September 23, 2020
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) opened in 1987 with 11 single-car trains and 15 stations. The original network comprised two routes – Tower Gateway to Island Gardens and Stratford to Island Gardens. Since then it has turned a barren area of East London into an economic powerhouse with skyscraper office buildings, Michelin star restaurants thousands of designer flats and over a million commuters coming onto the Isle of Dogs every day.
It was the DLR that introduced London to driverless trains – an early adaption of the use of Artificial Intelligence where the system is controlled in a central control room. Whilst this was new technology to the City of London – the same technology was already in use in new airports around the world – transporting passengers between terminals – a system adopted by Gatwick later between its North and South terminals. It is now also commonplace in seaports to see driverless lorries transporting containers around the freight dock area. It has also been very publicly reported in the media that driverless cars are in the advanced state of testing – something which we are likely to see in operation in the next few years.
Today, we are officially living in the age of Artificial Intelligence. It is everywhere we look, from AI-powered personal assistants to predictive analytics to making medical diagnoses, Artificial Intelligence is making incredible advances across all industries. Finance, healthcare, education, transportation — and now, in logistics and the supply chain. In fact, a recent report on the state of Artificial Intelligence for enterprises found that supply chain and operations are some of the top areas where businesses are driving revenue from AI investment.
Traditionally the logistics and supply chain industry has been slow to adapt to new technology. This is likely to be because it evolved as a labour-intensive industry and in that environment, there will always be some resistance to change. However, those in the industry who did adopt new technology started to see the benefits of improved return on investment (ROI) and improved efficiency in their operations.
The use of Artificial Intelligence in the logistics industry is a step beyond the adoption of new technology. It is a radical game changer. It includes last mile robots, automatic picking systems and optimisation software all leading to greater efficiency and benefits for all stakeholders in the supply chain, from shippers to carriers and eventually – end customers.
But it does not stop with Artificial Intelligence. The logistics industry has now adopted Augmented Intelligence. Put simply, Augmented Intelligence combines Artificial Intelligence with Human Intelligence. The human input is important as it combines the soft skills of experience, customer service, adaptability etc with the more rigid processes.
So what does this actually mean to the customer? Increased efficiency using Augmented Intelligence will reduce logistics costs as more efficient route planning cuts transportation fees. Warehouse operations will also benefit through more automation allowing robotics to carry out many routine tasks which should also result in greater efficiency and ultimate cost savings. This will also have a positive effect in terms of reducing transportation time – allowing customers to restock more quickly – therefore allowing them to hold leaner stocks with less chance of waste through damage obsolescence and other depreciation issues. If the efficiency savings created by the use of Artificial and Augmented technology is passed through to the end customer this will benefit the end customer, the logistics industry itself and the economy as a whole.
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