Exploring AI options in logistics and supply chain sector
The ongoing pandemic has disrupted economies, businesses, and daily lives of people the world over, creating a new normal that we are forced to adjust to. With instances of partial or complete lockdowns across various parts of the country, the logistics and supply chain sector has been under tremendous stress, catering to the surge in e-retail, no contact deliveries, reverse logistics, added stress on warehouse management, and a sudden spotlight on temperature controlled supply chain for a massive vaccination drive. These trying times have accelerated the adoption of emerging tech like Artificial intelligence (AI), Machine learning (ML), blockchain, and big data innovations, opening up bigger possibilities for the transformation of the Indian logistic and supply chain sector. Listed here four areas where AI and emerging tech can help optimise the sector:
- Improved demand and network planning. Leveraging big data and advanced analytics, logistics and supply chain providers can simplify distribution networks, through effectively mapping the demand concentrations, and accordingly set up an optimised supply chain networks. This also helps in optimising warehousing costs, while shortening the order-to-delivery cycle time, a crucial aspect especially during the pandemic and the lockdown.
- Optimisation of resources. Through effective planning and predictive demand analysis, AI and big data can be leveraged to ensure resources–both human and capital, are adequately optimised. From mapping the shortest routes, enabling efficient last mile deliveries, and real-time tracking and monitoring of shipments, to ensuring better inventory management, staffing and scheduling of warehouse and transport staff as well as, tech adoption can help enhance productivity and efficiency, at lower costs.
- Warehouse automation. Effective storage infrastructure has become one of the most crucial and significant aspects of the supply chain, especially during the global pandemic. With limited access to labour but crucial deliveries with tighter schedules, tools like warehouse automation become vital in ensuring seamless storage and distribution of essentials and life-saving pharma products. Warehouse automation has also particularly been helpful for temperature controlled storage requirements, that are crucial for storing frozen food, meat, daily poultry to medicines, vaccines, and Pharma related raw materials.
- Speed and agility. With data analytics, demand mapping, network planning and real time monitoring, AI and blockchain can be leveraged to bring speed and agility to the logistics operations and the overall supply chain network. Cloud Computing and blockchain have been instrumental in also helping with online documentation and custom clearance, and other mandatory documentation, helping speed up the delivery process.
Even as India undertakes one of the most herculean tasks of mass vaccinations across the country, while desperately trying to manage the deadly pandemic, logistics and supply chain networks are working overtime, offering life-saving medicines, oxygen, vaccines and the daily essentials.
Effectively leveraging emerging technology to streamline operations and drive efficacy, is thus the most promising way forward, to ensure the trade and now the healthcare lifeline of the country, stands up to and excels in the crucial role it has to play, in the coming months.
Author: Aditya Vazirani, CEO, Robinsons Global Logistics Solutions. Aditya holds a MSc in Global Supply Chain Management and also has obtained an Advanced Certificate in General Management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
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