Artificial intelligence and machine learning have transformed all aspects of the warehouse, says Mike Larsson, executive vice president for the Americas Region with Dematic.
Supply chain challenges, changes in customer behavior and the pandemic itself have caused much uncertainty in the distribution center, Larsson says. Artificial intelligence can help through simulation. “How do I simulate different types of outcomes, so that I better prepare myself to operate the DC the way it needs to be operated to deal with those challenges?” Larsson asks.
He notes that e-commerce has grown 26% year over year and will continue to spiral upward. In the past, operators had a firmer grasp on how many SKUs were headed to store replenishment and how many were intended for individual customers. E-commerce’s explosive growth has upended that, he says. “And that’s where AI can help.”
AI plays a vital role in preventive maintenance as well, Larsson says. Since 80% of consumers demand same-day or next-day fulfillment, operational efficiency must be tighter all the time.
“We don't have time for systems standing still,” he says. “Preventive maintenance gives us the opportunity to deal with things outside operational times. If we have AI, we can look at the equipment and see what and where the things are that don’t really work for us. We can target our preventive maintenance in a better way than we do today.”
Larsson says the concern shouldn’t be solely with operations inside the DC. The thinking should go like this, he says: “I'm going to use software to become more efficient outside the four walls, having a control tower, making sure that we can connect distribution centers and are also looking at the overall distribution chain to take a bigger perspective on how do we make this more efficient for our customers.”
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