchain in their supply chain operations, and only 35% are currently exploring the use of blockchain.

Of those surveyed (in both studies), almost 50% of organizations are neither using or exploring blockchain or its possibilities.

Part of the reason for these figures has to do with how new the technology is. It’s only been in the last couple of years that Bitcoin and blockchain have been taken seriously by the public at large. As more knowledge about the technology is disseminated, organizational interest in blockchain will better translate into investment.

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A look at where the technology meant to revolutionize small package delivery is in 2017

In 2013, the undisputed king of North American logistics, Jeff Bezos, revealed to CBS’ 60 minutes the future of small package logistics. Bezos showed off two drones which he said will be able to deliver packages anywhere within 10 miles of an Amazon fulfillment centre in half an hour.

News about the reveal was effervescent to put it lightly. Matt Hickey of Forbes called Bezos a pioneer and that “the future, it seems, is going to be a great place to live.” Not to be outdone, analyst for Forrester Research, Suchirita Mulpuru, told the New York Times, “the drones could be a game changer—20 years from now.” Surely, others would take a cue from Amazon’s example.

The fledgling technology of Amazon Prime Air, though exciting, was still very much finding its feet. In 2013 the company acknowledged that they were in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration and US lawmakers on how the service should be regulated. “I don’t want anybody to think this is just around the corner. This is years of additional work from this point,” said Bezos four years ago.

So where is the technology now? It has been years since the announcement, what new developments have we made in 2017? Who else has risen to Amazon’s challenge?


90% of Canada’s population lives within 100 miles of the American border. The further north one goes in Canada, the more remote it gets. The challenge to logistics is one of access. There are few good roads in Canada’s north and flying goods into remote communities on the few available airstrips is uneconomical.

A company aptly named Drone Delivery Canada received regulatory approval in October for testing their drone delivery service to a remote community in the country’s north.

Moose Cree First Nation is an indigenous community near Timmins Ontario, just over 700 km north of Toronto. The logistical challenges of this community have doubled the cost of consumer goods. A quick google image search of northern grocery shelves shows the horror that is shopping for groceries in the north.

Food Price in Northern Canada:

  • Tropicana orange juice – $26.29
  • Pack of seedless grapes – $28.19
  • Milk – $10.75
  • Pack of strawberries – $14.39
  • Frozen Pizza – $27.99
  • Broccoli- $7.43
  • Margarine- $11.29

The company’s CEO hopes to solve the logistical challenge of the Canadian north; hoping to build what he calls “a railway in the sky.”

United States

United Parcel Service, or UPS, tested a literal new platform for the launching of drones last February in San Francisco.

The company used their iconic brown trucks as a road-bound aircraft carrier for drones. How does it work? A roughly minute and a half long video from UPS shows the delivery driver loading the drone from the inside of the truck, opening a door in the roof of the vehicle revealing an autonomous drone on a sort of tiny helipad, which then flies off under GPS control to its delivery location. The same GPS control then docks the drone back on the truck, after it is finished making the delivery. The company touts the time-saving potential of this technology as it allows delivery personnel to deliver more than one package at once.

2017 was an interesting year for drone delivery. These were just two examples of companies who are rising to the challenge Bezos presented to the world four years ago. What 2018 holds for is an uncharted horizon of wonder.

If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? If you’re interested in what we do as a 3rd party logistics provider, don’t hesitate to check out our services (as expressed above, we are very pro finding you the lowest total cost!). We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.


Image Source: Women’s Executive Network

President of Morai Logistics, Kelli Saunders, is Awarded 2017 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 in the Entrepreneurship category by Women’s Executive Network (WXN).

On November 23rd, 2017, president of Morai Logistics, Kelli Saunders, was honoured with the 2017 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award. This award was presented to 1005 noteworthy women with achievements in leadership positions in the private, public and not-for-profit sector. Saunders expresses what the award truly represents,

The “Unbreakable” theme of this year’s Leadership Summit and Awards Gala focused on how together, women can create change. United, we exhibit an undying ability to persevere through periods of challenge enable us to come out with a more powerful sense of purpose and drive.

This recognition further demonstrates women’s ability to break barriers of inequality, while showing by example, the possibilities for aspiring women and underrepresented social groups.

Defining Power

Being honoured as one of ‘Canada’s Most Powerful Women’ is remarkable and truly is in itself: powerful. However, the term “power” can be defined in a variety of ways, changing over time depending on social context. In 2011, business and women’s leadership writer, Jenna Goudreau, joined a team of colleagues interviewed the world’s Power Women of 2011. They wanted to understand how they defined power, and of the nine responses included the common themes were as follows:

  • Believing in and following core values
  • Being motivational and influential
  • Having the responsibility to help others
  • Creating a positive impact

The 2017 Leadership Summit celebrated the incredible achievement and contributions of Canadian women in power today. Presentations on professional development and the unique experiences and challenges women continue to face, channels us to examine current definitions of power.

The equality of women was quoted in an article on CBC News, that the equal fairness and advancement of women in the workforce “is a societal issue, it’s not a women’s issue”. Therefore, there is no denying the responsibility women in power have to motivate and inspire future business leaders from all socio-economic backgrounds and demographics. The quality of women in the workforce has also come a long way over the last three decades.

Progress toward Equality

The Canadian workforce has facilitated a slow and steady progression for women to earn higher positions and leadership roles. Statistics Canada reports that one obstacle explaining the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions over the years, has been “the association of leadership with assertive, decisive, and independent behaviours that are generally deemed to be the purview of men.”

Since the late 1980’s, women with positions in higher managerial roles, represented a lower percentage of the workforce compared to men. However, in 2015 research reported the following progressive statistics:

  • ‘54% of legislators and senior government managers and officials were women’
  • ‘25.6% of senior managers in the private sector were women’

Women have responded to barriers of inequality with a consistent effort to achieve more, while advocating for the equal and collective recognition of hard work and success. However, the need for further procurement and support to help women advance in the workforce is important.

Logistics and Supplier Diversity

This past October, Morai Logistics explained why supplier diversity programs are beneficial for changing markets. The article identified that supplier diversity supports women, minorities and those who identify as LGBT or people with a disability, who own at least 51% of a business or non-profit organization’.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was a noted benefit. New trends in consumer buying behaviors suggest customers gravitate toward businesses that contribute to the community. The implementation of supplier diversity programs actually attract customers to buy products or services. Therefore, businesses under the leadership of women, or those defined above, are brands that value the community.

The Power to Change Together

A ‘lack of female role models to emulate and serve as mentors’, was an obstacle facing women in leadership roles and occupational mobility in the past. However, the 2017 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award, represents more than recognition for Morai Logistics. It exemplifies a progressive movement to meeting the increasing demands of supply chain markets and generating greater customer satisfaction. It confirms that change is current, actionable and possible. Finally, it identifies that women of power, who exemplify ‘unbreakable grit’, are not only adept to lead successful businesses – they are required.


With technology driving industries into the Cloud, implementing and utilizing Software-as-a-Service, or SAAS, systems could help supply chains improve the customer experience.

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to connect and enable our world to create efficient and easier modes of communication, operations and production. Technological advancements have shown improvements for many industries. Supply chain and logistics companies included.

Research claims that “SAAS cloud computing business information systems help enterprises develop.” This prompts us to ask exactly how. This article unveils how Software-as-a-Service systems function as a benefit to the supply chain industry and what this means moving forward.

SAAS Defined

Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) is an innovative tier of cloud computing. It is projected to provide lucrative benefits for the supply chain industry. In a report written by C3 Solutions, they use this term interchangeably with ‘cloud-based system’. Businesses and customers are able to access services over a network in a simplified and easy process.

As outlined in a SWOT analysis on SAAS, the system’s ability to efficiently integrate and be easily scalable are notable strengths. In addition, a major plus for businesses who adopt SAAS is it’s “less up front cost”. Senior Vice-President of Sales & Marketing at C3 Solutions, Gregory Braun, also states that cloud based platforms “keep up with changes and advances in the technologies”. Therefore, this system has the capability to help businesses streamline their supply chain management processes.

The Benefits of SAAS for Supply Chain Management

SAAS systems provide businesses with the ability to offer more efficient services to customers by helping them streamline their data. Similar to the research found by C3 Solutions, Salesforce outlines four main benefits that this cloud-based option provides all industries. SAAS is:

  • Easy to learn, generating high adoption rates
  • Offers Low initial costs
  • Upgrade capabilities that removes unnecessary hassle for adding additional software
  • Helps your business “scale indefinitely to meet customer demand.”

While this all sounds promising, how can supply chain industries utilize this? Research has found that current supply chain management systems are more effective when combined with IoT technology. Specifically in relation to supply chains, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) can be optimized using cloud based software. This is primarily to “improve the collection, sharing and exchange of information.”

Therefore, SAAS systems could create efficient processes for transporting goods by offering a low cost opportunity to integrate and scale shipments.

Proof in Numbers

Although the above benefits speak to the advantages software-as-a-service (SAAS) systems provide businesses, steady market growth shows proof in numbers. According to Digital Journal, Canada joins many global leaders in contributing revenue to the SAAS market. It’s estimated that by 2020, the Global SAAS market will increase by 21%, representing $117 billion USD in annual growth.

Both Small, medium and large enterprises are adopting this software across a variety of industries including IT, Manufacturing and Healthcare. The Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian stock market is seeing a surge this year. They reported technology stocks increasing by 8.5%. These figures represent the steady progression of innovative technologies and their contributions to global economies.

Improving the Customer Relationship

In addition to being an efficient tool to help businesses optimize their operations, SAAS systems also help improve the customer relationship. Writer, Michael Krigsman, discusses how leading enterprise software, Oracle, foresees a future in the clouds. He states that as companies move toward implementing cloud software. This leads to a focus on responsiveness must be taken to meet customer satisfaction.

The Balance asks “are you getting your customers what they want, when they want it – and spending as little money as possible accomplishing that?” The answer to this could possibly be the implementation of IoT technolgoies like as SAAS. Not only does this system improve the efficiencies of data collection and transfer, it can also save your business significant costs.

If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? If you’re interested in what we do as a 3rd party logistics provider, don’t hesitate to check out our services (as expressed above, we are very pro finding you the lowest total cost!). We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.


In this final part, we look into the role unions and the need for human judgement play in keeping trains from being universally automated.

In last week’s blog post, we asked why there’s little media excitement around automated trains. We’ll be answering that question today, but first, a quick recap.

In the previous post, we mentioned that the technology to automate trains systems and networks has existed for decades. The technology even allows for different levels of automation which is already in use to varying degrees around the world.

It’s curious then that there isn’t the same zeal to make fully automated trains the standard rather than the exception around the world. As mentioned before, many companies are pushing hard for robot cars, trucks and ships, so why are trains different?

There are two answers to this question—strong unions and the need for human judgement.

No One Wants to Lose Their Job

In an online article by, writer Damon Lavrinc asks Dr David Clarke, director of the University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research Center, what’s holding automated trains back. Clark replies that train operators make it hard politically:

Organized labor doesn’t like the idea of losing the jobs of its members to driverless trains.There has been push back with the allegation of safety issues. Politically, that makes it hard to implement.

Reddit user dunnkw, who says he’s a BNSF Railway Locomotive Engineer for the last 10 years, echoes this issue in a Reddit thread on the same topic.

The first answer to your question is that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (Engineers Union) is the oldest in the country at 152 years and we have fought tooth and nail to keep our jobs.

This sentiment from the union goes beyond simple preservation, however. The strongest case in favour of making train automation universal has to do with safety concerns. Basically, no current AI can keep your typical commercial train safe.

The Human Touch

There’s a reason why existing automated trains are confined to isolated areas and why they don’t intersect with major lines. These systems generally have little to no obstacle detection. It’s why they’re closed off. Open lines need people at the controls to make the necessary snap-decisions when it comes to unforeseeable circumstances. Even then, it takes years of specialized training to recognize various problems that can occur and the best solutions.

This is an issue recognized by the public. Fear of automated cars and ships is a problem affecting other driverless technology as well.

Some companies are trying to fix these issues. For example, tech conglomerate giant Siemens issued a press release detailing ways to improve driverless train technology. A robust safety outline is included in the release.

Some policy highlights are:

  • The trains are equipped with surveillance cameras throughout. The video images are transmitted to the control centre by means of a radio LAN. This enables incidents to be registered directly by the control center and countermeasures to be initiated.
  • If a fire should break out in the car, the installed smoke detector and temperature sensors become active. They detect hazards as they arise. The sensors trigger an alarm in the control centre and the train is stopped automatically at the next station, where personnel can investigate the cause of the fire alarm.
  • A public-address system in the passenger area serves for the announcement of operational and traffic information. Besides advising passengers in an emergency, it is used to supply passengers with general information.

There’s a long road ahead before robots can transport us across land, sea and air without issues. Although trains are further advanced and seemingly a more obvious choice than other transportation systems, an old adage rings true—”if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? If you’re interested in what we do as a 3rd party logistics provider, don’t hesitate to check out our services (as expressed above, we are very pro finding you the lowest total cost!). We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.