AI Tools That Will Change the Way You Ship
AI Tools Creators
Technology helps us identify and eliminate business constraints with AI tools.
Here’s a little more about our business:
- We’ve been a supply chain software company in the industry since 2005.
So we’ve seen quite a few moves play out through the industry.
- We’ve worked with a lot of real data and real clients on a global scale.
- This year Gartner named our business “Cool Vendor.”
We’re one of four tech companies across the supply chain to receive that kind of title. And, what it means is their analysts have spent a lot of time looking at our product.
AI Tools and its Uses
To start, we will talk about AI tools and the relevant and day to day practical uses of it. It’s more than solving math problems. A lot of AI tools start unpacking density, warehouse distribution, and trailer capacity. That’s where it’s solving math problems.
But we designed the program to do the following:
- Help companies solve business problems
- Start contributing to profitability on your P&L
- Enhance efficiencies in your supply chain along with other divisions in the company
From an analyst perspective, they’ve spent a lot of time looking at our system. This involves talking to customers, use cases, and references. That culminates in the “Cool Vendor” topic. We have some cool developers that are cool in some scenarios.
Questions and Answers
Question: How can AI tools help companies grow their revenue?
Answer: Supply chains throughout the world are a cost center for most organizations. And shipping is definitely not free. Amazon has created that concept in the industry where shipping is free. So consumers expect shipping to be free. But as we all know, it’s a tremendous cost against the P&L.
Question: How can we leverage technology to identify and end business constraints?
Answer: If we can do that then we’re going to find dollars in the business. Also, up and down the supply chain where we can redistribute them back into the organization.
Question: How do we achieve that with AI tools?
Answer: We looked across the market and felt that there had to be a better method. There’s a mindset. I’ll introduce some concepts that we introduced to the industry a couple of years ago. But think about those tools that are helping run the business.
The tools we have are:
- Warehouse management system
- Transportation management system
- ERP systems
- Accounting software
As well as users that are interacting with those AI tools. So, we asked ourselves one big broad question. And then we started building a tech solution around this one big broad question.
The Big Question
That question being, “are AI tools smarter than the person who may leave the company? That will someday retire or take a higher paying job?” So, within the supply chain, there’s a tremendous amount of knowledge. We call it head knowledge. It represents a significant amount of experience.
If you’re on the trucking side of the industry chances are you’ve learned a lot. You’ve learned your business processes, your organization, your suppliers, and your carriers. And a lot of that remains in the heads of the staff members. So, we wanted to create a solution and a platform that could harness the knowledge from all the resources allowing that to live into the DNA of the software.
In turn, this will harness other industry expertise into the platform. This will enable the organization to go further and faster. So, it’s considered to be a better method.
Already Have Software?
That’s one thing to contemplate. We recognize that companies may not be in a position to go through some transformation. Digital transformation projects drawn-out feel like you’re climbing Mount Everest. You’ve had software in your company for the last 5, 10, 15 years to replace that is almost impossible as well.
But, there’s a technical design around the AI tools. This allows it to integrate and upgrade preexisting software. AI tools won’t impact your actual workflow in the system. Allowing AI tools to take data, move it to a data lake, analyze the data, and then present that back in what we call advisor cards.
Think about a software platform that can make your life and your company better. AI tools will impact your company’s P&L. We have a platform that will integrate into any of your legacy supply chain software. And it is quite friendly as well.
What AI Tools Does
When you think about why we exist, it’s to identify and remove business constraints. Some companies call them bottlenecks. Others call them staff members that need to get fired. Or whatever you want to call the business constraint. And it may be a process constraint, data constraint, lack of visibility into data. A lot of talk about data and the value sitting in data. There’s more than solving a math problem with your data. But how do you contextualize what’s occurring?
So instead of bits and bytes in the depths of your source data, what’s occurring in the business? What are things in areas that need improvement in a proactive way versus reactionary? Unfortunately, a lot of our supply chains are still quite reactionary in nature. This is due to the lack of connectivity across the globe. This stems from all the people who have a hand or any products that touch your supply chain.
AI Tools and Users
We talk about AI tools using the term, “applied intelligence.” Not only artificial intelligence. Because again, artificial is the machine running your company. But you can have a lot of smart people that are running your company. As well as having AI tools that they’re interacting with.
So, merge the knowledge from the people in the software to:
- Help make better decisions
- Help make proactive decisions
- Contextualize those decisions
Then, you have applied intelligence. It’s a merger of machine learning plus your user intelligence and their activity. Not forgetting the knowledge AI tools bring to the table inside the organization.
With the automation component, there’s a lot of talk about visibility. They’re the two most talked about topics in the industry, still. Supply chain visibility remains a critical path for most organizations.
So, when you think about automation, you can see the other products we’ve created in the industry. We look at integration between suppliers as well as your carriers that you do business with. Whether they’re an asset or a non-asset this creates a lot of that visibility in some hands-off operational capabilities as well.
And then how we do what we do is through our TAI platform. Again, it’s the applied intelligence method, it’s not only artificial. And as mentioned earlier, we introduced a new acronym to the industry about two years ago called, “LES.”
Logistics Expert System
So what this represents is a Logistics Expert System (LES).
When assessing your organization and your software, ask yourself:
- Is this system smart?
- Is it intelligent?
- Will this actually help my staff members make better decisions?
Your software should be helping you execute intelligent decisions. If it’s not, there’s a better method like AI tools.
We’ve had a hand in creating a shift in our industry. So, through our TAI platform, we can help upgrade legacy software. It becomes a LES. It’s a cool system that may have several integrations.
Climbing Mount Everest
We buy products, we love solutions, and we love innovation. But, we need a product to make our company operate more efficiently. And so, this is something that we like to call, “helping clients climb Mount Everest.” It seems intimidating. But, when you break it down by base camps, and you have your teams working together, it makes things simpler.
As I mentioned, we got our start in the industry back in 2005. When we did that, our initial start as a tech company was from a TMS perspective. As we started working with more clients, we recognized that there’s a lot of TMS software in the industry. But, there’s a lot of point solution TMS software which doesn’t encompass all modes of shipping.
When you think about a supply chain, it encompasses all these various modes less than truckload. E-commerce has created challenges for asset carriers. Due to their whole cartridge and white glove home delivery component.
We need the capabilities to grant visibility across these modes. As we’ve evolved the business, we wanted to give our TMS clients an automated experience.
What if you have a system that’s digesting a massive amount of POS from an ERP? In this case, you need a system to auto-rate and auto-route that shipment as well as start managing your lowest cost routing. You also need a system that can help you manage a carrier or a supplier routing guide (the vendors that you do business with based on your procurement strategy).
This led us to the path of building this broad and deep automation stack and the methods of integration. It will centralize information and create a digital work environment via EDI, API, and XML. Information coming from between your business, supplier community, asset carriers, and non-asset carriers. There’s a lot of chatter around API as automation of the future. But, EDI is a staple as an integration method.
EDI helps you audit the shipping bills that you receive from:
- Freight forwarders
- Three PLS brokers
- Asset carriers
That’s a big method.
So, when you think about kind of climbing the mountain, consider:
- Having a good multi-mode TMS
- Integration capabilities
- All the companies that you do business with
Then, you feed into your supply chain visibility and your execution capabilities.
Then again, we started designing this intelligence component. A few years ago we went through a complete rewrite of our platform. And with that started embedding into the DNA of the platform our TAI capabilities and our applied intelligence.
We think about real-world data: how do we create business solutions, not just solve math problems. That’s where we’ve built our TAI advisors and our TAI platform to communicate. This is one of the things that we’ve presented to Gartner and their analysts.
Our approach was:
- Take your current supply chain software
- Turn that into an expert system with machine learning capabilities
- Apply that in all areas of your business and all your departments, as well as in your software systems
It is all a different method of thinking. And it sometimes can be kind of intimidating.
Looking at Quadrants
But we’ve created a scenario to simplify moving your organization down that path. From an industry shift perspective, we’ve also looked at the quadrants. Thinking about the legacy TMS quadrant and the WMS quadrant. Also, the players in the movement and the technology that is available for a lot of organizations. We’ve also recognized that companies get tired of paying heavy professional services fees.
If you come across a cool tool or a new widget, there is a gating factor. We’ve got so much software running our supply chain. How do we make another investment to add more dollars to this cost center?
We’re trying to:
- Cost out and drive business value
We’ve also recognized and heard from clients. There’s an appreciation level of the technology we have built.
We’re not a professional services company. We don’t use AI tools or widgets to try and suck our customers into consulting engagements. We’re the direct opposite of that. We’ve built something that people need to use and apply to their business. We’re there to help them do that.
Here are the 3 main things TAI will do for your business:
- Analyze data
- Help your users make more proactive and intelligent decisions
- Help your organization execute on those recommendations
So, if you think about it, it’s like a system administrator even though it may or may not have access to all your supply chain software. Let’s say something’s going on in your data that requires a team of people and a resource to go into the system. TAI advises you to make changes based on what that data is suggesting.
AI tools give you visibility and insight into what’s going to occur 30 days from today in your supply chain. Our platform will take some of those recommendations and help you start executing across your various systems in a proactive way. It’s all about solving business problems and driving money to your P&L.
When we set out with the tool, one of the things that we did was start harnessing knowledge from clients. From our own expertise in the industry, this is what we call consulting intelligence. We’ve worked with various data and supply chain issues along with challenges and opportunities.
Let’s Get Digital
There are a lot of consulting firms that have a footprint in the supply chain industry. So, what we’ve tried to do is actually digitize a consultant’s workbook. Coca-Cola, for example, would hire a Deloitte. The reason being that they may have expertise in their competitors. So, they’re hiring that expertise to come in and help solve business problems and improve the P&L. And so the consulting intelligence is a digital consultant.
So, think of TAI as a digital consultant that’s not charging you per hour. You can maintain a level of consulting intelligence. As well as be in line with the applied intelligence method of thinking.
So, companies harness knowledge through non-compete agreements. We want to help you harness your staff members’ knowledge. All through AI tools and a software application. This is a scenario where we have created a self-service component to the TAI platform. But if there’s any business topic we need to discuss it’s to collect money better. We need to pay our suppliers better. We need to make sure that suppliers aren’t sending us ghost invoices. Did they do their job? How do we digitize the information coming to us from a supplier?
If you feel that there are areas your business can improve in, you can log into the self-service portal. There you can teach TAI what to focus on from an analyzation standpoint. You can also transfer your knowledge to the platform. You can make TAI smarter from the people in your organization.
But you don’t have to wait on TAI to start learning your data and learning your staff members’ decisions. Although that is a component. So, we kind of see that as the three pillars that make the tool valuable on an ongoing basis.
How We’ve Evolved
In a more technical aspect, we’ve evolved the platform to contemplate three areas. The most basic component is supervised machine learning. Many companies are deploying certain machine learning experiments into their environment for business topics. Think of this as a net environment that allows you to build on top of it to deploy and apply our capabilities around machine learning as well as inputting a lot of that consulting and user intelligence into the DNA.
We’ve evolved the system as we consume more data within the organization. It’s a constant merger of that application of intelligence between humans and machines. Then, in certain areas, certain business departments, there’s the unsupervised capabilities. Wherefrom, in the form of an adviser card, TAI starts producing recommendations. Resources that can make improvements in your supply chain.
How do we go about setting TAI up? How intrusive or non-intrusive is it? One of the things we like to showcase is how we deploy TAI within legacy software. We make assumptions. We have yet to work with a client that runs their entire supply chain on one software platform.
So what that means is you have different sources of data. Companies have created control towers where they’re trying to feed data into a data lake.
Some common types of software are:
- Warehouse management system
- Accounting system
They could be different independent systems. The point is, the people who are running your supply chain don’t have admin access into all the systems. And within that data, there are golden nuggets of value. We have to mine those golden nuggets. This will help you quantify, execute, and convert that back into P&L contribution. And so, in the most basic scenario, this is something we do in proof of concepts for our clients.
No Pressure AI Tools
Rather than us trying to explain:
- Applied intelligence
- Why you should care
- Why should you execute it
We’ll engage with organizations through proof of concept that doesn’t cost any money.
If there are areas in a supply chain where you believe AI tools will be beneficial, you can always test it first. We’re not bullying any organization. You don’t have to pay professional services fees to see the tool working in your environment and a real-world scenario. This is something that we offer to everyone we talk to, because we know the platform works and creates value.
We know it’ll turn into a monetized relationship. But again, we don’t want to spend six months trying to have everybody digest what AI tools mean to the company. Or, how this can impact P&L profitability.
How TAI works
The scenario here in the workflow is:
- You have source data
- We get that data
- Export it into a TAI data lake
- Analyzers from TAI carry consulting intelligence
You can infuse your own user intelligence during the proof of concept. You can also tell TAI what you care about and what you want the application tool to focus on.
From there, TAI will digest the data and contextualize the data. Then, we’re going to present what we call adviser cards back inside of your TMS. We’ll present these to the users on a department level. Which will depend on their user permissions within your legacy TMS or within your WMS or your ERP.
So, from a user provisioning standpoint, the tool is advising the users that are on a need to know and permission to know basis. The idea here is helping our staff make more intelligent and proactive decisions. And that creates a perpetual loop.