A specter haunts the logistics industry – the specter asks if you will master the transformation into the digital future of logistics, or not? There seems to be a great deal of uncertainty about this future, and uncertainty has always been a fertile breeding ground for self-proclaimed saviors, and it still is. The self- anointed saviors message is often simple and alluring – they preach the latest buzzwords that are apparently the solution to all our problems. Buzzwords like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning – to name a few.
Don't let us be misunderstood, as the creators of Scope – Innovation in Logistics, we have always been upfront and open towards technological progress. We carefully monitor and evaluate any emerging and novel technologies to determine if they are just hype or trend. And we know that hype may evaporate while trends morph into industry standards. The latter happens occasionally and may become true for Blockchain, AI and Machine Learning, although recently a renowned global player in IT has silently swept these topics under the carpet.
Logistics and Blockchain
To take the buzz out of the word: Blockchain technology – in brief – codifies exchange of data between participants unknown to each other. This only applies to a small percentage of stakeholders in logistics because many, if not most business relationships are long-lasting and built on experience, mutual respect and trust. Blockchain is based on mistrust. We will see in the near future how it can be successfully implemented within digital logistic systems, improving processes rather than thriving within mistrust.
Logistics and Machine Learning
From the beginning and for a long time now, AI and Machine Learning have been associated with a Chess computer beating the Chess World Champion. After years of research, progress and advanced development, these twins have earned a place within high-tech industries and science. But still it's called Machine Learning with the emphasis on Learning. Who provides the algorithm? Who sets the standards? Who defines the goals? Humans. AI and Machine Learning are primarily designed to provide assistance to accelerate the completion of recurring daily tasks reliably, minimizing faults. But the fact is that AI remains far from flawless, a surgery X-ray reader doesn't know more about the human body and anomalous inconsistencies than any good human physician.
Technical development and Humans
There's yet another aspect that should not be ignored because it concerns the humans employed within industries: Will the technically feasible offer them relief or release? Will humans benefit or will they become victims of development, becoming redundant and deprived of a future?
Dealing with buzzwords like Blockchain, AI and Machine Learning, the issue that concerns us most is not what the technology behind them can do. That is uncontroversial. The question is, what can they do for the logistics industry and the countless people keeping it alive. Or asked the other way around, haven't they already found their way in, in one way or another? E.g. in Scope, for the benefit of both industry and employees.
Assistance in Forwarding and Customs
Let's take a look at what Scope already does in assisting operators. The forwarding module provides inline autocomplete during data entry. It validates entries against data bases. It automatically creates invoices. The Customs module automatically calculates guarantees. It displays warning lists for deadline expirations. An intelligent new message function always refers to the last valid message.
Clearly, these are examples of AI and Machine Learning finding their place in Scope. While this process has no end, we will remain true to our commitment to “Digital logistics with a Human Heart”. And that's more than buzzwords. We're not working actively on banishing humans from logistics.
To make a long story short. Buzzwords are not the solution to the problem known as the digital future. It's all about which technologies have substance to them and how they can be humanely exploited for the logistics industry, fostering everyday business, enhancing human well-being. After all, the technologies behind buzzwords are tools providing assistance. They are not the answer to the question whether one will master the future or not.