The logistics industry, like many others, has seen dramatic transformations with the advancement of new technologies such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Warehouse automation, smart roads, and predictive analytics are examples of technologies and automation in shipping industry that are fast becoming the new norm in the modern world.
Organizations realize the value of leveraging data and AI to improve business processes across various streams. Leading global tech giants are investing heavily in data and AI. In the logistics industry specifically, AI is playing an increasingly critical role. With logistical requirements becoming more complex, organizations are relying on powerful technologies and applications to streamline business processes.
Let’s take a closer look at the top AI-powered trends that we can expect to see in 2022 and beyond in some sectors constituting the supply chain.
Intelligent and Automated Warehousing
The logistics industry is looking at solutions that can boost up processes in the warehouse tasks with Intelligent Automated Integrations.
Many supply chains are now using automated storage solutions to match consumer demands. The need for quicker processes will continue, and the demand for such services will surge in 2022. Intelligent and Automated Warehousing solutions are helping warehouses fulfill the need to achieve rapid expansion and enhance production.
To make warehouse processes more flexible, warehouse staff can automate the time-consuming supply chain tasks. It allows them to focus on and simplify complex processes. Automated solutions like robotics, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), and Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) are helping warehouse managers and staff implement faster logistics processes and ensure faster deliveries.
The primary mission of these machines is to maximize efficiency in the use of space in warehouses. Leading warehousing robots are engineered to stack stored items up to 17 boxes high. The algorithm that manages the operations keeps less frequently ordered items at the bottom and frequently accessed things on the top. This kind of smart automation in shipping reduces the time taken to complete most of the orders.
It looks very likely that multiple and complex operations in the logistics and warehousing industries will not require any level of human intervention in the near future. Warehouse-specific physical jobs will be most likely defunct by 2030.
The next goal of the industry is to automate computer vision, where data and AI will be leveraged to improve operations. Computers can be programmed for recognizing and organizing inventory. Later, they will also be used for administering quality control for a variety of stock without human intervention. For organizations with multiple warehouses, the AI in each location will communicate with each other to arrive at the best logistical solutions.
Smart Roads – The Road Safety Technology of Tomorrow
There are two interesting reports available in the public domain that establish that Smart Roads technology will become a reality sooner than later. In the United States, this technology is becoming increasingly visible.
National Geographic has drawn attention to interesting testing launched by a startup in Idaho. It is a ‘Smart Highway’ project in which the highway is fitted with heavy-duty solar panels capable of withstanding up to 250,000-pound loads. Made of tempered glass tiles with attached photovoltaic cells, they store solar energy, which can be used for nearby power buildings, street lamps, and public infrastructure. The tiles also have LED lights. A potential use is for marking traffic lanes for controlling/ redirecting traffic, but there could be other utilities too. The panels can be heated, which will keep them functional even during the winter months.
The NBC report details a similar project in Colorado by a startup in collaboration with Colorado’s Department of Transportation. The project involves testing smart pavement slabs over the accident-prone half-mile stretch of Highway 285. The technology will help connect to motorists’ cell phones, provide traffic reports, and alert them to road hazards.
These are pressure-sensitive slabs. They can detect all types of road activity. Road emergencies and disruptions can be quickly detected to allow deployment of emergency services and ensure quick response. This Internet of Things technology was already available but has been scaled up enormously to provide more impetus to infrastructure development efforts.
Self-Driving Cars – A Technology Destined To Happen
The rapid and continuing development of AI in the self-driving domain has resulted in the creation of more advanced microchips that can respond to real-world road conditions with greater efficiency. While many enterprises tend to use the technology to power autonomous vehicles, primarily staff conveyance around vast complexes, logistics companies are eying the technology of the self-driving vehicle for achieving better and faster delivery goals leveraging shipping automation.
Self-driving AI has clearly demonstrated that it can significantly reduce (and even eliminate at a later stage) human error in the logistics equation. For this, the technology must be proven to be safe in the real world, not just in theory and trials.
Malfunctioning software/hardware is still a problem engineers are battling in self-driving AI. They find a foolproof way of completely eliminating this before self-driving fleets can join and eventually replace a significant number of human cargo drivers.
Streamlining the Supply Chain With Telematics
Telematics is a technology widely adopted in various industries. It excels in providing businesses with valuable information about vehicle and driver performance that was previously not easily attainable. Fleet management processes have become much easier as Telematics has triggered improvements in critical areas of logistics management such as efficiency and productivity.
Telematics technology helps fleet operators track heavy trucks equipped with Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) in real-time. Managers can use the data to quickly implement more efficient driving routes for deliveries. This helps logistic services achieve what they always strive for – minimizing delivery time. The data can also be utilized for assigning the right talent and resources to the right job.
Telematics offers greater potential in the area of operational improvement. With the aid of fleet tracking software, AI-enabled machines can help identify patterns from collated operational data. Managers can then use the data to craft efficient solutions for better management of future logistical problems.
These changes happening in the world of logistics are welcome, but some issues need to be addressed. Many intelligence applications and algorithms are still in various stages of development. However, AI development is happening at a rapid scale, and it will be just a few years before the technology will be mature enough to tackle more complex tasks. By the end of this decade, or probably even earlier, data and AI will be the driving force behind warehousing, transportation, or delivery completion, helping organizations close the gap created by human limitations.