In recent years, there’s been a surge of the use of artificial intelligence — or AI — in distribution center, supply chain and logistics applications. This rapid increase is due to significant advancements in computer processing power and speed.
Businesses can now collect, organize and analyze large sets of data to gain actionable insights that help improve their responsiveness, make their operations more efficient and reduce their operating expenses. In addition, the growing sophistication of algorithms facilitates the recognition of correlations and patterns, which in turn offer highly accurate predictive capabilities.
Clearly, AI is a powerful tool that’s already transforming many aspects of the distribution industry. Here are just a few of the ways it’s having an impact.
AI in Logistics
When it comes to logistics, AI provides businesses with enhanced capabilities that streamline operations. For example, using data that’s collected and analyzed in real time, AI can provide an overview of how many trucks are available in an area on a certain date, which allows companies to accurately forecast when they can deliver specific orders. AI can also be used to calculate the fastest routes, which enhances productivity and reduces transportation costs.
At the same time, AI applications can be integrated with personalized consumer-facing applications that use voice technology to inform the customer about exactly where their order is and when they can expect it to be delivered.
AI in Warehouse Management
In warehouses, AI can be used to improve the wellness, performance and productivity of the workforce — especially in pick-and-pack warehouses. Video capture programs can help managers determine whether or not their employees are performing their tasks properly and in a manner that minimizes the chances of work-related injuries.
AI can also analyze data to assess productivity and the quality of the produced items. It can pinpoint where errors need to be corrected, and improvements can be made to optimize operations and reduce waste. In addition, applications such as AI-powered visual inspection can check items for damage so that they don’t get shipped, which enhances quality and customer satisfaction.
Advanced automation is predicted to replace 30% of warehouse jobs by 2030. This change is likely to improve productivity and product quality, since robots don’t get tired or make errors. In addition, it can save businesses considerably on workforce costs — after the initial investment to purchase the machines.
AI in Supply Chain Management
Supply chain management can benefit significantly from AI applications. For example, it can rapidly calculate how many items are available and use algorithms to forecast spikes in demand. Moreover, it can be used to automatically trigger specific functions — such as reordering products when stock levels hit a predetermined low number. As a result, stockouts and overstock can be reduced.
AI can also analyze data to pinpoint factors that impact supplier performance, such as delivery times, number of errors and amount of damaged goods. This analysis can help improve supplier selection and facilitate collaboration between warehouse management, logistics management and suppliers. Ultimately, it streamlines the supply chain and enables companies to better fulfill their promise to their customers.
The Value of Adopting AI-Enabled Technologies
AI is having — and will continue to have — a profoundly positive impact on the distribution industry, helping businesses improve productivity, enhance quality and deliver a better customer experience. And with the rapid pace at which AI is being adopted throughout the industry, businesses that lag behind are likely to experience a loss of competitiveness. For more information on AI technologies for the distribution industry, contact us today.