When the coronavirus pandemic struck, it brought with it innumerable changes to the global economy. Suddenly, shipping and logistics companies had to manage fluctuating and unpredictable supply and demand with available inventories and routes. This necessitated the use of new technologies, technologies powered with artificial intelligence.

As the world reels from the effects of COVID-19, these AI-powered tools offer much more than just data analytics. AI is rising up to meet the amplified tech needs of the modern world. Here’s what you should know.

How COVID-19 amplified the need for new tech

With over 65% of business executives recognizing that shipping and logistics are in a period of immense change, it’s time to see AI as more than just a gimmick. Instead, these systems represent new innovations needed for the post-COVID world. 

The emergence of the COVID pandemic made new technologies more necessary than ever before. With global trade put at severe risk due to shutdowns and virus outbreaks, previously dependable supply chains could not operate to previous standards. The impacts of the pandemic were widespread. In fact, 98% of business executives surveyed said they experienced supply chain disruptions because of the virus.

Shortages, lack of demand, price unpredictability, and many more factors have shattered the landscape of shipping and logistics, demanding better solutions. In the midst of this increased need, AI technology has taken on a new role in the supply chain industry. Now, AI is redefining the ways we manage and think about supply chains.

AI Impacts on Shipping and Logistics

Artificial intelligence is a term that represents all computer functioning that takes the place of complex human thought. In the shipping and logistics industry, this has drastic implications. Where previously supply chains, communication, and route management all had to be meticulously handled by careful workers, now AI is stepping in to make processes safer and more efficient. 

There is an untold number of ways that AI is altering modern business for the better. These alterations and impacts include:

Smart Devices and the Internet of Things (IoT)

The key driver for a majority of modern innovations comes out of big data. Having the information on hand to analyze business processes, predict outcomes, and generate recommendations makes a massive difference in the supply chain sector. 

In shipping and logistics, the use of smart devices operating on the Internet of Things (IoT) allows for previously impossible changes. Now, smart sensors in freight, GPS imaging in trucks, and augmented reality devices in warehouses give invaluable transparency to all kinds of logistics data.

For example, Amazon is utilizing robots connected to the internet with QR code readers to roam warehouses and track inventory. This system offers incredible visibility to warehouse and freight management, as managers can more accurately track the freight on hand and guide it properly to its destination.  

Smart Fleet Management

As the fifth generation of wireless technology makes its way to modern systems, the potential of fleet management tracking is expanding all the time. Communications and information platforms allow for efficient processes that grow revenues and make the road a safer place for everyone. Meanwhile, behavior tracking can help drivers maintain awareness as they navigate ideal routes.

The implications of such real-time data-powered decision making mean a smarter fleet. Not only can data be utilized by AI systems to predict when it’s time for vehicle maintenance, but fleets can experience all kinds of valuable benefits. AI in fleet management produces results like:

  • Reduced idling and driver downtime
  • Reduced bad driving behavior
  • Reduced miles driven and subsequent emissions
  • Improved tracking of vehicles and assets

With such benefits available through AI, the post-COVID world will likely see these systems implemented in every supply chain—if fully autonomous vehicles don’t get there first.

Autonomous Vehicles

Perhaps the most talked-about use of AI in the shipping and logistics industry is the coming widespread use of autonomous vehicles. This technology uses AI and machine learning processes to analyze the road and make split-second decisions, maneuvering as a driver might, only with the added benefit of machine efficiency.

These digital innovations are already on the road as of 2020 and have played a significant role in managing the pandemic. An example of this occurred when the Mayo Clinic teamed up with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority to send autonomous shuttles between a COVID-19 testing site and a processing laboratory. This served as a method of limiting human exposure to the virus while maintaining the efficiency of testing transportation. The results proved useful and efficient.

Final Thoughts

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply chain industry has taken many blows. Unpredictability and shifting business processes lead to a need for better technological solutions. Luckily, AI has risen up to fill this need and will continue to do so as time goes on.

Decision-makers in the supply chain and logistics business will want to integrate AI now to maintain a competitive edge in the post-COVID economy.

Indiana Lee, contributing writer