Revolutionizing Supply Chains with Artificial Intelligence

October 30th, 2017

Transport and logistic specialists join the global embrace of artificial intelligence to increase efficiency and service to clients at lower costs.

If computing and connectivity has vastly changed life and work in recent years, the increasing reach and capabilities of artificial intelligence should prove nothing short of revolutionary. Artificial intelligence (AI) will benefit humans by analyzing enormous stores of data, proposing optimized means of putting that to use and deepening machine abilities to act, respond, intervene -- even learn and predict. With that AI future approaching quickly, transport and logistics leaders are preparing supply chains to reap its inherent opportunities.

Far from replacing human activity, AI is being developed to assist people process huge amounts information, and make better sense and use of it. Enhanced capabilities and performance of software, connected robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT) also aims to eliminate the drudgery of certain jobs, while allowing companies fully utilize the power of information they command.

"Data is today's most valuable resource, and the players who possess the most and use it effectively will come out ahead," says Vincent Levasseur, the Paris-based head of Bolloré Transport & Logistics' innovation unit, a component of the group's B. Lab digital reflection community. Launched in 2016, B. Lab identifies new process and service potentials within the digital revolution, and promotes those across the Bolloré group. It also unifies staff around its innovative community and efforts – including identified AI enhancements valuable to everyone.

"AI allows employees and businesses to increase productivity and speed, and provide added value services to customers at decreased costs," Mr. Levasseur explains. "With AI developed to analyze and respond to information it processes, it can also offer responsive and predictive capabilities."

That AI development uses new techniques, and mathematical and algorithmic expertise from the Machine Learning discipline that gives computers the ability to continuously learn, without being regularly re-programmed to do so. Recently created vocations like data scientists and big data specialists focus on using new applications to process structured data – an effort Havas affiliate MFGLabs conducts within Bolloré Logistics' LINK and TMS systems.

Those analytical tools are also used on unstructured input like free text, news articles, social media content, videos, pictures and sounds to generate predictive models pertinent to Bolloré Logistics' freight forwarding activities. For example, news of possible labor disruption in a port might result in AI systems alerting transport managers to route shipments through alternate locations. Or, a sudden shortage of reefers at an outbound port might have cold chain freight there switched to air options.

AI deployment elsewhere in the sector is similarly underway. Technologies in automated warehouses and distribution centers are being augmented with AI to enable robots for wider, reactive tasks. For example, visual recognition already allowing shuttles to collect goods for shipping can be enhanced through AI to also identify shelves needing restocking. Such capacities could also allow machines to take inventory while performing other mobile tasks.

Information collected and AI analyses of it can then be relayed to other connected robots, devices and computers linked in unified facility systems. That will provide Bolloré Logistics staff with faster, deeply enhanced, real-time knowledge of warehouse content and flows.

But for artificial intelligence to be fully efficient, human discipline and rigor is essential.

"AI is only as good as the data put in the system, so people have to be disciplined and honest about what they report," Mr. Levasseur says – noting AI can also mitigate human error by detecting mistakes and proposing corrections of them. "Still, meticulous human input is key to allowing technology function most effectively."

Key Figures
  • 20%

    More fuel-efficient for the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350

  • 70%

    of Urbanisation is expected by 2050

  • 27

    mega-cities are expected by 2050, with at least 10 million people, compared to 1...

  • +18,4%

    of growth for E-commerce retail market in Europe in 2015

  • 82%

    of goods are moved by road

  • 1 billion

    Population in Africa

  • 60%

    of Africa’s population will be urbanized by 2050

  • 7,5%

    of growth for Indian GDP in 2014

  • 4,9%

    of growth for African GDP in 2016

  • 6,1%

    of growth for East Asian GDP in 2015, the world’s fastest-growing region

  • 19 224 teus

    transported by the MSC Oscar, the largest container ship in the world

  • 396 m

    is the size of the MSC Oscar ship

  • 120 h

    is the Non-Stop Flight Record done by Solar Impulse

  • 4,5%

    of growth in 2015 for Global Airfreight demand