Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

DHL and IBM see AI thriving in logistics

Steve Rogerson
May 1, 2018



Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to thrive in the logistics industry, according to a joint report by DHL and IBM.
 
Logistics service provider DHL and IBM have evaluated the potential of AI in logistics and exposed how it can be best applied to transform the industry, giving rise to a new class of intelligent logistics assets and operational paradigms. The report outlines how supply chain companies can take advantage of AI's key benefits and opportunities now that performance, accessibility as well as costs are more favourable.
 
The collaborative report identifies implications and use cases of AI for the logistics industry, finding that AI has the potential to augment human capabilities significantly.
 
While AI is already ubiquitous in the consumer realm, as demonstrated by the rapid growth of voice assistant applications, DHL and IBM find that AI technologies are maturing at great pace, allowing for additional applications for the logistics industry. These can, for instance, help logistics providers enrich customer experiences through conversational engagement and even deliver articles before the customer has ordered them.
 
“Today’s current technology, business and societal conditions favour a paradigm shift to proactive and predictive logistics operations more than any previous time in history,” said Matthias Heutger, senior vice president at DHL. “As the technological progress in the field of AI is proceeding at great pace, we see it as our duty to explore, together with our customers and employees, how AI will shape the logistics industry’s future.”
 
Many industries have already successfully adopted AI into their everyday business, such as the engineering and manufacturing industry: AI is being used in production lines to help streamline production and maintenance through image recognition and conversational interfaces. In the automotive industry, AI is being extensively called upon to enhance the self-learning capabilities of autonomous vehicles. Many more examples evidence AI’s benefits with the ability to transform the world of industry after its transformational impact on the consumer world.
 
With the help of AI, the logistics industry will shift its operating model from reactive actions to a proactive and predictive paradigm, which will generate better insights at favourable costs in back office, operational and customer-facing activities. For instance, AI technologies can use image recognition to track the condition of shipments and assets, bring end-to-end autonomy to transportation, or predict fluctuations in global shipment volumes before they occur. Clearly, AI augments human capabilities but also eliminates routine work, which will shift the focus of logistics workforces to more meaningful and value-added work.
 
“Technology is changing the logistics industry’s traditional value chains, and ecosystems are reshaping enterprises, industries and economies,” said Keith Dierkx, IBM global industry leader for freight, logistics and rail. “By leveraging AI into core processes, companies can invest more in strategic growth imperatives to modernise or eliminate legacy application systems. This can make existing assets and infrastructure more efficient, while providing the workforce with time to enhance their skills and capabilities.”
 
In the report, DHL and IBM conclude that AI will develop to become as omnipresent in the industrial sector as it is in the consumer world. AI stands to transform the logistics industry into a proactive, predictive, automated and personalised branch. Considering this, the report provides perspectives and best practices on how logistics players can seize and adopt AI in their global supply chains.