The increasing use of artificial intelligence in consumer and enterprise domains paired with physical and digital logistics networks offers the potential for new levels of value creation in the logistics industry, according to a new report. This most likely includes back office automation, predictive operations, intelligent logistics assets and new customer experience models.


In a joint report, “Artificial Intelligence in Logistics,” logistics service provider DHL and IBM explain the potential for AI in logistics, as well as how it may be best applied to transform the industry, creating a new class of intelligent logistics assets and operational paradigms. The use of AI, for example, could help logistics providers enrich customer experiences through conversational engagement and perhaps lead to delivery of products before customers need to order them, the report explains.


“Today’s current technology, business and societal conditions favor a paradigm shift to proactive and predictive logistics operations more than any previous time in history,” says Matthias Heutger, senior vice president and global head of innovation at DHL. “As the technological progress in the field of AI proceeds at great pace, we see it as our duty to explore, together with our customers and employees, how AI will shape the logistics industry’s future.”


Many industries have already successfully adopted AI into business processes, such as in engineering and manufacturing, where AI is used in production lines to help streamline production and maintenance through use of image recognition and conversational interfaces. What’s more, in the automotive industry, AI is used extensively to enhance the self-learning capabilities of autonomous vehicles, the report notes.


With the help of AI, the logistics industry will shift its operating model from reactive actions to a proactive and predictive paradigm, which will generate better insights at favorable costs in back office, operational and customer-facing activities, the report explains. For instance, AI technologies could use advanced image recognition to track condition of shipments and assets, bring end-to-end autonomy to transportation or predict fluctuations in global shipment volumes before they occur. Clearly, the authors write, AI augments human capabilities but its use also eliminates routine work, which will shift the focus of logistics workforces to more meaningful and value-added work.


That may very well be the elephant in the room. So, while internet of things-enabled systems, such as automated sorting and item-tracking technology, gather and store valuable data to potentially forecast supply-chain disruptions such as inventory shortages, manufacturing bottlenecks and delays in transit, their use also consequently renders some human tasks obsolete. It’s that likelihood which—understandably—makes people anxious about their jobs and careers. Acting to adopt the use of AI sooner rather than later, however, will give companies and their workers time to acclimate to this paradigm shift, the report notes.


“Technology is changing the logistics industry’s traditional value chains, and ecosystems are reshaping enterprises, industries and economies,” says Keith Dierkx, IBM global industry leader for freight, logistics and rail. “By leveraging AI into core processes, companies can invest more in strategic growth imperatives to modernize or eliminate legacy application systems. This can make existing assets and infrastructure more efficient, while providing the workforce with time to enhance their skills and capabilities.”


What are your thoughts on the use of AI and, in particular, how it may make some jobs obsolete? Are you concerned about how the use of AI may impact your job?