How AI and the IoT Can Change Transportation Management!

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Blog post originally published by Adam Robinson on 


Analysts predict that by 2020, 75% of new cars will feature IoT connectivity. The percentage increase describes consumer applications, but the idea of connected vehicles should garner interest from other sectors such as shipping, logistics, and transportation.

Leaders in these industries would be wise to plan for a future where AI and the IoT transform transportation management.

Here are five possible applications to consider.


1. Streamline Decision-Making

David Poulsen, CutCableToday’s IT expert, says connected, or autonomous, vehicles, are attractive because of the technologies that undergird them. “The Internet of Things (IoT) is one part of the equation,” Poulsen explains. “The other part is artificial intelligence (AI). It acts as the driver, helping the connected ‘thing,’ which could be a vehicle or inventory system, make smarter decisions.”

As applied to transportation management, that automated decision-making ability is critical. Connected vehicles, shipments, and systems help with tracking and historical reporting. But real-time insights and responses occur through artificial intelligence.

At TOPBOTS, an online, educational resource for all things AI, writer Mariya Yao calls the process “turning supply chain logistics into automated trading.” She gives an example: Amazon’s ability to deliver packages to a person’s door in under two hours. AI and the IoT streamline the entire process, from order to delivery, to save time and money and meet customer demand.

2. Optimize Operations

DHL, the global logistics provider, posits another application of AI and the IoT optimization. Its 2016 Logistics Trend Radar report suggests that big data and automated supply chains could lead to previously unimaginable levels of optimization.

But that optimization isn’t isolated to a single aspect of transportation management. Rather, DHL predicts a world in which manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, and deliveries become increasingly efficient, productive, and profitable. The provider believes the trend will come to life in the next ten years.

DHL could be correct. General Electric, for example, has started integrating AI into its locomotives to enhance safety and speed. Daniel Malak at Motionloft offers another use for AI and the IoT: optimizing traffic. He says transportation management companies benefit from Motionloft by using it to study traffic patterns and “optimize business practices such as sending out police forces only during peak rush hours, having maintenance crews repair roads that get the most travel, and deploying sanitation crews to clean public areas only when needed.”

3. Manage Warehouses

Tim Young of Vero Solutions shares another way AI and the IoT Could transform transportation management in his infographic looking at warehouses. He says AI could impact six areas of operations.

“Productivity levels, inventory processes, and employee wages are just three fields,” explains Young, “that are expected to be revolutionized and improved by AI technology in warehouses in just a matter of years.”

The other three areas relate to effective communication, warehouse operations, and robot workers. Young’s example of robot workers involves a company previously mentioned: Amazon. The brand has been testing out robots in its warehouses to increase productivity and, presumably, quality control.

4. Decrease Downtime and Repairs

Transportation companies also use AI and the IoT to mitigate costly repairs and downtime. Internal diagnostics, for example, can alert users to maintenance issues, which keeps passengers safe — no blow-outs while traveling down the road at seventy miles per hour, for example — and increases the lifetime value of the vehicle.

Daniel Dombach at Zebra further illuminates the concept, adding that the Internet of Things delivers remote monitoring capabilities. Companies that employ them can proactively respond to maintenance issues and also assess inventory records and parts availability.

Dombach also proves a valid point, saying that AI and the IoT could “decrease insurance-related costs.” Business Insider’s The Insurance and the IoT Report finds that insurers use vehicle usage data to inform pricing on policies and premiums. The report covers consumer insurance policies specifically, but its findings easily translate to commercial interests.

5. Go Driverless

AI and the IoT could impact more than back-end systems and processes. The two could produce driverless vehicles, a thing seemingly the territory of tech giant Google. But Google isn’t alone in the endeavor. Tesla, Ford, Daimler, and even Uber all claim driverless initiatives.

George Zarkadakis at Willis Towers Watson calls out the Uber story in his article The Impact of Artificial Intelligence in Transportation, citing the incident as “a wake-up call.” He continues, “Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) could potentially lead to the full automation of truck fleets.”

Of course, Zarkadakis’s remark raises the question of what happens to the truck drivers. Goldman Sachs Economics Research provides an answer. The company tells CNBC that driverless trucks could produce job losses of 25,000 per month in a couple of decades.

Jack Stewart at WIRED offers a more positive perspective; he says traditional driver jobs will change once autonomous vehicles become a reality, but these jobs won’t necessarily disappear. He also adds other positive effects of this change, such as cutting costs and improving road safety.


The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are coming to transportation management. The technologies provide too many benefits for them to be ignored.

Businesses that wish to succeed in the future should consider these five examples of how the IoT and AI can impact transportation management and then decide where and when to apply these features to their existing operations.


Check out  Last Mile Delivery! What is your Strategy?

#Logistics #AI #IoT #SupplyChain #SCM #Technology

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Augmented Reality (AR) is Set to Transform Retail and the Supply Chain!

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Blog post provided by  Argentus is a boutique recruitment firm focused on Supply Chain and Procurement.



We’ve written a lot about how retail is undergoing some massive changes due to technology. The closure of a number of major American chains, as well as Amazon’s recent move into the grocery space with its acquisition of Whole Foods market, signal an industry in flux as it reckons with the ongoing transformations of the eCommerce revolution.

In the last decade, the thinking held that eCommerce might completely supplant brick and mortar retail. It’s easier to shop online than go to a store. Consumers don’t have to deal with lines, limited retail stock, or temper tantrums from kids – kids of their own, or their linemates.

But brick and mortar has shown surprising resilience, and even eCommerce giants are recognizing the appeal of an Omnichannel approach (emphasizing a mixture of brick and mortar and online shopping).

Continue reading “Augmented Reality (AR) is Set to Transform Retail and the Supply Chain!”

Supply Chain 4.0! Disruptive Technologies = Digital Supply Chain! (Infographic)

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Supply Chain 4.0 is the manifestation of the Digital Supply Chain of the future as enabled by many of the Disruptive Technologies that we all hear about every day.

Everyone is impacted by the advancement of technology in both their personal and professional lives.  And that impact will only become more profound as time goes on.

The Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Cloud Computing, Blockchain, Robotics, Big Data, Advanced Analytics and more are terms represent the technological breakthroughs that are being made every day.

For those involved in Supply Chain there are deep impacts that are occurring, and that will continue enabled by the evolutionary and revolutionary change that is enabled by technology.

Continue reading “Supply Chain 4.0! Disruptive Technologies = Digital Supply Chain! (Infographic)”

Rise of the Warehouse Robots!

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Article provided by Mike Futch of Tompkins International at 


Customer expectations are changing as new sales outlets are being used. With the application of social media, omni-channel and e-commerce customers now have more price options, selections, delivery methods and shopping experiences. The ability of a business to keep the customer satisfied greatly depends on fulfillment capabilities.

Progressive businesses have realized the critical nature an operations strategy has on designing a working supply chain. Combining distribution and fulfillment operations into a single facility has become the base of the supply chain network, as they allow a single location to stock a vast number of products and service multiple channels.


Since order fulfillment first became more automated for catalog sales back in the 1980s, its main justification has been to remove the travel time and distance by staff involved in processing orders, while improving accuracy and order fulfillment cycle times. With the rapid growth of online ordering and e-commerce in the past decade, the opportunity for automation of order fulfillment has hit new heights.

Much has changed since then with both customer expectations and technology. The elimination of walk and travel time, while still a key component in evaluating automated solutions, is not necessarily the driving criteria. Today’s distribution centers (DCs) and fulfillment centers (FCs) need to add flexibility, scalability and reduced reliance on temporary or unreliable labor pools to meet their operational requirements.

With the recent evolution of goods-to-person and robotic order fulfillment technology, your operation may be in a better position to incorporate these automated solutions now than in the past. In many cases, the implementation of automation to reduce or improve the leverage of labor is a key driver now. In addition, many new automated solutions can be obtained at a lower capital investment and be expanded as needed, which reduces the initial investment and improves the overall return on investment.

There is a new world of automation options on the market, from robots roaming a DC/FC, to highly automated conveyors and equipment that assist staff with faster fulfillment processes. Traditionally, products are moved around a DC/FC using humans, human-operated machines, or conveyor system that have been around for decades. Although robots have been around for many years, until recently, they have been very limited in capability, functionality and performance in the world of DC/FC.

Today, there are many types of robots available to help with DC/FC operation tasks. These robots can assist with loading, unloading, sorting, picking, transportation, storage, delivery and audits. Robots helping with these tasks come in all shapes and sizes. They also use different forms of navigation tools such as rail, wire-guided, labels, magnet tape, laser, vision, geo-guidance and others. This article focuses on the robots that assist with the picking and sorting of items that go into a unique order.


As e-commerce continues to grow and the replenishment to stores moves to less than case quantities, the trend away from case or bulk movement handling toward single SKUs and piecemeal items expands along with it. Anyone who has gone to a material handling trade show or has read industry journals are aware of goods-to-person systems that have evolved over the past decade. Many will remember the introduction of autonomous robotic solutions such as Amazon Robotics (formerly Kiva). In addition, other solutions were developed to effectively compete in this space.

These types of goods-to-person systems have taken the form of large, forward pick, racked systems that use robotic vehicles and carriers to bring cases and totes of goods to stations and then return the item container back into storage. At each station, an operator is then directed on the quantity of each item to pick and which order or orders need the items. The pick and placement of items is directed and the operator works at a highly effective rate due to no travel, system direction, and the fast introduction and removal of goods and orders to process.

There are many versions of the goods-to-person systems available on the market, including systems from such companies as AutoStore, Dematic, OPEX and SSI Schaefer. These systems operate with the same basic process described above.

AutoStore has a unique, high density storage design with the robotic vehicles operating on a grid above the storage system, which minimizes space and eliminates all aisles while performing the putaway, retrieve and movement functions. It is a new and different design that is gaining user acceptance. In fact, it was recently announced that Dematic will be an authorized distributor of AutoStore, while it also continues to sell its own proprietary goods-to-person Multi-Shuttle system.

In recent years, there has evolved a trend of picking enhanced by robotic equipment and systems that do not require a large infrastructure and high capital investment, such as the typical goods-to-person system. Locus Robotics is one such solution and has engineered a new approach to less-than-case fulfillment operations.

These are autonomous mobile robots, called LocusBots, that work safely alongside human employees to deliver higher e-commerce and less-than-case fulfillment throughput and efficiency. LocusBots automatically detect a wide range of worker’s languages, changing instantly as they interact with each worker to help speed workflow and minimize errors. The integrated scanner confirms the item and ensures near 100% accurate pick and put operations.

Another evolving trend is using robotic machines to perform the pick process. These systems can detect, reach out, grasp and place into a receptacle items to fulfill an order. RightHand Robotics, for instance, provides end-to-end solutions designed to reduce the cost of e-commerce order fulfillment of electronics, apparel, grocery, pharmaceuticals, and other industries. The core competency of the RightPick solution is picking “pieces” or individual items. Unlike traditional factory robots, RightPick handles thousands of different items using a machine learning backend coupled with a sensorized robot hand that works in concert with all industry-leading robotic arms.


Currently, there are not many applications of robots doing item sortation in the United States. A technology that has been around for decades is the automated guided vehicle (AGV). An AGV is a portable robot that follows markers or wires on the floor, or uses vision, magnets, or lasers for navigation. AGVs have been used for case, pallet, bulk, or specialized container movement for many years across a wide range of industries and applications.

A recent example of an AGV used in sortation is t-Sort, a new material handling system created by Lab Z that has applications for both unit and parcel sortation. It performs much like a traditional automated sortation system, such as a tilt tray or crossbelt sorter. However, it uses completely independent robots, which are the equivalent of having a tilt tray with no rail. They can go to any divert and induction station autonomously along the shortest path.

Robots, chutes or receiving receptacles, and induction stations can be added modularly at any time with no interruption to operations. t-Sort is a means of automated order fulfillment for units to complete an order and parcel shipping operations, allowing for better planning, implementation, controls efficiency, flow of goods and customer service. The system is flexible and can be deployed in any size DC/FC.

Another example, Sure Sort, is a scalable, configurable, small-item sorting system. Designed and manufactured by OPEX Corp., Sure Sort is a robotic item sorter that handles complex variables and delivers a variety of single items to their final location in a single pass. Its compact array of sort locations can be scaled, sized and customized as well. It delivers by reducing the number of touches, transfers and conveyors required to run existing sorters.

The system can handle a range of sizes, different packaging and varied orientation of an item. It automatically reads a barcode and delivers each item in a single pass to a designated order consolidation point. It is suitable for small businesses looking for a cost-effective entry into warehouse automation as well as large fulfillment operations looking to streamline their process.

The Economics of Robotics

Supply chain DC/FC performance is very sensitive to changes in business strategy and operating environments. Some of these changes include market changes, acquisitions, new products or packaging, new sales channels, and growth. There are also factors that impact DC/FC operations such as market wages, labor availability, process flow and customer requirements.

To maintain a competitive advantage, the best companies have made automation a goal for ongoing DC/FC improvement to meet overall business objectives. Designing an effective profit producing supply chain is an ongoing process that needs to change with the times; businesses today should consider the benefits robots provide to the supply chain operation.

While automated robotic pickers and sorters can increase efficiency in many distribution facilities, each application needs to be carefully considered and designed to work with the rest of the process flow and operations. A business must carefully evaluate the requirements of the robotic automation and the overall business requirements for each situation needs to be considered, including capital expense, operating savings, performance improvement and customer service enhancement.

Some of the largest DC/FC operators in the U.S. have plans to automate almost every physical move in their facilities within the next two to three years. Robotic automation can extend the capacity, hours of operation, and life of a DC/FC. Robots are more affordable than ever and increasing wages and lack of available workers makes the economics more attractive and justifiable than in the past.

The future of the warehouse is happening now with robotics. Take a closer look at your operations to determine if robotic technology could be right for you.

Mike Futch is executive vice president of supply chain consulting and implementation firm Tompkins International, which is the exclusive U.S. distributor of the t-sort AGV.


Check out Industry 4.0 – Smart Manufacturing of the Future! (Infographic)  

#Robots #IoT #AI #Technology #SupplyChain #Logistics

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How Virtual Reality (VR) is Drastically Enhancing the E-Commerce Shopping Experience! (Infographic)

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Article provided by Jake Rheude at



Virtual reality (VR) is something we’ve been hearing a lot about recently, but did you know your shopping experience could be influenced by this in the not too distant future? Or perhaps it already has?

In this infographic, we’ll explore how virtual reality is changing online shopping (and subsequently the ecommerce fulfillment operations behind the scenes) by creating a virtual shopping experience (v-commerce) many are finding hard to forget. We’ll look at the different ways VR can be used, including the experience it creates and the implementation of another innovative feature – augmented reality (AR).

We’ll also delve into what effect this could be having on brick-and-mortar stores, and how retailers can bridge the gap between physical and online stores. This is important because customers are enjoying VR and all it has to offer, which means stores are having to find ways to manage customer expectations while protecting themselves from this latest technological advancement.

And finally, we’ll finish with some interesting examples of how retailers are using VR to create a unique, and unforgettable, shopping experience. Key examples include Swedish furniture manufacturer, IKEA; car manufacturer, Audi; online marketplace, eBay; and the e-commerce platform, Shopify.


Virtual Reality


Companies that leverage the latest technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are positioned to create an enhanced Customer experience.  And this competitively differentiated Customer experience provides the opportunity for significant growth and market share gains.

At a minimum the application of these technologies reflect a realization that companies can not be stagnant.  They need to continually look for new ways to reinvent themselves not only to support growth but to ensure their very survival!


Check out Artificial Intelligence (AI) in E-Commerce! (Infographic)   also by Jake Rheude.

#VR #AI #IoT #ECommerce #Retail #Technology #SupplyChain

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You are Connected Everywhere! Why aren’t you Connecting your Supply Chain?

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Have you ever tried to drive in a blinding snowstorm or when the rain or fog is so thick that you can’t see in front of your car?  It’s not possible!  And it’s risky to even try!

So why is it that the Supply Chain in so many companies is being run without the end to end visibility needed to even function, yet which we have in our personal lives?

In this age of exponential growth in digital connectivity the time has come to ensure you have End to End Supply Chain visibility.  If you carry a Smartphone you can be tracked anywhere.  So why don’t you apply this technology to your Supply Chain?

Continue reading “You are Connected Everywhere! Why aren’t you Connecting your Supply Chain?”

Is Your Supply Chain A Cost Centre or a Value Creator?

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The Supply Chain function within your company has many responsibilities.  From planning to negotiating to buying, from moving goods to processing goods, and from managing data to managing inventory.  These responsibilities are at the core of making your company run.

Yet often the Supply Chain is undervalued.  While every function must help your company grow and prosper when the heat is on uninformed Executives can view Supply Chain as merely a Cost Centre.  As such there can be unrelenting pressure to continue to cut costs.

Why is Supply Chain often undervalued?  And how do you increase the value of Supply Chain in the eyes of your Executives and other functions?

Continue reading “Is Your Supply Chain A Cost Centre or a Value Creator?”