Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly critical in last-mile logistics, the final leg of an ordered product’s trip from distribution center to end user, according to AI expert Ajay Bulusu, writing in Forbes (subscription).
What’s going on: “Today’s consumers demand shorter delivery times, live tracking and seamless experiences, forcing providers to continuously innovate and optimize their last-mile operations.… AI offers transformative capabilities to overcome some last-mile logistics complexities and challenges.”
Here are some of the ways AI is likely to speed package deliveries, according to Bulusu:
- Autonomous vehicles: “Autonomous vehicles could be able to efficiently navigate urban environments, which will ensure faster, more cost-effective deliveries while minimizing carbon emissions. AI should also play a crucial role in route optimization, real-time monitoring and collision avoidance, ensuring safe, reliable deliveries.”
- Delivery drones: Companies are already using delivery drones, and demand for them is expected to grow in the near future owing to their ability to bypass traffic.
- Robotic warehousing: Some companies are also using robotics to sort packages in their warehouses, and this is a trend that will gain steam, too. “Expect intelligent robotic systems to collaborate seamlessly with human workers, efficiently navigating through warehouses, retrieving and shelving items and optimizing storage space … streamlin[ing] logistics operations.”
- On-demand manufacturing: “AI algorithms can analyze real-time demand data and automatically trigger the production of specific items locally, closer to the end customers.”
- Cognitive robotics: Cognitive robots have AI and natural language processing capabilities, so they can make their way through complex environments such as apartment buildings without human intervention.
How to prepare: Businesses in the last-mile logistics arena can take certain actions to best leverage these trends as they grow. Steps include prioritizing staff upskilling and exploring the integration of new technologies into existing infrastructure.