When Lori Boyer and the EasyPost team were thinking of potential guests for the new Unboxing Logistics vodcast, James Sutton was one of the first people who came to mind. As the chief analytics officer at Elevate and Summit Advisory Team, James has a close-up view of the way technology influences shipping and logistics. In the inaugural episode of Unboxing Logistics, James and Lori discuss the role artificial intelligence currently plays in the industry, what the future might hold, and the obstacles holding businesses back.
The Rise of Artificial Intelligence
Until recently, James has described himself as “anti-AI.” One reason? AI has become a buzzword, often used by people who don’t understand what it means (or how it works). In James’s words, “You go to a conference and every company is an AI company until you ask them what AI is. And then … they don’t have a good answer.”
But with the advent of ChatGPT, things have shifted. Now, individuals and businesses alike are beginning to grasp what AI is capable of. While companies like Uber and Netflix have used AI behind the scenes for years, ChatGPT is “the first time that AI is becoming more mainstream.” Now, James—and other data analysts out there—are focused on leveraging larger data sets, making better decisions, and driving ROI. And AI makes it all possible.
Is the Industry Lagging Behind?
James believes the logistics industry isn’t keeping pace when it comes to technological innovation. But he’s optimistic, adding that this means there are “a ton of opportunities in [the supply chain] space.” And Lori agrees, pointing out the value in viewing problems as new opportunities.
AI Opportunities …
So what are some of those big opportunities? Three major ones come to mind for James:
- Carrier selection. AI-driven systems help shippers choose the optimal carrier service by analyzing data from millions of tracking events.
- Package tracking. With better real-time tracking, companies can dynamically route-plan based on capacity constraints.
- Forecasting. AI models can make it easier to manage inventory, making sure that the right products are in the right place.
… And Challenges
In a world where technology is constantly evolving, many people worry about the impact that AI could have on organizations’ systems, processes, and jobs. And that’s understandable. Although James and Lori both acknowledge the uncertainty that comes along with new tech, they’re optimistic about the way AI will impact the workforce.
As they discuss AI’s potential impact on jobs, Lori connects the conversation to one she had with a videographer friend. When computer animation first arrived on the scene, some animators resisted it, believing that it destroyed the purity of hand-drawn art. Others dove in headfirst, learning to use the new tools to their fullest potential. “And it’s those who adapt to the tools, who accept them and figure out how to augment their jobs … those are the people who are going to end up being successful long term,” Lori says.
Listen to the Full Episode
Want to hear more? Listen to the full episode to find out what Lori and James have to say about the future of AI:
- How AI supports a multi-carrier shipping strategy (and why multi-carrier is a good idea)
- The potential for future innovation in shipping and logistics technology
- The importance of having a solid data infrastructure before bringing in AI tools
- How data analytics roles will evolve
- Why it’s important to approach AI with some healthy skepticism
- How to dip your toes into artificial intelligence (including ChatGPT) for the first time