In this guest post, Mélanie Vaast, Writer and Project Marketing Manager at eCommerce Nation, discusses the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation on the logistics industry.
Everyone is interested in the Internet of Things (IoT) these days as it makes great improvement, especially AI (artificial intelligence). It is a fascinating subject to talk about in tech circles, online, and in business forums. For the eCommerce business owner online, AI represents the next generation of technologies that will take their company to the next level.
Even if (at the moment) automation cannot do everything that humans do, artificial intelligence technologies are improving so fast that they amaze and astound people as we discover new and better ways to implement them.
AI and the benefit of automation
First, let’s talk about automation. One aspect of logistics that has increased significantly for eCommerce sites is automated systems. From manufacturing to order processing and placement, the customer experience (UX) has improved a hundredfold since the implementation of artificial super intelligence systems. Concerning logistics, using automated systems in a warehouse has several advantages…
Faster automation processes
Automation is important when it comes to your ordering and processing activities because it brings the criteria that your customers await the most: speed. Online customers want their orders delivered the quickest possible after the purchased them. AI is also useful as it allow them to follow-up with their orders and to be notified in case of issue. By shipping parcels more efficiently you’ll increase your customer’s satisfaction by offering faster and more reliable services.
Better planning and forecasting
When you have automatic intelligent hardware and software in place, it takes some of the decision-making and makes it an automatic process. While you don’t want to do this with the most important high-level decisions, you can take away some of the worries regarding mid-level planning. Thanks to machine learning, smart machines that are programmed to imagine every aspect of a situation can get you thinking about other options for your problem-solving within your business.
24/7 operating warehouse
Having your operations running 24/7 is an important part of managing an eCommerce business. Thanks to AI, warehouses can now process orders with no interruption. If you implement the right process, the warehouse can even become autonomous. When pushed to its maximum, some warehouse are completely automated, where items are only grabbed by robots. They don’t even need light, so the place is completely dark, which helps with cost savings. Some warehouses don’t even need human supervision for several weeks in a row.
Machine and human collaboration
The question always surfaces as to “how much is too much” when it comes to AI and smart technologies. It certainly makes life easier, provides quick answers to problems, and allows businesses to set the curve in sales, distribution, and innovation. But is it worth it? Some worry that they will automate too many things and lose the personal touch.
There are increasing trends toward human and machine collaboration that calls for the real human mind to work together with pre-designed machines, robotics, and automatic systems that promise to bring the best of human and machines together.
Some of the most known AI implementation in logistics are self-driving vehicles, designed to carry products. The Amazon Kiva Systems for example is one of the pioneers in human and machine cooperation. Kiva robots go get the shelves where items are stocked, and bring the whole order to a single packing employee.
Drones are also now used in giant warehouses where they can bring items from one side of the place to another in no time. Some warehouse workers now have access to augmented reality (AR) via smart glasses. How cool is that?! This great new tool enables workers to sharpen their vision through computerised vision glasses, so that they aim straight to the items they have to pick, and can use optimised paths, saving a lot of time in the process.
Always keep the control at the top
Like Pandora’s Box, automation and AI technology is a powerful thing. It must be balanced with responsibility for the safety and ethics of the people you are serving and leave more choice to humans than to machines.
eCommerce companies are likely to employ more and more the help of these automated systems shortly as it increases their level of optimisation, order processing and delivery that has only been dreamed of before. But robots being robots, you still need to keep an eye on them, just to be sure they work accordingly to their programs.
The future of AI and automation
The future is bright for systems automation, including the distribution and supply chain and ordering process for online eCommerce companies. It saves time and allows eCommerce owners to work on other important aspects of their online stores.
Of course there are ethical considerations for these inventions and authorities are now moving toward an understanding that technology must always be controlled by humans who orchestrate what they want machines to do. Keeping the control at the top is the only way that companies can maintain the ethics and standards that customers expect and deserve while offering them the benefits of such smart technologies.
There is no doubt that AI will continue its increasing expansion and we should see more and more innovation to make things easy. All of these technologies promise to create a more efficient workplace while combining the human element with robotic smart technologies.
It all began in 2010, when James Hyde and James Strachan couldn’t find a modern shipping service for the eCommerce business they ran. Faced with messy warehouses based on out-dated systems, they decided to build their own. We’ve not stood still since, helping hundreds of online brands scale up – and scaling with them.