Supply chains are complex, connecting people, processes and information from multiple players, and data and digitization are enabling all links in the chain to connect even faster. Digitization is also driving artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that will increase automation and efficiency while cutting costs.
"Being able to capture the data electronically is key to any type of artificial intelligence/machine learning project," said Dave Bushee, senior vice president, IT, Penske Logistics. "That first piece is digitization and being able to capture data into a single platform and then use it to develop models that predict outcomes over time."
Penske captures disparate pieces of data and manages it in a single, unified platform — ClearChain® Control. "With the captured data all in one place, it becomes more robust and applicable to all parties," Bushee said. "Everybody uses their own technologies in the different areas of the supply chain. Our job is to make that more relevant in whatever way they use the data."
The amount of information available continues to increase. "We capture, store and use more data today than we ever have before," Bushee said, adding that Penske Logistics will capture close to 1.5 billion transactions this year. "Penske is providing more visibility than ever before because of the amount of data we capture and process."
Digitization of Data
The digitization of data enables AI and ML, which speeds and improves decision making, enables automation and increases responsiveness. "We'll learn the different scenarios and automate a lot of that, which will increase resiliency and agility and keep it more cost-effective for companies in the future," Bushee said.
For example, automation could lead to the automatic booking of transfers or specific chain reactions if disruptions occur. "Knowing quicker about disruptions and how to mitigate them will allow you to retain your business and keep it running," Bushee said.
Digitization will also lead to increased automation within the warehouse. "When I look at a particular warehouse, I see many of the processes today that are done by people. Over time, there will still be a human that sits on top, but the automation will be doing the bulk of the work," Bushee said. "Wave planning, inbound processing, outbound processing can all be automated over time."
"As we collect more relevant data, AI and ML will learn from the data which will lead to more automated processes," Bushee said.
Connectivity between warehouses, manufacturing facilities and supply chain will also grow as devices become more intelligent. "That will drive real efficiency and real process improvement," Bushee said. "The digitization of data will help order forecasting, material scheduling and logistics planning. All of that ultimately drives financial performance."
Digitization, AI and ML are expected to grow exponentially over the next two years, Bushee said. "We're at that early-to-middle stage now. A year and a half ago, we weren't touching it as broadly as we were today in the AI/ML space," he said. "Everybody is looking at the next big breakthrough."
Shippers can prepare for the future by capturing all relevant information. "I think customers need to begin to embrace the concept that data is the world's future gold. Everybody is capturing data, and those that aren't thinking about data as a way to the future will have significant problems going forward," Bushee said.