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AI in shipping: transformational — but for good or ill?

Tech leaders have called for a pause in the development of Artificial Intelligence because they fear its consequences. But could it ease the complexity of business process and stimulate efficiency?

MEDIA headlines earlier this year called for a pause in the development of artificial intelligence because of fears that it will “tear humanity apart”.

The most tech-savvy minds on the planet, having unleashed the beast, are having second thoughts.



What’s the reality for AI and machine learning as they apply to the shipping and logistics business? What is their past, who is using these processes today, and where will AI be most effective in future?

Although the transportation sector is only on the cusp of implantation with the technology, there are plenty of instances where AI is not only needed but essential.

In this podcast, Jaison Augustine, head of shipping and logistics business unit at WNS, and Thomas Heydorn, global head of operations and process transformation at ECU Worldwide, lift the lid on AI and identify where it is most likely to be used.

Not surprisingly, they argue that AI won’t replace human contributions to the workplace — or even tear the workplace apart — but by managing information super-effectively, it will equip people better to make well-informed decisions.

Take the monster that drives every business in every town and city on the planet: emails. For the largest logistics business, it’s not uncommon to generate more than a million emails a month on a plethora of topics from shipping instructions to amendment requests via invoice disputes, claims and complaints.

That’s the playground for AI to create recognisable patterns and direct traffic to the correct workstreams. It would transform the working lives of thousands of employees struggling to respond to and meet customer expectations.

In maritime, AI will become an integral part of autonomous shipping, predictive analytics and information management. This will require a flow of clean data, new tech skills and a willingness to throw out legacy business processes in favour of new thinking.

AI is not without its challenges, Augustine and Heydorn agree. However, as shipping and logistics become even more complex amid geopolitical and climate crisises, and as workplace skills shift and shape, the case for information management on a scale not seen before becomes overwhelming.

AI is divisive even before most people in shipping and logistics know what it is capable of doing. Opting to continue struggling with emails as customers demand greater engagement might not be the best plan. Perhaps AI is the answer.

Find out the latest thinking on AI for shipping and logistics on this Lloyd’s List podcast (click play above).





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