Artificial Intelligence has seen a massive rise in recent years. In Forward Leading’s interview with senior engineer Aleksandr Kotelnikov, the experienced engineer remarked that the “AI boom is the next iteration of computer science and engineering advances.” Nowadays, AI has become a tool that is finding practical applications in various industries, from agriculture to manufacturing. A growing use for AI is in the operations of the global logistics industry. This massive and increasingly complex industry entails efficient coordination with various bodies, which AI seeks to simplify.
This article will look at the various ways in which AI is improving the shipping and delivery arenas across the world.
One of the biggest issues for many shipping companies is using up too much fuel. This has become an even more pressing issue since shipping companies now have to comply with new environmental regulations by effectively lowering their respective carbon footprints. Aside from the environmental cost, unnecessary fuel consumption also leads to inefficient spending, especially with the rise of fuel prices.
Fortunately, AI has found a way to reduce fuel consumption and increase delivery time through helping companies find the most optimised routes for delivery services. A recent project by Rolls-Royce involves self-sailing ships, with artificial intelligence in charge of identifying navigation markers and locating aquatic vehicles surrounding the ship. The company argues that machines are able to optimise routes for fuel efficiency while reducing human errors in navigation. Automation such as this lessens travel distances and saves a lot more fuel, which is good for both the business and environmental sustainability efforts.
Most decisions in logistics are based on forecasts. Because of this, bad forecasts can lead to inefficiencies, which result in misallocated or under-utilised assets. Sea News notes that AI is being tapped into in order to more accurately forecast certain phenomena in the shipping industry, such as “whether a shipper will cancel a booking or its container will get rolled by the carrier, and left on the dock.” These predictions assess the outcome of certain bookings by recognising patterns in past data that are difficult for human experts to identify. In making such predictions, AI-empowered logistics managers are able to anticipate and react to bookings more accordingly.
AI is also used by the logistics industry for preventive maintenance – fixing technical issues before they happen. This method of utilising AI helps in ensuring that the supply chain is not disrupted by unexpected breakdowns involving shipping vessels, delivery vehicles, and other key assets. Plant & Works Engineering Magazine looked at how fleet companies in the UK are using the latest technology to prevent vehicles from breaking down during operations. Algorithms can be trained to better identify factors that correlate with equipment breakdown, even predicting when and how the next technical issues will happen. ‘Fleet Productivity is All About the Numbers’ by Verizon Connect notes how fleet companies now get automatic alerts that tell operators when their vehicles need scheduled maintenance. This allows them to order parts ahead of time – and schedule preventative repairs – to ensure that there is zero to minimal disruption to workflow. Utilising these AI functions minimises unplanned downtime, which in turn affects the bottom line for each and every company involved in the supply chain.
There’s no doubt that AI plays a major role in the future of the logistics industry. A recent study showed that 84% of companies found AI essential to competitiveness, and for good reason. Yahoo! Finance discussed a 2017 study by McKinsey which found that using AI in a transportation company’s strategy resulted in profit margins greater than 5%. This shows that investing in AI technology reaps numerous returns for a company by reducing costs and increasing profits.
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