Technology can be disruptive for a while but finding a balance will help the transportation industry roll ahead. Artificial intelligence (AI) creates space for humans to perform tasks they are good at, while taking care of repetitive work.
More can be achieved with the same number of people, said Ryan Schreiber, chief growth officer at Metafora, a freight industry technology consulting firm.
If AI were to replace jobs, it would have been during Covid, but it did not happen, added Ty Findley, co-founder and general partner at Ironspring Ventures, during a discussion at Trimble Insight 2023 Tech Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.
He said ‘jobs’ is the wrong description of what AI does, and preferred to use the term occupations and activities. Activities that are repetitive and redundant will be replaced with new digital activities, but that doesn’t mean occupations will go away, he noted.
AI helps augment processes and is good at repetitive requests, Trevor Ward, head of AI for Rippey AI emphasized.
Leveraging the best of humans and machines
People are the most valuable assets in an organization, but the human mind is not equipped to process sheer amounts of data. Carriers must learn how to leverage the best of humans along with machines, said Chris Torrence, chief strategy officer, Optym.
In the human and technology mix, AI lets humans focus on non-linear thinking, solving problems and building relationships, added Schreiber.
Technology can play a vital role in improving productivity. Findley gave an example of last-mile delivery company Onerail, where one dispatcher without AI could do 80 loads a day. The same dispatcher can handle 3,200 loads a day using AI.
Technology folk must take the time to learn about trucking if they want to find success in the industry. Torrence said 80% of an operator’s time is filled with repetitive tasks. Let technology take over and free up their time to chat and build relationships with drivers. “See how the driver retention rates improve,” he said.
The challenge is some technology experts seem to think there aren’t smart folk in the trucking industry, Schreiber added.
Understand what is happening at ground level
Take the time to sit down with people, shadow users and do workflow analysis on site. It is key to disarm the fear of how technology will repurpose people’s activities.
When introducing AI into a carrier, it is important to understand what is happening at ground level. Torrence said managing a trucking network is like playing 1,000 games of chess at same time.
You can’t paint AI with a broad brush and certain parts of the industry may be more ready than others. Carriers must make sure they have data systems in place before moving on to AI and being realistic is key.
“AI won’t miraculously fix everything,” Torrence warned. Life gets easier every day, but it is never going to be perfect, he added.
AI is the cherry on top of the scaling pie, said Rippey AI’s Ward. “If you don’t have the infrastructure, it will take long time to get there,” he said.
Schreiber said there must be oversight, but the line cannot be set at making no mistakes. If AI is measured against perfection, it will never drive improvement. “Judge it like you do with a human, the aggregate outcomes are better,” he said.
Ward added that AI is effective because it does not take breaks, need sleep and works 24 hours a day. Carriers must trust how it handles mistakes by starting small and slowly building up.
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