Businesses in the logistics sector are always looking for a way they can improve the efficiency of their operations by even fractions of a percentage point, so it's no surprise that they're always searching for new avenues to evaluate themselves. For many, that means the next few years will see them dive headlong into the high-tech world of data analysis, if they haven't done so already, and those investments may take a number of different forms.

For instance, nearly three-quarters of logistics firms say asset tracking and location technology, as well as wireless connection areas, are going to be vital to their companies within the next three to five years, according to a recent global industry survey from Ericsson. At the same time, roughly two-thirds said the same about adopting the blockchain, artificial intelligence, and robotic process automation.

AI holds a lot of promise in the logistics industry.

Fortunately, it seems that this is likely to become easier within the proscribed timeframe largely because mobile service providers are rolling out high-speed 5G technology that enables faster and more accessible communication between entities, the report said.

"5G will definitely help," Aljosja Beije, logistics and technology lead at a blockchain tech firm, told Ericsson. "It will be a big leap forward compared to what we can do today with 4G. It will enable us to integrate and coordinate devices so that data can flow throughout the supply chain."

Why data helps
When companies have a better handle on the information that powers their decision-making, a lot of those issues are taken out of humans' hands, according to Tank Transport. Put another way, when artificial intelligence systems have a broad array of data flowing into them, humans have to make fewer decisions manually, freeing them up to focus on other tasks that aren't as easily automated.

That doesn't mean the decisions made by an AI system don't have to be monitored, or that the platforms are foolproof — far from it, the report said. However, with machine learning, these decisions are getting better all the time, and companies just need to make sure the proper flow of information continues apace.

Speeding the supply chain
Especially when you are sharing data with your various partners in the supply chain, AI platforms can be used to increase efficiency in a number of ways, according to Material Handling & Logistics. Not only can these systems deal with tasks like ordering and monitoring; they may also be able to help companies adjust their labor distribution to match conditions, ensure on-time delivery and more.

The more data these platforms have available to them — including legacy documents such as Excel spreadsheets — the more powerful their decision-making becomes, the report said.

For all these reasons and more, companies that have yet to fully invest in data tracking and AI may want to start laying the groundwork in the near future. Doing so will help you stay on the cutting edge of your industry or, at the very least, keep you from falling behind your competitors.

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