Automation, AI, and Analytics: The Powerful Trio That’s Transforming The Way Goods Are Moved

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The need for greater visibility, transparency, and optimization is changing the ground processes for goods movement in local and cross-border settings. Businesses are increasingly embracing smart automation for tracking, monitoring, planning, and managing the various moving parts in the logistics ecosystem. 

A recent Gartner survey reveals that artificial intelligence (AI) is going to have the greatest impact on the global supply chain industry by 2025. It also reports that currently, 16% of supply chain leaders are using automation for better decision-making, and 21% are improving transportation via automation tools.

G2 reports that the global warehouse automation market will cross the USD 30 bn mark by 2026. Also, McKinsey points out that automation is emerging in various degrees across the global logistics chain, of which warehouse, contract hub, and fulfillment are the top rankers. 

Throughout the industry, three novel ideologies are paving the way toward digitized, smart, and automated operations, spurring consequential changes in the way goods move:

Connected Community – Seamless and integrated collaboration and connection with logistics service providers to gain visibility across the network.

Smart Decision-Making – Gain actionable insights by consistently harnessing and harmonizing traditional and new data for current and future decisions.

Intelligent Automation – Creating and utilizing the right mix of human and machine capabilities for tasks, operations, and processes.

As the technologies like AI/ML, automation, and analytics mature in terms of industry adoption and implementation success, they are changing all the dynamics and catalysts of goods movement. Package sorting, order allocation, delivery location clustering, rider management, and cross-border trading automation – innovations are emerging in various forms. 

However, the tangible progress in the form of business deliverables for customers and logistics and supply chain stakeholders will come in incremental waves in the coming years. 

Opportunities Stemming from Operational Challenges

Internet penetration, urbanization, increasing purchase power, and digital commerce – all have triggered a huge butterfly effect across the logistics transportation sector. In the US, for example, the parcel delivery volume hit the record high of 21.5 Billion in 2021 and by 2027, this figure will be hitting the 40 billion mark.

While some transportation stakeholders and service providers tend to manage the high order volumes by throwing more capacity into the operations, manual management of the workforce and vehicles leads to increased operational costs. 

Container scarcity, unavailable parking spaces at ports, cross-border movements, etc., tend to increase the cost of goods movement. A nasty example staring at us is the fact that the port congestion at a single trading port, LA, Long Beach, could disrupt USD 90 BN in trade.

These challenges have paved the way for smart logistics platforms that automate end-to-end delivery operations and eliminate delay propagation across the first, middle, and last mile via optimization. These solutions leverage data analytics to streamline pre-shipment, in-transit, and post-shipment processes to tackle the bleeding of costs and time across multiple legs of goods movement.

Smart built-in algorithms allow shippers and businesses to manage, monitor, track and control the warehouse movements, and overcome manual decision-making related to inventory, 3PL management, and stock movements.

How Automation, AI, and Analytics Are Creating a Technology-Driven Goods Movement Network

AI, automation, and advanced data analytics enable businesses and retailers to operate with limited physical infrastructure via smart digital processes that increase throughput, overcome friction with seamless coordination, and improve transparency. 

These processes are changing the goods movement networks globally in a fundamental manner via integration, smart decision-making automation, predictive insights, and visualizations, which are drawn from multiple data sources in real-time.

Overcoming Fragmentation With AI for End-to-End Transparency

With multiple moving parts and numerous intermediaries involved in goods movement from origin to customers, the logistics industry is highly fragmented. Right from basic processes, such as RFQ, spot inquiries, and price procurement to document handling and communication – the lack of automation has created data and information silos.

Replacing fragmentation in the entire ecosystem with seamless collaboration across multiple parties and service providers is among the greatest challenges and opportunities for transportation and logistics.

Smart logistics management solutions with integrated data platforms facilitate critical port information such as arrival and departure times, shipping lines, and marine terminals coordinating drayage. Powered by automation, fully integrated end-to-end shipment management solutions enhance decision-making and improve stakeholder collaboration via task management, automated alerts, cloud-based documentation, and integrated communication.

AI/ML and automation enable relaying automated alerts regarding the key milestones in the order movement and real-time tracking of shipments moving via rail, road, water, and air. Insightful dashboards with advanced analytics and reporting capabilities empower businesses to collaborate and communicate with multiple parties via a single platform for effortless documentation and effective shipment management.

So, when a parcel arrives at the origin hub, the entire journey across multiple locations, vehicles, riders, and delivery providers is managed from a single integrated dashboard. This centralized management comes with the benefits of end-to-end tracking, process visibility, smart data analytics, and optimized costs.

Driving Agility and Future-Readiness via Advanced Analytics for Key Decision Making

Advanced data analytics has opened avenues for process and operations improvement. Smart logistics and transportation solutions offer an in-built management dashboard for service providers, documents, invoices, etc. These solutions suggest the most profitable service providers, offer dynamic bidding and prioritize the service providers based on previous performances. 

Earlier the unstructured data about deliveries, costs, processes, and orders was more of a liability that required secure handling and storage. Now, with advanced analytics, businesses can process the unstructured data blocks and visualize the insights. 

They can check the number of failed and successful deliveries and get detailed insights on granular events such as consignments per trip in a particular city. AI and Big Data analytics help gain actionable insights into the various process with operation pain points and loopholes that allow businesses to save more on operational costs and amplify their earnings.

So, businesses can remove duplicate data records and look beyond the tactical customer needs. They can predict supply shortages, orchestrate the most optimal fulfillments and drive profitability in their operations. 

However, this is not all. To create the goods movement network of the future, today’s global movers must focus on reducing the time between data collection and taking action on learnings from data processing. Streamlining global supply chains is possible with precise planning and the agility to cater to react to changing network conditions and customer demands.

Driving Last Mile Excellence With Smart Automation

Last-mile is often the most challenging, confusing, and resource-consuming leg of the order movement that can create an avalanche of cost leakages and delays. Smart and highly integrated solutions can solve the puzzle by automating the entire movement of goods and drivers.

Smart built-in auto-allocation rules for intelligent and optimal order allocation and efficient delivery orchestration for maximum asset utilization are some core features empowering the last mile excellence. Such capabilities eliminate human dependencies and automate delivery tasks delegation to drivers on the basis of configurable parameters, such as delivery type, current order volume per rider, delivery destination proximity, and others. 

For a deep dive into how technology and automation are steering supply chain operations towards sustainability, click here.

Thus, the businesses can effortlessly scale their deliveries even when they are operating with multiple logistics providers and floating fleets for multiple locations with the right insights into costs, historical data, delivery requirements, etc. 

Automating the entire transportation and logistics network is the key to achieving last mile excellence. However, one-time automation is vulnerable to industry and technology disruptions. 

Hence, it is important to have smart automation platforms that evolve alongside the industry and derive their strength from data-driven learning. 

As the logistics and transportation sector is all set for a technological makeover, the transformation of the goods movement network is definitely going to be an interesting event to transpire and catch!

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