The future of logistics according to studies by DHL

  • 14/02/2019
  • 12 minutes

In 2018, the multinational company DHL released the fourth edition of its Logistics Trend Radar report, in which it raises the greatest logistics trends for the next few years. The document reminds that logistics’ history spans centuries, and that one of the last great innovations in the area to make the headlines were container ships, in the 50s.

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But new and profound changes have been reaching the sector. According to the study, digitalization and the concept of Industry 4.0 have come to logistics to stay, bringing with them new challenges and opportunities.

We’ve talked to Thais Perrella, DHL’s chief operating officer of sea freight shipping in America, to better understand what is the future of logistics and what she believes must be the companies’ stance since now in order to stand out in this scenario. Check it out!

What are the challenges and opportunities of the future of logistics

“The future belongs to those who are open to new trends and who can see ahead of their time. We are already living the digital transformation, from which there’s no turning back”, declares Thais Perrella. The professional perceives a series of challenges and opportunities due to transformations in logistics, which have been presenting themselves now and must intensify in the next few years.

Greatest opportunities

For Perrella, the evolution of logistics might increase and improve transparency throughout the whole chain of the sector — the growing gathering and analysis of data in all processes of the area is something which might help in that sense. This also favors inventory visibility, reducing cost and accelerating the decision-making process.

She doesn’t believe in pessimistic predictions about the future of employment. Actually, the COO bets on improvements for the professionals. “There will be higher job satisfaction with a decrease in repetitive, manual tasks and more challenging and analytical demands, as well as a job market for the new generation”, points out Perrella.

In fact, DHL has been proposing innovations such as implementing autonomous vehicles in logistics warehouses to help workers collect and transport products. From Perrella’s perspective, the news will revolutionize even what the sector offers. “There will be a development of new services, generating additional sources of income to logistics companies”. She highlights that market demands such as omnichannel sales will gain even more strength.

Besides, she bets on storage centers becoming closer and closer to the consumers, which allows for same-day delivery or even one-hour delivery, for example. Perrella also points out that customer experience tends to be improved: “We will enhance the quality of the service and become more focused on the client through customized and sophisticated services and simplified processes”. Lastly, she adds that improving logistics activities leads to cost reduction on paper, packages, and fuel.

Main challenges

A challenge which goes through all transformations in the sector is the difficulty of adapting companies and employees to the constant changes. “It’s a challenge that haunts businesses and people. Businesses, because they don’t have people who are prepared to manage internal changes. And people, because they don’t seek knowledge or are not open to the new trends”, elaborates Perrella.

She also perceives a lack of general planning in the companies, both in the short and long term, and mentions the high cost of investments in technology as another obstacle. For her, the complexity of regulatory laws and processes related to the logistics chain is also a challenge to the development of the sector.

“Another point is accepting the increased credibility of online transactions in marketplaces, when it comes to pricing, payments, shipment, and document repository”, points out the professional. She reiterates that guaranteeing information security is a challenge as well.

What will define this future

According to the DHL report, the future of logistics will be defined by some fundamental elements: customer experience, technology, people, and environmental responsibility. Perrella adds a fifth one: ethics.

“We live in a scenario of constant change, with an increase in the complexity of national and international regulations. The logistics industry has to keep up with this dynamic, by maintaining an ethical conduct on the part of the employees, representatives, and suppliers that participate throughout the whole chain.”

She explains that an ethical approach can include, for example, compliance programs focused on regulatory and operational risks, and the development of politics, procedures, and international certification programs aligned with the audit, risk, and safety management areas.

Below, Perrella comments on the other points listed by the study. Check it out:

Customer experience

The DHL report pinpoints a customer-centric future for logistics, that is, with a business perspective that puts the client first. Perrella agrees: “This element is extremely important. Clients want efficient solutions, with better quality, sustainability, and real-time visibility of the whole logistics chain”.

She reiterates that the online market has been growing, including for B2B businesses — which doesn’t diminish the importance of interpersonal relationships. “We can’t forget that we still do business between people, and it’s crucial to do satisfaction surveys. We need to evaluate if we’re reaching the expectations of our clients and, most of all, understand their needs in order to better design and adapt strategies in the short and long term”, concludes the COO.


Both Perrella and the DHL agree that there is a more digital future ahead of us. The professional believes that technology simplifies complex processes, and improves internal and external communications, productivity, and real-time visibility for the client. “With better transparency and visibility, clients can make fast decisions and keep up with the market”, she says.

The specialist lists a series of trends that should transform logistics even more in the next few years:

  • Artificial Intelligence;
  • Robot Process Automation (RPA, a software automation solution);
  • warehouse robots;
  • wireless networks (according to the DHL report, we can expect 5G and Bluetooth 5.0 networks, among others);
  • drones;
  • smart sensors (capable of storing huge volumes of data).


“Happy workers mean happy clients”, sums up Perrella. The DHL report points to a future of cooperation between people and machines in logistics.

She believes that the automation brought on by technological innovation will arrive to the whole chain, taking repetitive, physically demanding tasks out of the hands of people and allowing them to focus on activities that require management and analysis.

“The workforce of the logistics industry is beginning to show signs of change, allowing concepts of the digital era to become a part of their daily routine, attracting and retaining the newer generations. The challenge is to remain open and up-to-date in order to accompany the transformation in the next few years”, concludes the specialist.

Environmental responsibility

DHL expects to achieve carbon neutrality until 2050, and it’s not the only company on the market to consider sustainability to be a goal of the highest order.

“With technological innovation, the logistics industry offers CO₂ measurements, electrification of our fleets and equipment, ‘green’ packages made with recycled or reused materials, and a reduction in paper consumption by digitizing documents and storing them in the cloud”, adds Perrella. One of the company’s actions that aims to reduce its carbon footprint is the production of electric cars to do their StreetScooter deliveries.

And what is the future of logistics to you? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss the industry’s next steps! And, if you want to dive deeper into our content about trends for the future, don’t miss out on our article about perspectives for the future of the oil and gas market in Brazil!