This article about the best artificial intelligence logistics startups is part of the "Logistics of the Future" series looking at the top logistics startups today. We are officially living in the age of Artificial Intelligence. It's everywhere we look, from AI-powered personal assistants to predictive analytics to making medical diagnoses, Artificial Intelligence is making incredible advances across all industries. 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. Why is AI making such a big difference in the logistics and supply chain, particularly?
Like other logistics providers, Pitney Bowes leverages digital capabilities such as cloud computing, database management and application programming interfaces, which enable systems used by retailers and local carriers to work together. The Morning Download delivers daily insights and news on business technology from the CIO Journal team. Three years ago, the company sold its fledgling software business, as part of a downsizing strategy, relying instead on outside tech providers, including Apigee Corp. Google Cloud's API platform, and MongoDB Inc.'s database management service, says Pitney Bowes Chief Innovation Officer James Fairweather. "Using these managed services keeps us focused on business value," Mr. Fairweather said. "They can also scale up with client demand."
There are a number of young technologies that are getting a lot of buzz. But how mature are these technologies? Which of these technologies offer solid ROI, which are worth piloting, and which should be ignored? There are technologies that are proven and widely adopted. In supply chain management, examples would be transportation management, warehouse management, and other well-known supply chain applications.
If the vision of Industry 4.0 is to be realized, most enterprise processes must become more digitized. A critical element will be the evolution of traditional supply chains toward a connected, smart, and highly efficient supply chain ecosystem. The supply chain today is a series of largely discrete, siloed steps taken through marketing, product development, manufacturing, and distribution, and finally into the hands of the customer. Digitization brings down those walls, and the chain becomes a completely integrated ecosystem that is fully transparent to all the players involved -- from the suppliers of raw materials, components, and parts, to the transporters of those supplies and finished goods, and finally to the customers demanding fulfillment. This network will depend on a number of key technologies: integrated planning and execution systems, logistics visibility, autonomous logistics, smart procurement and warehousing, spare parts management, and advanced analytics. The result will enable companies to react to disruptions in the supply chain, and even anticipate them, by fully modeling the network, creating "what-if" scenarios, and adjusting the supply chain in real time as conditions change. Once built -- and the components are starting to be developed today -- the digital supply "network" will offer a new degree of resiliency and responsiveness enabling companies that get there first to beat the competition in the effort to provide customers with the most efficient and transparent service delivery. At most companies, products are delivered to customers through a very standardized process. Marketing analyzes customer demand and tries to predict sales for the coming period. With that information, manufacturing orders raw materials, components, and parts for the anticipated capacity.
XPO launched its service, called XPO Connect, earlier this year as a pilot with about 50 shippers and is now opening it up more widely, the company said Wednesday. Shippers will be able to book and track shipments online as well as monitor changes in carrier capacity, spot rates and shifts in load availability by geography. "We're starting off today with our brokerage network, then moving next to XPO Intermodal," the division that manages transportation over long distances by train and truck, said Mario Harik, XPO's chief information officer. Many of those are small companies that rely on phone calls or even fax machines to set up and track loads. Startups such as Uber Freight, Transfix and Convoy are challenging that model with online platforms, apps or cloud-based software to connect shippers with transportation providers.