Top 7 Takeaways From our Panel at Armstrong and Associates’ 3PL Value Creation Summit

Armstrong and Associates held their 3PL Value Creation Summit in Chicago this week, and project44’s VP of Sales Engineering, Jason Kerner, participated in an outstanding panel: Part One: Innovation in the Americas – Automation, Robotics, and Artificial Intelligence. Other panelists included:

Matt Bernstein, Chief Executive Officer, HUBTRAN INC., Brian Hodgson, Executive Vice President, Business Development, MP OBJECTS, Norm Williams, Vice President of Sales, FETCH ROBOTICS, and Matt Yearling, Chief Executive Officer, PINC SOLUTIONS

Check out the top 7 takeaways from the Armstrong and Associates Panel:

Companies don’t know they want innovation

This is actually misleading. Companies don’t want to hear about the next big innovation, they want efficiency and savings. They want things to run quickly and smoothly, and they want to be able to do more with less. The thing is, innovation is actually what allows these things to come to fruition.

The industry is fed up with EDI

Consider this direct quote from the panel, “Getting one or two batches from EDI 214 each day isn’t enough.”

We’re starting to get a lot of data in some areas, but legacy technology is holding up the process. It’s much worse for some companies than it is for others, since many companies are transitioning to modern connectivity. Once you get rid of legacy technology, the floodgates open and you can finally start leveraging data, and using predictive and prescriptive analytics.

Inventory accuracy isn’t where it needs to be

Relying on humans to keep track of inventory is no longer a best practice. It used to be the only method available, but now that we can automate stockhouses with AI and Robots, these repetitive manual tasks are better handled autonomously.

Autonomous trucks are a hot topic

Transit time can be reduced by 30%, and costs can be reduced by 25-30%, once autonomous trucks come into play. With numbers like those, it’s no wonder that AI driven vehicles are on everyone’s mind. The issue so far is that people are wary of driverless trucks out on the road. Experts on the panel suggest that the process should start with “platooning” drivers and AI in the same truck.

Autonomous technology needs to step outside

As of now, most autonomous technology in the industry is still being used indoors in places like warehouses or packaging facilities. The supply chain will become even more efficient once we start leveraging drones and driverless trucks, but we’re not quite there yet.

Data is crucial to AI, and telematics is going to become like oxygen for data

Industry telematics is still in its infancy, but it’s about to get extremely interesting. Once the Electronic Logging Device mandate comes into effect, and more and more companies ditch legacy technology like EDI for APIs, the amount of industry data is going to rise exponentially..

Modern technology is the key to leveraging data

Companies with the best tools for harvesting data, and then leveraging that data efficiently and productively, are going to have an extreme competitive advantage. This is where everything the panel spoke about comes together. Data is becoming plentiful, but not everyone knows how to use it. AI, robots, and autonomous machines are replacing manual tasks in the industry, but automating their processes relies on modern connectivity.

APIs are the technology. APIs can connect these disparate systems and leverage hand-picked data, distribute it through multiple channels, and cross reference it to meet the requirements of all customers and stakeholders along the supply chain. Robots in stock houses, autonomous and human truck drivers, front and back office workers, customers, and more are all on the same page in real-time.

Machine learning relies on data

You have to continue to funnel quality data into a system in order to create accurate machine learning. When a machine makes a wrong decision, it needs to learn the right lesson. This trend recognition works for things like accessorials on a small scale, and automating some support items.

eCommerce is the battlefield, and automation is the artillery

Amazon is affecting everyone’s business, and companies are scrambling to find ways to compete. It’s difficult because Amazon has so many resources. Automation and data are a large part of how Amazon got to where they are, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only company who can leverage those tools. 3PLs and shippers can replicate Amazon’s success by automating every process and connecting them, and using that to drive positive customer experiences.