Skip to content

AI in Warehousing: Breakthroughs Reshaping The Supply Chain

We’ve been hearing a lot about Artificial Intelligence (AI), a whole lot. While in 2020 the buzzword was COVID-19, we can safely say that since the spring of 2023, the hot topic has been AI. For that reason, Cornerstone Edge Principal, Brian Carlson and JBF Consulting Principal, Tony Wayda, got together to discuss AI in warehousing and transportation. You can watch a recording of the webinar here, or read below for the key takeaways from their chat, plus a little extra! 

Fun fact: Did you know AI has existed for over 50 years? AI was officially launched as a field of computer science by the Dartmouth Conference back in 1956. The conference was organized by Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Claude Shannon, and Nathaniel Rochester, men who would later become known as the “founding fathers” of AI. But the origin of AI traces even farther back, to the 1940s when a programmable digital computer was first invented.

AI in warehousing
Practically speaking, AI can be used in a variety of ways that help improve warehouse performance. AI-powered sensors can provide continuous monitoring of key warehousing equipment, such as conveyor belts, forklifts, and automated sorting systems. These sensors can identify any discrepancies in equipment operation, predict potential failures, and even schedule preventive maintenance. Over time, real-time data collected by these sensors enables warehouse managers to make informed decisions regarding equipment maintenance, optimization, and resource allocation.

AI can also be harnessed to assess warehouse performance, warehouse analysis, predictability around labor needs, and provide insight into the numbers and kinds of transactions entering the warehouse at any given time. Integrating AI with a labor management system can help identify better task management opportunities and optimize the slotting of specific products. 

AI in transportation
One of the biggest touted benefits of AI in transportation is its ability to analyze real-time and historical data to help predict potential issues with vehicles or transportation infrastructure within warehouses or distribution centers. In this instance, AI can help pinpoint patterns that empower warehouse managers to schedule preventive maintenance and repairs. The real value in transportation will come when AI can easily gather real-time weather and traffic information and integrate that information with the current transportation schedule to plan more efficient trips down the line. 

Another expected benefit of AI in transportation is its use for route optimization. The idea is that with sufficient data, transportation companies will be able to minimize travel time, reducing fuel consumption and vehicle wear and tear. With dynamic vehicle routing, traffic conditions and road closures will continuously be monitored giving the transportation company insight into the best route to take at any given time.

Training is critical
The main thing to remember about AI is that it isn’t a magical tool that automatically works exactly as you want. Quite the opposite, it requires training to work well, and the training is critical to its functioning. You have to set parameters and test it to ensure it’s working as you like. Depending on what you need the AI to do, its training will vary, but for most, you’ll want to:

  1. Create a dataset
  2. Train a model
  3. Evaluate and iterate on your model
  4. Get predictions from your model
  5. Interpret prediction results

The important thing here, as always, is to ensure the data you have is clean. Anything you train the model with will impact your results, so you want to avoid any inaccuracies or discrepancies.

The truth about AI
We can all agree that AI is here to stay, but the main point Brian and Tony landed on is that AI is a tool, not a solution; when harnessed properly, it can be extremely valuable. But they encourage folks to research it well, and not to rely on it too heavily, it’s too early. There are various examples of companies using AI well and to their advantage, like Oracle’s Digital Assistant, Predictive Freight Pricing by Greenscreens AI, or TZA’s use of AI in labor management systems. 

As a supply chain partner, we have evaluated and vetted over 80 solutions, and that list keeps growing. If you’re looking for insight into a new enterprise solution or are wondering whether AI in warehousing is right for you, we can help. Give us a shout, and let’s see how we can make your supply chain your differentiator. 


You don’t need more time in your day,
you need to get more done.