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Intelligent Automation in Logistics & Transportation Industry

Intelligent Automation in Logistics & Transportation Industry

May 6, 2021

by ACS Solutions

Background

The transportation & logistics industry is going through the digital transformation phase. Customers, both enterprises and individuals, are demanding to get their goods transported faster and cheaper. In addition, they expect almost real-time visibility of their goods-in-transit and the flexibility to change delivery locations. To address these expectations, logistics & transportation companies are investing in various newer technologies like

  • Global positioning systems (GPS) for seamless trace and tracking mechanism for all assets
  • Internet of Things (IoT) to manage assets, their performance, flow preventive maintenance, etc
  • Radio-frequency identification (RFID) to track inventory, prevent pilferage, etc
  • AI for chatbots, agility in operations, dynamic allocation on routes, etc
  • AR/VR, Robots assisted by cloud computing across business applications like a warehouse, shipment, load, inventory, etc. to assist managers to ‘see’ the entire operation, helping them coordinate both people and robots.

For these technologies to provide the required RoI, they must be implemented across the logistics value chain to streamline business processes, thereby increasing efficiency and strengthening customer relationships. This means multiple of the logistics processes need to be automated and with each process at a different degree of automation e.g.

The table below shows the current and future automation in the Logistics industry.

Why Intelligent Automation?

The need for Intelligent Automation arises as it does not just improve operational efficiency by streamlining business processes but also enables business leaders to quickly assess situations and make confident decisions that directly impact customer satisfaction. With intelligent automation, AI and ML automate the decision-making, and RPA automates the manual next steps within the process. For instance, AI models coupled with RPA helps businesses to analyze existing routing, track route optimization to identify the most efficient route for logistics trucks. With this, businesses will be able to speed up the shipping process and reduce shipping costs. Also, with the availability of actionable information, logistics professionals can respond quickly and focus their attention on higher-value activities like communicating with customers, suppliers, and other affected stakeholders rather than tracking information and status records.

Enabling Intelligent Automation in Logistics and Transportation

Logistics is all about inventory management and transportation, and every event, if driven manually, will be both costly and time-consuming. This is where Intelligent Automation significantly reduces manual efforts enabling resources to work smarter, make informed decisions with the availability of data in one place. This revolution improves the automation capacities on a large scale and elevates customer experience, which is vital these days.

Intelligent bots, a.k.a virtual agents which are crucial for customer-company engagement, reduce time and efforts taken for frontend and backend communication, promote task coordination by interacting with customer-facing operations (such as delivery booking, shipment tracking, delivery-related inquiries) and logistics operations (such as warehousing, fleet management, and navigation).

To achieve Intelligent Automation, one must map logistics & transportation workflows with administrative workflows. Any manual activity that requires inter-linking of data from these two streams can build an Intelligent Automation workflow when extracted/injected, interpreted, analyzed, and executed.

Some examples of implementing Intelligent Automation in Logistics and Transportation are as follows:

Notifying less than truckload: Challenges posted by couriers or fleets of vans with less than truckload shipments can be addressed by bringing in automation. Intelligent bots, in real-time, provide insight about the fleet location, shipper load, and current truckload. This information drives communication among the shippers, carriers, and customers to define revised routes to improve truck utilization.

Automating proof of delivery: Proof of delivery documents that come in need to be sorted and organized so that the logistics team can focus on more productive tasks. By leveraging document automation technology, robots can download proof of delivery documents and store them in the internal database (warehouse, supplier) in addition to updating delivery information.

Automating appointment scheduling: Updating information between the Internal systems and customer portals like Shipping status, rate lookups, and capacity services can be tedious at times. Automating such processes by extracting shipment details and populating them to scheduling systems for timely and error-free order pick-up times reduces complexity and lots of manual effort.

Automating email scheduling: Email communications between the shipper and carrier/customer helps for effective communication and customer experience. Automating the process to send emails to the shipper/receiver significantly improves user experience and reduces manual effort without any downtime in the application.

ACS’ Methodology for Implementing Intelligent Automation

ACS Solutions has a well-defined methodology to enable Intelligent Automation in the Logistics and Transportation industry. The figure below provides details of this 5-step methodology.

Plan:

  • Assess, target, and prioritize processes across the delivery life cycle to be optimized and automated using available techniques
  • Analyze use cases to determine business metrics
  • Make use of scripts, macros, batch programs, mini bots, and custom solutions to automate standard and repetitive tasks
  • Identify optimal workflows and propose an automation path

Analyze:

  • Identify best automation tools based on workflows to be automated
  • Build POC and technical flows for the identified automation opportunities
  • Develop scripts on the automation tool
  • Perform testing on scripts and conduct live trials
  • Collect feedback and map to the business KPIs

Optimize:

  • Establish a Center of Excellence
  • Govern the transformation and support rapid deployment of IPA solutions
  • Create blueprints for future structures and identify patterns with AI to embed new capabilities

Accelerate:

  • Expanding the application of automation to various processes
  • Accelerating efficiency-driven wide-range automation
  • Adopting design thinking for future

Attain Intelligent Automation:

  • Through process re-engineering by the adoption of automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence
  • Application of cognitive chatbots and intelligent bots for all possible processes and to focus on optimizing processes
  • Applying AI to access unstructured information, including human chat conversation, audio, and video, is crucial to making end-to-end automation possible
  • Comprehending vast amounts of data, analyze, understand, and intelligently automate processes to bring in more operational and business efficiency

Additionally, it’s critical to have the right capability team designed for Intelligent Automation. It’s a mix of data scientists, automation, delivery, and change management people.

Conclusion

For logistics companies striving to survive in this highly competitive industry, it is vital to innovate rapidly and integrate new solutions. The primary components driving the advancement are ‘how much’ and ‘how fast’ can logistics companies automate their processes. Emerging technologies offer new solutions to tackle existing challenges such as warehouse automation, last-mile delivery, and transportation optimization. In addition, AI, chatbots, OCR, etc. help improve customer experience through timely and faster delivery and pick-ups.

At ACS, we are helping logistics and transportation businesses create smarter supply chains that are purpose-built for today and ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow. Talk to us to learn more about how we can help you build resilient supply chain solutions.

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