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Is Your Data Ready For AI and the Emerging Technologies?

Posted by Land Link on Apr 8, 2020 7:26:51 PM


Data is the new precious metal and it is becoming more essential than ever before. Technological leaps like blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning run on data. They’re already beginning to transform supply chain operations across many sectors.

Is your supply chain organization prepared to adopt these emerging technologies and generate the operational improvements to deliver the anticipated ROI? As we’re seeing, digital technology in the supply chain enables end-to-end decision-making, visibility into supply-demand information across the network and supports the operational level response in plants, DCs and retail stores.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to ask the obvious questions about processes that employees no longer question. Whether the questions have to do with routing guides, packaging practices or distribution center locations, it is often helpful to get an independent perspective. One of the main benefits of sharing data with a third party is an objective perspective that can cut through the culture and the “We’ve always done it that way” syndrome. A trusted Enterprise Logistics Provider with deep technology and operational experience can provide that objective view of the data and make recommendations without regard to internal influences.

Careful and Regular Data Collection is Critical

Data management is not a “set it and forget it” activity. A culture of continuous learning will be the key. Your enterprise must continually evaluate the integrity of your data collection and management programs not only against your internal requirements but also external developments. Are there gaps or inconsistencies in your data? Will it be available in the formats necessary to support adoption of relevant technology? For example, inventory optimization relies on a body of robust, accurate data. Without it, the results will be skewed and potentially damaging to your supply chain. Is your enterprise able to ensure your data is accurate and up to date? Garbage in will get you garbage out.

Look to Industry Professionals for Guidance

Rather than investing in technology tools directly, a trusted Enterprise Logistics Provider with deep technological expertise can support data management and analysis capabilities as a value-add in the partnership. As a solutions provider, the Enterprise Logistics Provider can stay up to date on the latest developments and evolution, reducing the need for ongoing investments in IT infrastructure.

Creating a comprehensive plan to clean and structure existing data and capture as much data as possible going forward will deliver benefits across the enterprise. As the digitization of the supply chain continues, those who aren’t able to ask the right questions could be left behind. For help determining if your data is ready to support the next level of technology, contact us today.

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Topics: Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

‍AI and IoT are Ready for Your Warehouse

Posted by Land Link on Feb 12, 2020 3:25:35 PM

Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are making their initial forays into a myriad of warehouse operations. The expected outcome; DCs able to respond dynamically to current supply chain conditions instead of pre-set rules. Look for newfound flexibility and an ability to respond to specific customer demands. The general programming protocol is to minimize human intervention in daily supply chain operations. This should not be news to anyone involved in complicated supply chain systems.

We are at the point where AI and IoT are viable IT applications for the warehouse. Both are powerful new tools that better enable warehouse and distribution center activities to keep pace with rapidly shifting supply chain dynamics. Artificial intelligence systems can learn, over time, the patterns and trends that are most important. It can identify when specific events occur which require human intervention. It can sense security breaches and stop them before they become crises. Simply put, for the IoT to grow to its full potential, it needs the processing power of artificial intelligence.

Integration Into the Supply Chain

AI promises a brave new world of computers that can plan, strategize, evaluate options, calculate probabilities, and make smart decisions. The inter-connectivity and dual reliance of both systems is evident in the automotive applications currently being tested. Repetitive daily environments are best suited for early stage AI learning and IoT experiences at this stage in the application. An example is a typical commercial bus route. The travel route is planned and timed out as are the stops. IoT applications including sensors, video cameras and time keeping technology all gather data throughout the daily route. This data is the basis upon which AI evaluates and electronically digests the information. It is through the digestion process that AI basically learns the particular details of the route like staying on time, the average number of passengers per stop, and, in fact, the unpredictable events like traffic and weather delays. It is through this repetitive experience that AI will eventually be able to maximize the efficiency of the route by anticipating daily events along the route based upon historical data.

The same inference can be applied to a route for a commercial delivery unit whether it be a truck, plane, train or any other conveyance unit. In this example the desired result is the same. To maximize efficiency by learning the route and experiencing every possible condition which may affect it so contingency plans can be implemented in real time to maintain the integrity of the delivery. The benefit of this technology application will become evident once driver less technology is fully implemented.

Early Areas of Implementation

AI can significantly improve business operations by leveraging the tremendous amount of data generated by sensors monitoring the production and movement of products using IoT. The result is referred to as AIIOT, which is the merging of AI and IoT to manage inventory, logistics, and suppliers with a higher level of awareness and precision. The supply chain is one area that can benefit the most from streamlining since it has a direct influence on profitability and customer satisfaction.

There are already several implementations of AI and machine learning where supply chain efficiency is improved:

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Topics: Transportation News, Shipping News, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

Technology Trends For 2020 And Beyond

Posted by Land Link on Jan 30, 2020 9:24:07 AM


There is little doubt that technology has transformed the Logistics business in the last several years. Will we ever get to fast enough or efficient enough? It's not likely. Under pressure exerted by demand for instant gratification, new tech-first logistics providers are beginning to pervade the fulfillment environment. Without the autonomous hardware that promises to supersede traditional road transportation, they are instead leveraging digital tools to improve the performance of manually executed deliveries and reduce lead times from days to hours, with 24 being today’s bargain-basement service level. These companies, through the use of customer-integrated business platforms, mobile technology, and crowd-sourcing, are finding ways to pick orders within minutes of receiving them, dispatch deliveries on-demand, and bring buyer’s purchases to them in time-frames of two hours or even less.  How are logistics professional going to keep this pace?  Here are some technology trends that may be worth a look as we enter 2020 and beyond.

Robotics

Given the energy and investment in robotics in our space, suggesting that there will be a robotics trend in 2020 is pretty obvious. After all the pilots and promises, what seems to be happening is that robot solution providers, and the end user community, are realizing that there is no one size fits all robotic applications. Quite the opposite is true. The customization is proving so complicated due to the advanced operations of the robots that the programming and engineering has become problematically complicated. Robotic applications are a very customized solution depending upon the product line, distribution protocols and warehouse volume parameters. The challenge, in addition to the design, will be the management system that can bring the components in synchronicity with the rest of the automation. The difficulty seems to be that there is no standardization among the robotic providers. Each have their own standards, communication protocols and capabilities. Someone will have to figure all of that out as robots proliferate. The next generation robots will not just be tasked with simply, repetitive and mundane projects as were the first generation. The robots of today will be much more complicated providing a wide range of services. As you increase the tasks you increase both the software and hardware configurations necessary to support the project. These ambitious goal will certainly be a challenge to the engineers and programmers.

Edge Computing is a distributed computing paradigm which brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed, to improve response times and save bandwidth. In layma 's terms it puts the entire computer in your handheld or mobile device. Not all that long ago, we saw the wireless revolution in the warehouse as barcode scanners, mobile printers, voice headsets and the like were decoupled from the computers that controlled them. That enabled the mobile worker, who could take a device to the point at which the work was being done. But those tools were essentially dumb terminals, the computing power and analytics were back somewhere else. Edge computing changes that. It puts computing power and analytics down on the floor, enabling truly real-time decision making and real optimization of the associate pushing a cart or driving a lift truck. Edge computing simply provides serious computing power to handheld and mobile devices throughout the warehouse enabling the user to have much more computing power at the point of use.

Logistics Safety

Ever since the eCommerce boom, the race has been on to deliver products faster with the fewest errors possible. In 2019, we saw the race for faster delivery hit a few bottlenecks, both legal and physical. The ability of tools such as drones to fly freely ran up against privacy laws. Delivery technology appeared to have reached a limit short of asking drivers to speed and forgo sleep.

The way we know these bottlenecks became serious was seen through companies suddenly making logistics safety their priority. With greater connectivity and more robust data, concerns over logistics safety and cyber-security came to the forefront. Customer data faced new challenges, and enhanced data richness gave drivers and fulfillment professionals new corners to cut, posing a challenge to safety. Technology appears to be introducing logistics solutions at a greater rate than federal, state and local governments can digest them.

Looking Forward: Order Fulfillment Optimization Logistics Trends for 2020

In 2020, you can expect to see many of the above trends continue to develop since they are still massively useful.

As safety became an issue in 2019, companies have turned to delivery experience enhancement. These are Order Fulfillment optimization methods that help alleviate the customer’s “gotta-have-it-now” anxiety; a need that I struggle to understand even today. These methods of order experience enhancement are all about letting the customer in on the shipping process. One massively effective way we can enhance customer experience is simply by raising the transparency of the shipping process. When it comes to improving customer experience, this is done with customer-facing APIs. API stands for “Application Programming Interface.” APIs give individuals and companies the power to add functionality to a website, application, platform, or software without having to actually write the programming code.

This is accomplished by integrating the API code into a company's existing code. We encounter APIs all the time online. If you’ve ever bought something from an online retailer, for example, then you’ve almost certainly interacted with an API. Most online retailers process payments using APIs from Stripe or PayPal.

‍Other APIs you’ve likely run into include the Google Maps API on sites like Yelp, and the “Sign in with Facebook” API which allows you to log in to a website using your Facebook credentials. Be careful of that ease of login using social media or other websites. You're giving up some security.

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Topics: Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

Using Data to Establish Accurate Pricing and Operational Efficiencies

Posted by Land Link on Mar 13, 2019 10:48:55 AM

The right pricing strategy is a critical component that companies can’t afford to overlook and is one of the most important aspects of maintaining profitability. In the manufacturer-distributor-customer value chain, one of the manufacturers most pressing challenges is being able to mark up prices in a way that helps maintain profitability while not pricing that customer out of the market. This balance is getting harder to achieve in the current B2B business environment, where the next competitor, price comparison or huge online retailer is literally one mouse click or screen tap away. 

Focused on serving their customers while maintaining healthy profit margins, manufacturers have to effectively balance the cost of manufacturing with the company's profit goals.  Goals that are hard to attain if the company isn’t using solid pricing strategies.

Integrating Data Your Pricing Strategy

As data continues to proliferate right along with the number of technology tools to help harness that data, companies are learning how to leverage that information across multiple departments for maximum success. Accurate data can more precisely reflect the cost of manufacturing by considering critical issues such as seasonal raw materials fluctuations, capital equipment depreciation and labor concerns.  Manufacturers should be generating these cost equations on a monthly basis to forecast cost fluctuations and react in plenty of time to adjust pricing. 

Gain an Edge on the Competition

Even those manufacturers that think they have the pricing game under control will surely face a new competitor, get hit with a new market trend or face another economic challenge in the near future. Look what Uber did to the taxi business.  Manufacturers of the future will also understand that effectively engaging customers requires true innovation in executing the value chain. Traditional approaches to inventory, logistics, pricing and rebates will be reimagined through the application of advanced analytics and technology innovations.  Given the importance of data, analytics and technology to both engaging customers and executing the value chain manufacturers will also need to leverage IT to truly energize, not just enable, their business. 

Data management is central to keeping track of your costs throughout the manufacturing process. If data is properly recorded and accessible to every link in the chain, managers can touch base with their product at every stage, helping maximize efficiency, address problems quickly, and improve customer satisfaction.

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Topics: Supply Chain Management, Logistics News, Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

The Internet of Things (IoT) is Increasing its Footprint in the Manufacturing and Supply Chain Process

Posted by Land Link on Feb 28, 2019 10:19:13 AM

Digital technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) are driving transformation across the entire manufacturing process by disrupting all aspects of production, from research and development to engineering and design, factory operations, and sales and support. Ultimately these technologies will increase efficiency in the manufacturing process, reduce costs and reduce the product time to market.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

Emerging Supply Chain Trends For 2019

Posted by Land Link on Feb 14, 2019 12:29:29 PM

Supply chain protocols worldwide are being transformed. External pressures, technology trends and internal evolution are prompting companies to reevaluate their network to determine how their future supply chain should be structured, both in terms of capacity and capabilities. Let’s look at the four main areas of transformation potentially impacting your supply chain.

Emerging Technologies: Drones, autonomous intelligence and robotic automation will eventually transform warehousing and transportation, which will create networks that may look and operate very differently from those of today. Technology-driven Supply Chain protocols will dominate logistics in the coming years.

Supply Chain Visibility: The Internet of Things, Big Data and data transparency will improve an organizations’ ability to gain visibility on the real-time status of their supply chain network, thus giving them the ability to not only rapidly respond to problems but more importantly, anticipate and prevent them more effectively. Data abundance will be used to draw insights on both short-term and long-term improvements to the supply chain and beyond using statistical analysis.

Sharing Economy: On-demand warehousing and on-demand logistics will allow organizations to be more flexible in how they operate their supply chain. Lower capital expenditure and higher adaptability will likely be attractive for organizations that are in rapidly evolving industries. In 2014 the size of the shared economy was estimated to be 14 billion dollars. By 2025 it is estimated to grow to 335 billion.

Measure The Potential Impact On the Existing Supply Chain
With these broad trends in mind, organizations must constantly track select metrics like warehouse utilization levels, actual customer service level, cost to serve/profitability of product categories, and use of stop-gap measures to determine if there is an ongoing impact on revenue growth and operating margin. We must carefully consider the factors impacting a supply chain design. Examining the external trends, measuring key supply chain metrics and evaluating the network against the business strategy, usually determines that the supply chain requires some or even major overhaul. This is precisely where a qualified 3PL can provide expertise in data analysis and supply chain design. Land Link is expertly qualified to compile and evaluate key metrics in your supply chain performance and determine to what extent these emerging technologies may improve your existing supply chain protocols. Contact us for more information. 

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Topics: Industry Trends, Big Data

Autonomy Is Taking Over The Warehouse

Posted by Land Link on Feb 7, 2019 12:51:48 AM

Automating simple, routine processes frees up workers for other tasks and reduces human error. A common reaction to the increase of automation is the fear of being replaced—but a more optimistic outlook sees robots enhancing human productivity through collaboration, rather than outright replacement.

Skilled workers are in high demand, so it’s important to make the most of the talent you have. Why waste an experienced employee’s valuable time hunting for tools or checking inventory?
ROBi, which stands for Robotically Optimized and Balanced inventory, aims to solve this problem by automating inventory and routine cycle counts to save time and enhance accuracy in automotive manufacturing and warehouse environments.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology, Big Data

Big Data And Your Carrier Profile

Posted by Land Link on Jan 23, 2019 5:36:57 PM

Our industry is solidly in the realm of "Big Data". Big data is like any other data except there are massive amounts of it available from which your transportation providers estimate your overall value as a customer. Data analytics and predictive analysis have become the leading indicators of a company's future business levels. If your organization is not utilizing these tools to predict future needs you may be leaving leveraging power at the bargaining table.

Data Analytics And Predictive Analysis

Data Analytics is not overly complicated. It is the science of interpreting historical data to predict some future utilization. This can be applied to expected manufacturing level, raw materials needs, inventory, and shipping. The application of this data is known as predictive analysis. Predicting the future needs of a company based on historical data coupled with expected future analytics such as increased sales volume or raw materials expense. The critical components of this science are the accuracy of the initial data input and the accurate category of data. Garbage in will give you garbage out and unnecessary data will compromise the utility of your output. So if you want to predict future operating costs be sure to include only financially relevant data. If you want more of a
CRM analysis, be sure to input customer specific data. Be certain of what data you want at the end before you begin.

Maximizing Your Profile Data

Other people have your data as well and are utilizing it to their full advantage. Your vendors and suppliers all have your historical data. Be assured they are using data analytics and predictive analysis to maximize their position every year. Your organization needs to be armed with a similar ordinance to leverage your position. For our purposes, we'll concentrate on your carrier profile data. The volume of data available here can be daunting, especially if you imagine collecting it all in real time. That’s why your first step should be figuring out what question you want to answer. Do you want to understand how winter weather affected your holiday shipping last year? Do you think you can make transit more efficient? Further, big data draws links between all aspects of your supply chain from your supplier to your inventory on hand, to your warehouses to your customers. This information can remind you when it’s time to order more replacement inventory because your stock is running low. It can reveal not only which of your vendors missed shipments, but also which manufacturers’ products got the best customer reviews.

A data analyst looks at information with a totally different perspective than a supply chain manager. Reviewing numbers or other types of information if you’re working with big data, can reveal inefficiencies you’d never noticed. It can identify inefficiencies in routings and contractual agreements that may be renegotiated. The million dollar question is how are you going to get this done within your organization on a timely basis. Clearly, it would take years and the establishment of Data Analytic department to compile and manage this data in house. The rate at which our industry has adopted data analytics simply won't allow you that much time. Not initially anyway and it may be cost prohibitive in the long term. The obvious answer is to outsource your data analytics. As far as your carrier profile is concerned Land Link Traffic Systems has been utilizing data analytics for years. Long ago the founder of Land-Link Traffic Systems Inc. stressed the following. “What does not get measured, does not get fixed”. It would be difficult if not impossible for any rational person to repudiate this thought-provoking statement and important underlying principle of business. Yet, many companies to do just that. Most companies, in fact, do not have the proper measurements and KPIs in place necessary to drive intelligent business decisions and to serve as support to the policies that are relied upon to drive day to day business activities. Visit us today for specific information on our data analytics approach.

Author
Michael Gaughan
Technology Officer
Land Link Traffic Systems

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Topics: Industry Trends, Big Data

Update: Automation in the Supply Chain

Posted by Land Link on Nov 29, 2018 9:18:34 AM

We have long anticipated the introduction of robotics into the supply chain. We have predicted the potential of such technology to help businesses keep pace with distribution challenges and consumer demand for convenience and variety. However, while robotics technology has now arrived in many sectors of life, it is yet to truly revolutionize the logistics environment.

You might expect these updates to come quarterly or perhaps more spread out. The rate of technological advancements in the supply chain industry is coming fast having profoundly far-reaching results. These supply chain evolutions have a significant effect on the Gross National Product, which is an estimate of total value of all the final products and services turned out in a given period by the means of production owned by a country's residents. The national and regional manufacturing statistics are also affected by the efficiency within which supply chains operate. Finally, supply chain technology plays a significant role in national and international military operation. The next time you're concerned about your next Amazon shipment consider these, largely unconsidered, daily challenges by supply chain professionals.

Driver-less Trucks

While today’s trucks generally operate only up to eight or nine hours a day because drivers are required to rest, automation has the possibility to double or triple productivity by having the wheels rolling nearly around the clock without an active driver needed at all times.

Many analysts project that trucks with empty cabs and a computer at the wheel will travel on U.S. highways in as little as two years with no escort or safety driver in sight now that the Trump administration has signaled its willingness to let tractor-trailers to become truly driver-less. The U.S. Department of Transportation last month announced that it will "no longer assume" that the driver of a commercial truck is human, and the agency will even adopt the definitions of driver and operator to recognize that such terms do not refer exclusively to a human, but may, in fact, include an automated system. The release of the new guidelines will almost certainly accelerate the testing process and ramp up the competition between companies that have logged tens of thousands of miles in testing to prepare truly driver-less trucks for the open road. With the legislation last month, the Department of Transportation sent a strong signal that it plans to take a hands-off approach to regulate driverless trucks; one the agency also indicated it plans to make official through a formal rule-making process that will almost certainly pre-empt any state measures, such as those in California that prohibit driver-less trucks altogether. The Trump administration has made it very clear that when it comes to commerce in this country the attitude is "Laissez Faire"; a Latin phrase to suggest that issues of commerce be decided by those it affects. That seems to be the perceived interstate and international logistics environment; that there is a political commitment from U.S. DOT to help facilitate interstate commercial trucking and that the agency will be able to pre-empt state laws when necessary. There is, understandably, concern from the public and environmental and safety advocates regarding the seemingly unimpeded progress of driver-less trucks. I'm not sure I want 80,000 # of the truck behind me doing 80 MPH with no one at the wheel. The acceptance will come but it will be slow and undoubtedly at a financial and personal cost.

Automation and Robotics in the Warehouse

It seems clear that it is not a matter of “if” but “when” robots will be working in our parcel sorting hubs, distribution centers, and delivery vans. With an improved price/performance ratio, the adoption of robotic solutions is likely to intensify over the next five years. The business leaders of the future need to understand this technology, look on it as an opportunity rather than a threat, and start planning for the day when it provides a viable solution to ever-growing pressures on the supply chain. Having a strong understanding and appreciation of computer programming, I have argued that robotic and automation applications have a significant benefit to not only the supply chain process but any industry that demonstrates the need for personnel to execute basic and repetitive operations. These tasks are perfectly suited for robots. And with the introduction of Artificial Intelligence, the robots can measurably improve upon their performance over time. They learn the task and are programmed to do it faster once the steps in the task have been mastered...but not before. AI concentrates on 100% accuracy before increasing the speed of operations. I've tried to share this philosophy with my golfing partners who like to play from the blue tees without ever shooting par from the white tees.

What to Expect

Looking ahead, supply chain leaders should prepare their processes and infrastructure to embrace new technology and its ability to harness more data than ever before. While we have seen great progress in this area, the development of regulatory framework around robotics in the workplace and in ‘public’ spaces, rather than behind the scenes, will be the main factor to determine how quickly and to what degree robots and automation are incorporated into logistics.

The successful businesses of the future will be those which are able to adapt to the accelerated change in sourcing, production, and distribution that we are seeing today, and are agile and flexible enough to take advantage of new technologies. To ensure your company is in the race and not on the porch contact us today for a no-obligation review of your current Supply Chain protocols.

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Topics: Technology, Big Data

Meeting Supply Chain Expectations

Posted by Land Link on Oct 25, 2018 2:52:50 PM

With the rise of Amazon, Uber, and home IoT products, consumer expectations for real-time visibility and connectivity have never been higher. These trends are morphing over from the consumer industry to the B2B sector. Consumers’ experiences are now driving their professional expectations, and this is driving modernization across every industry, perhaps none more so than supply chain. Today manufacturers are investing in digital supply chain technologies that enable total visibility, from end to end. With global IoT tracking and big data analytics, 3 PL's will become a valuable resource which can rise to the challenge of today’s heightened consumer expectations, delivering an experience on par with and even surpassing the consumer and B2B expectations.

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Topics: Logistics News, Industry Trends, Big Data