How AI is used to power logistics

There’s no shortage of challenges for the logistics industry, whether it’s growing global tensions or trade wars. But technology is providing opportunities for improvement – and artificial intelligence (AI) is driving a lot of that change.

Data in logistics was historically underutilised. But now the ability to capture and organise big data is enabling innovation in advanced analytics, automation and artificial and augmented intelligence – optimising entire delivery cycles as a result.

These are just a few of the ways AI is being used to power logistics:

Intelligent transportation
Intelligent transport encompasses self-driving vehicles, traffic management, delay predictions, and drone taxis. The autonomous ship market is expected to reach $13.8bn by 2030. In 2018, Rolls-Royce worked with Intel to develop self-driving ships, delivering the Intelligence Awareness system, which can classify all nearby underwater objects.

The benefits of driverless vehicles include the ability to monitor engine conditions, optimise routes, reduce human error accidents, speed up delivery processes and to be able to work around the clock.

Smart roads
Examples of ‘smart road’ technology include highways with solar-panel-powered LED lights which alert drivers to the conditions of the road. The panels also prevent the road from becoming slippery in winter.

Demand prediction
Businesses need to be able to predict how much stock they’ll need, since running short on inventory can result in both lost revenue and damaged client relationships. AI tracks and measures all inputs and variables quickly and precisely, improving accuracy.

Customer experience
Voice agents and anticipatory logistics help to improve the ordering experience for customers. Virtual assistant AI technology such as Alexa and Siri enable logistics providers to interact more easily and reactively with their customers, while anticipatory logistics predict customer needs so suppliers can improve personalisation, and increase customer loyalty and retention.

Automated warehouses
A warehouse in Andover uses Ocado’s ‘hive-grid-machine’ to fulfil 65,000 orders (approx. 3.5m grocery items) a week. The automated and intelligent warehouse system moves, lifts and sorts grocery items, which are then packaged and sent out by Ocado employees. The system’s primary mission is to use space as efficiently as possible.

Back office
Often combined with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), back-office AI streamlines internal functions and takes over every day, repetitive tasks – saving time, reducing cost and increasing productivity and accuracy.

These are just a handful of the ways in which AI is improving the logistics industry for shippers, carriers, suppliers and consumers.

But though AI is playing a greater role, the need for human skill and knowledge is still very much there. Humans create the rules that make AI systems work, and they input new information as the industry changes. Their knowledge makes AI more effective.