Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has been effectively improving logistics for years. (Think of the AI-powered travel time predictions you now expect from GPS).
What you may not know is that AI is helping third-party logistics (3PL) providers improve their services and performance in new ways in recent years. The new technologies and applications are making a real difference in the offices and warehouses where materials and products are packaged, inventoried and shipped to retailers.
AI technology helps 3PLs maintain control and tight schedules to send supplies, goods and finished products to distribution centers and stores and even, in some cases, directly to consumer homes. Systems run more efficiently and save costs on operating the warehousing and logistics services.
AI in logistics and supply chain management helps the management team focus on more strategic matters and other areas of their businesses. At the same time, it can operate independently, only requiring monitoring from skilled and trained employees to ensure the system does what it is meant to do. The contributions of AI to 3PL fulfillment companies are many. We will cover the top ten in this post.
Warehouse Logistics News
Market Watch, recently released portions of the “Warehousing Logistics Services Market Report.” The report covers global warehouse logistics news and information, with projections through 2028. It also has warehousing and logistics companies listed for their future endeavors that will bring growth to the 3PL market.
So, what secret is found in these warehousing and logistics companies that keep them innovating with the times? They use the best supply chain management software built with AI technology to operate everything from the office to the warehouse and shipments. The AI system takes care of all the following:
- Automated warehouse control system to keep everything in-house and organized;
- Automated warehouse management systems, which keep everything on schedule with orders and shipments;
- Automated warehouse robots keep the routine safe for employees without injuries as everything operates smoothly and efficiently with little to no downtime;
- Automated warehouse storage systems to keep track of inventory and stock up without wasting space.
How AI is Innovating 3rd Party Warehouse Services
Logistics and warehouse services are taking advantage of the new AI technology systems and using them to cut overhead and wasteful spending. By using strategic methods, logistics and employees are working safely through the techniques of AI below.
Supply and Demand Forecasting
The AI software is utilized in the offices and in the warehouse to keep up with inventory and prepare for shipments to go out to the correct locations. The software also allows users to predict supply, demand, and shipment methods over time by taking real-time data into account. The company is then able to more systematically predict future supply and demand requirements, and adequately prepare staff and materials to manage shipments accordingly. The enhanced accuracy enabled by AI tools enhances efficiency by better team preparation and development, and reduces costs such as rework, or materials wasted because of over-ordering, or express delivery costs when under-ordered.
AI Safety Devices on Trucks
AI technology is installed on newer model trucks to alert truck drivers of impending dangers. Sensors are installed to tell how far the nearest vehicle is and can automatically stop the truck in due time to avoid accidents. This technology works off of satellites, sensors, and GPS. And leading 3PLs are installing AI-enhanced cameras in their truck cabs to better monitor, track and report on driver adherence to safety rules. These video records can not only improve safety – and the attendant service and cost improvements for that – but reduce claims and fees by proving no-fault by drivers monitored if/when cases go to court.
Robots in the warehouse do several things to benefit 3pl warehousing and distribution companies.
- Keeps workers safe from injuries (back injuries, slips and falls, and more).
- Cuts the downtime for taking breaks and shift changes as the robots keep working.
- Reduces energy costs as robots can operate 24/7 without a lesser requirement for air conditioning, heat and lighting.
- Robots can load and unload more items and stock up shelves. Things that are too heavy or awkward to carry, the robots can handle.
- Employees can tend to other projects within their work schedule while a robot is doing inventory.
AI technology can alert or diagnose users of maintenance issues that can cause the robots or machines to malfunction. Everything is set on a schedule to perform maintenance tasks. This saves money and time lost on broken machines.
Computer Vision and Damage Detection
AI technology computer vision gives the company insight and reports on damaged products. It works to keep future accidents from happening with products during shipment and keeps the customers happy with high-quality products.
Delivery drones are used as backup shipments. The operator punches in the delivery address and location, and the drone takes it to its site and returns. Logistics companies find special needs for delivery drones when the trucks are backed up or if there are issues on the road stopping the drivers from passing through.
AI technology uses a machine-driven algorithm to analyze prices to keep up with the markets. It uses information from customer spending and inflation to give accurate data and adjust prices accordingly.
Freight Management and Route Optimization
This technology delivers the best route for truckers to take to save time on shipment and fuel costs. The AI technology is a GPS system that tracks all information from the highways and keeps the drivers updated with real-time data like weather, accident reports, and more. If routes must change, the truck driver is given the most efficient route available.
Customer Service Chatbot
Customer Service chatbots allow users to contact them for assistance. The chatbot system cuts the wait time on service calls and gives the customer the best experience possible. It uses an algorithm of the data from the most common questions, with answers provided to answer all inquiries.
Marketing and Sales Analytics
AI-powered tools cover marketing and sales analytics to assist 3rd party warehouse services by doing the following:
- Monitor the market changes;
- Analyze customer behaviors;
- Help predict the customers’ next moves in sales;
- ‘Arm’ the logistics service provider with information needed about competition to strategize and gain advantage;
- Make efficient decisions according to the gathered data.
Built to Scale – AI Makes Growth a Good Thing, Less Headache
AI technology can help the warehouse and logistics industries to deliver to retail more safely, faster, and more efficiently. And AI is designed to grow as it takes on more information. That is in sharp contrast to human reaction to more and more information while trying to serve!
Leveraging AI tools to assist in providing better service will set leading 3PLs apart from the pack going forward. Using AI, even with the ecommerce and business model changes taking place, and during unprecedented growth, logistics companies could log fewer accident reports, reasonable overhead costs, more income and profit, more efficient management strategies, and happier customers.
In future years, 3pl warehouse fulfillment companies that incorporate AI tools to their operations will lead industry innovation, finding new ways to better serve customers in new retail distribution environments. AI is here, already helping 3PL leaders better serve. And positioning those who’ve already made progress to dominate the service future.
About ACWI: Founded in 1911, ACWI is a non-profit organization that matches your company to the right warehousing and logistics service provider. They offer a network of third-party logistics providers (3PL)s which operate more than 12 million sq ft of warehouse space. Efficient management of customer inventories, with personalized attention to the needs of individual companies across a wide array of industry sectors has made ACWI a premier provider in 3PL and warehousing. Stay updated on the latest warehousing news by subscribing to ACWI’s weekly newsletter “ACWI ADVANCE“. Connect with ACWI on Facebook and Linkedin for regular news and updates.