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Artificial intelligence in logistics

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Artificial intelligence in logistics: what will it look like?

 

 

Over the past decade, extensive digitisation has given an enormous boost to the efficiency of logistics planning and tracking of goods in the supply chain. But there is much more change in store for the logistics world. After all, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on its way to completely transform the sector.

 

Many companies are getting ready for a true AI revolution. This was also shown by a recent survey by Forbes in which 433 managers and directors from the transport sector were questioned. The survey showed that 65% of them believe that logistics is on the verge of a radical transformation, as a result of digital evolutions such as AI. When asked whether their company is already in the process of transformation, 62% answered positively. But what will this AI transformation of the logistics sector be like? The following AI-based technological changes are likely to break through in the near future.

 

Predictions instead of estimates

 

Artificial intelligence enables companies to replace estimates with detailed predictions based on big data. With fast and accurate forecasts of demand, capacity, costs, deadlines and possible delays in the supply chain, companies can evolve to an unprecedented level of efficiency. Who knows what to expect, can use trucks and personnel where and when they’re needed, maximise the load factor and generate huge fuel savings.

 

By anticipating, proactive solutions are created and risks are avoided. For example, DHL analyses 58 different parameters, ranging from climate data to operational variables, to create a machine-learning model for air freight. This model replaces estimates with accurate predictions about possible fluctuations in transit times up to one week in advance.

 

Smart warehouses and robotics

 

A growing role for AI is often associated with robots that can make human labour superfluous, but this fear is not always well-founded. Artificial intelligence creates opportunities in the first place by making the jobs of physical persons easier. Robots that can locate, move, sort, stack and process goods within warehouses are precious for a company's efficiency. Algorithms that take an inventory, calculate stocks and place the least ordered goods at the bottom based on real-time data, mean a huge saving of time, which creates extra breathing space for the staff and allows them to increase the existing capacity. As a result, the company can continue to grow and create additional employment.

 

Watching with computer vision

 

Worldwide transportation involves a lot of visual inspection. Eyes controlled by the latest technologies can perform that task hundreds of times faster and more accurately than human eyes. Visual checks become much more valuable when smart cameras know how to identify, classify and immediately link damage to goods with appropriate action. These types of AI cameras also gradually improve their own recognition capabilities.

 

Autonomous vehicles

 

Self-driving vehicles are no longer just a hype. Following in the footsteps of Tesla, Einride and Google, many car brands have taken the first steps in the development of autonomous cars and trucks. Although fully autonomous vehicles are still in a test phase that involves trial and error, there is already a lot of AI present in the fleet that is currently driving around on our roads. Advanced autopilot, lane assistance and assisted braking functions are just some of the technological innovations that are presently well-established.

 

But it is already possible for trucks to drive in formation and thus reduce their fuel consumption spectacularly. In this system called platooning, trucks communicate with each other in order to keep driving close to each other at a constant speed. It has been proven that fuel consumption is reduced by almost 5% for the first truck in the queue and by 10% for the next.

 

Innovation and cooperation

 

The above-mentioned applications could have a huge impact on the logistics sector in the near future, but they represent just the tip of the iceberg. Our relentless drive for technological innovation will undoubtedly further stimulate this progress. And thanks to close collaborations between inventive start-ups and large corporations, their impact will be felt more quickly than we might even think.