The term “automation” far too often conjures images of self-driving trucks and large, robot-like machinery on factory assembly lines. But the real magic of automation happens behind the scenes, acting as a sidekick to industry professionals by helping with seemingly small, yet significant tasks.
For anyone who’s tracked shipments by manually entering delivery information into lengthy spreadsheets, it’s no secret that the most tedious tasks often take the longest and are prone to human error.
Automation will increasingly become a competitive differentiator as the logistics industry evolves to meet ever-changing demand. To be successful, delivery and logistics organizations must prioritize technology adoption, removing the outdated, legacy technology and processes in place today. Without urgent action, the delivery and logistics industry will face last-mile challenges, climate change pushback, and even emerging stressors like those from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Here’s how automation technology can solve the supply chain’s biggest challenges — and transform how work gets done.
When processing packages and oversized shipments, documentation is necessary to ensure transparency between sender and receiver. It should be effortless for these professionals to complete forms and transcribe information for any document, but this approach is fragile. To no fault of their own, industry professionals are prone to making mistakes when backlogs are mounting, and stress is intensified.
The human factor is critical when considering the day-to-day delivery slips, bills of lading (BOLs), commercial invoices, waybills and customer clearance documentation. Humans enter the required information into boxes and internal systems line by line to charge customers accordingly. So when dealing with high volumes of physical documents, it’s easy to misstep and transcribe something incorrectly, leading to upwards of 12% of revenue loss and unmeasurable time loss for correcting those mistakes.
This issue isn’t one-sided, but instead rests in inefficiencies found across the industry. Data-keying teams face levels of variability due to the numerous customer-created formats and inconsistencies, nuances and legibility with handwriting, leading many to consider alternatives like intelligent document processing (IDP).
IDP improves accuracy in paperwork processing and mitigates backlogs, making it an exceptional solution to the industry’s physical document challenges. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable end-to-end automation of document-centric business processes for structured and unstructured formats such as PDFs, images and handwritten forms. Not only does IDP convert such document formats into structured, machine-readable information, it does so faster, with greater accuracy and more efficiently than a human being can.
Back-office automation is a win-win-win in the transportation industry. Not only will organizations retain revenue traditionally lost to paperwork inaccuracies, but employees can focus on high-level tasks without getting buried in mundane paperwork. The biggest winner, however, is the customer. With the support of automation, customers can confidently track information and experience a quicker time to service.
Today, there are three distinct automation benefits that move the needle for delivery and logistics:
- Accurate processing. Customers can automate against their own chosen accuracy level, ensuring that checkboxes representing previously lost revenue were no longer missed. This reduces data discrepancies that negatively impact revenue.
- Organizational agility. Cutting-edge automation allows for customization that enables organizations to overlay their business process with the power and flexibility of machine learning. They can easily make adjustments when regulatory changes occur, or demand increases, ensuring agility now and in the future.
- Flexible extraction. Organizations using automation can confidently classify, extract, and enrich data from various formats, from hand-written BOLs to delivery slips with necessary revenue information.
Automation in the logistics and transportation industry doesn’t have to involve large shipping containers, machinery or drones. Instead, intelligent, human-centered automation can revolutionize how deliveries are made, creating an ideal situation for all stakeholders.
Tomorrow’s leading organizations understand that with high demand, time is of the essence. They will harness automation to outperform expectations, scale with volume and transform business operations, minimizing mundane tasks and making possible a future of human-machine collaboration.
Tony Lee is chief technology officer with Hyperscience.