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  September 4th, 2023 | Written by

The Introductory Phase of Generative AI and Industrial Supply Chains

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Logistics firms are seeking to capitalize on the generative artificial intelligence (AI) revolution. Vast networks and significant revenue hangs in the balance. Yet, many are choosing to proceed cautiously as the chatbots common in the consumer products world have the sector wary of error rates and the potential fallout. 

There is a big difference between a chatbot fouling up a t-shirt order compared to botching the delivery of millions of dollars worth of goods. For big freight brokers such as RXO, the logistics provider Phlo Systems, and trucking firm XPO, intrigue in advancing with generative AI is there but relegated for the time being to more mundane and less risky tasks such as declaring imports, booking loads, and tracking shipments. 

In November of last year, OpenAI launched its ChatGPT bot. Everyone from law firms to retailers jumped at the opportunity to integrate a technology capable of sifting through massive amounts of information, calling out patterns, and then making predictions in minutes. For law firms this was a no-brainer, allowing the firm to save human resources time on tasks like performing legal research, analyzing contracts, and drafting documents. Retailers capitalized by using generative AI to scrutinize customer search queries and then route them to similar products according to the customer’s profile and purchasing history. 

For many in logistics, however, the stakes are high when you’re relying on generative AI to make supply-chain decisions across dozens of partners along the chain. The data behind aiding manufacturers and retailers to move shipments over air, ground, and sea is fast-changing, proprietary, and very complicated. If something goes awry the last “person” you want to be relying on is a chatbot. 

The previously mentioned RXO is analyzing the automation of customer support for only small and medium-sized firms. This could lessen the burden on sales so they can focus their efforts on new business development. Yet, at the same time RXO understands that a human option will always need to be present in the event something goes wrong – the risk is too great. In the business world being 80% to 90% accurate is not an option, so a hybrid approach is a given. 

From a trucking perspective, XPO is planning a bot to provide customers the ability to receive rate quotes, create pick-up requests, and track their freight. Meanwhile, Phlo Systems works with customs declarations and a chatbot to answer frequently asked questions. There are all introductory steps with a heavy, and appropriate, dose of caution.