For a long time, AI (or Artificial Intelligence) seemed like a feature of the distant future, too far away to seriously contemplate. But, AI has well and truly arrived in the logistics industry globally, and Australia’s not far behind. The benefits that AI, robotics and automation in the supply chain can bring to both providers and customers are immense. But, these developments will also prompt some significant changes in the logistics labour force, and in the role that humans play in the industry as a whole. But, before we explore this issue further, let’s unpack what we actually mean by AI in a logistics context.
AI in logistics
Artificial Intelligence refers to a replication or simulation of human intelligence capacities in machines. Essentially, AI is software that allows computers to perform the physical and cognitive labour previously done by humans. This could include mundane and repetitive tasks like packing items in a box, or more advanced and complex functions like applying reason and problem-solving. Machine learning and deep learning are aspects of AI with particular pertinence to logistics. Machine learning refers to systems that take in information and analyse it to draw conclusions. Deep learning refers to machines in a process of continual learning: synthesising and updating to improve and optimise results as new data is received. Robotics and automation are important applications of AI in logistics, also.
AI and jobs
So, if AI can build on human capabilities and remove the necessity of humans to perform certain tasks, does this mean robots will take our jobs in Australia? The answer to this is not yet clear. While it’s highly likely that robots will be used in place of humans to complete some repetitive and predictable, low-skilled tasks (such as picking orders in a warehouse or entering information into a database) other jobs may emerge in areas of human connection that AI can’t provide. Robots don’t display empathy (yet!). It’s also possible that a transition period will occur in which AI operates alongside humans, increasing their productivity and efficiency without entirely displacing them. In any case, humans in the workforce of the future will have to adapt, learn new skills and find ways to add value in workplace contexts that are vastly different to the ways in which we’ve previously operated.
Applications of AI in logistics
AI in logistics offers many opportunities for customers to enjoy improved service, and for companies throughout the supply chain to operate more efficiently and effectively. The applications of AI have the potential to save time and money, improve delivery timelines and outcomes, and increase the accuracy of the process at all stages. The applications of AI in logistics can be broadly categorised by the following (although there are others not included):
BACK OFFICE AI
This refers to the capacity of AI to streamline the back office procedures that take huge amounts of human labour to maintain. AI software is already in market that automates accounting procedures, manages customer and order information and addresses customs requirements for freighting across borders. Chat-bots as customer service operatives are already in place in many organisations. Read more here.
Logistics processes already provide huge amounts of data, and AI can make better use of this data to improve operations. With the machine learning and deep learning functions referred to earlier, AI programs can gather, assess and apply learnings from accumulated data to:
- predict shipping times
- forecast demand for products
- identify possible risks and propose mitigating actions
- optimise routes in real time.
This use of data allows logistics organisations to move from a reactive to proactive and predictive position with respect to their service offerings. Read more here.
There are some warehouses already manned by robots, and this trend shows no sign of slowing. Robots can be trained in many areas including sorting, picking and packing orders, navigating and overseeing complex warehouse environments, and conducting inventory management. Read more here.
Computer or machine vision involves using cameras remotely to track items, assess damage, and even repair damaged items. Autonomous (or self-driving) delivery vehicles may be equipped with computer vision capabilities also. Read more here.
cora and AI
At cora, our focus is always our customers, and no technological advancement will entice us to waver from this position. Ultimately, we’re excited about the opportunities AI will afford us to improve our operations and generate better results for our customers. Naturally, these improvements will flow onto their customers, too. We’re also aware that, as a 3PL provider, we may be in a unique position to offer the efficiencies of AI to smaller companies who don’t have the budget or resources to implement AI programs in-house.
We’ll continue to operate on a case-by-case basis, tailoring our service to find the best possible solutions for our customers and their specific needs, and we look forward to seeing how AI can help enhance this approach of personalisation and optimisation. We believe that AI has the potential to revolutionise the logistics industry, and we look forward to participating in these changes and integrating appropriate technologies with the same integrity, high standards of service and customer care that we’ve always maintained.
Do you have freight or logistics requirements that you’d like to discuss? Give the cora team a call on 1800 410 418 or email [email protected] to receive advice from our experts.