AI and automation to ease holiday shipping woes

By Devin Partida
Guest writer Devin Partida explains how technology can ease the burden on Christmas logistics...

The holiday season is a time of surging demand and turbulent weather, both of which put intense strain on the shipping routes that make sure gifts arrive on time. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation can fortify the shipping and packing industries against these challenges. These tools can boost preparation for activity spikes, weather emergencies, logistics traffic and more. 

Optimising shipping and packing logistics during the holiday season is about more than staying on track. This is a busy time and thus has the most potential to drive revenue as the year comes to a close. Investing in AI and automation can improve shipping and packaging processes and enable companies to thrive during this crucial, festive season. 

 

1. Digital Twins and Simulations

Digital twins and simulations are a popular use of AI in shipping logistics. Both allow for creating and testing responses and strategies without disrupting or risking the real-world supply chain. AI can be used as a part of these simulations and as a tool to analyse the results and data collected. 

A digital twin can be used to test a warehouse’s cybersecurity measures. Security experts will throw a barrage of potential cyber-attacks at it to analyse how well it stands up to various threats. Digital twins are also great for optimising the shipping process and strategically accommodating increased holiday traffic in warehouses and distribution centres. Similarly, a simulation can be used to optimise logistics very realistically. Much like in a video game, the AI can create random events, such as a blizzard, to test and train emergency response measures. 

 

2. Optimizing Delivery Logistics

One of the top ways to avoid bottlenecks and shipping delays during the holiday season is by optimising logistics well in advance. Automation and AI are among the best tools available for achieving this. AI can line up large shipments with high-capacity sorting centres and ensure fast delivery times. 

A great example of this technology in use is the analytics and machine learning app UPS uses to optimise its logistics. Automating aspects of the shipping process also speeds things up and boosts efficiency. AI enables those new automated cells to operate at the highest performance possible while also streamlining the rest of the process.  

 

3. Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) has an important role to play in easing holiday shipping stress within warehouses and distribution centres. It’s a specific type of automation that uses robotic cells to automate repetitive, manual tasks. This could take the form of an automated packaging robot in the shipping industry. 

For example, collaborative packaging robots can help employees stay on top of things in warehouses while also speeding up the shipping timeline. There are various ways to implement RPA, and AI can augment the capabilities of robotic cells even further. For example, AI scanners can rapidly conduct quality checks on packages as they are assembled and sealed. 

4. Keeping up With Customer Service

With a surge in demand comes spikes in customer service requests. AI can help companies meet this demand without hiring extra holiday staff. Customer service chatbots have long been in use at countless companies around the world, but AI is taking these rudimentary bots to a new level. Advancements in natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) are giving AI the capability to carry on realistic conversations. This technology allows businesses to use an AI customer service agent to meet most client shipping needs, freeing up employees to only help technical or unique cases. 

 

5. Mitigating Staffing Shortages

Staffing shortages can pose a serious challenge during the holiday season, especially when it comes to the warehouses and distribution centres that shipping relies on. A survey of over 80 big-box retail chains found that 52% of retailers are struggling to fill warehouse positions. These jobs are critical to success during the holiday season. 

When there aren’t enough qualified applicants to fill all the necessary positions, automation and AI can be the perfect solution. These tools are not designed to replace jobs but rather augment the skills employees already have. Robotics can be used to automate parts of the shipping process, and AI can be used to rapidly onboard new employees and fill customer service needs. Repetitive tasks and jobs that are dangerous or especially hard to fill are prime candidates for AI and automation solutions. 

 

Thriving During the Holidays

The holiday season is an important time of year for businesses, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Strategically utilising AI and automation can enable companies to ship and deliver orders quickly and reliably. Streamlined shipping logistics powered by AI and automation tools allow businesses to easily meet holiday shipping demands.

 

 

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