How AI Will Transform One of the World’s Oldest Industries

As interest around Artificial Intelligence continues to grow, I believe the shipping industry is on the cusp of a transformation not seen in decades, as various AI applications and programs start to assist with streamlining processes and taking on time-consuming admin tasks.

While the digitisation of shipping businesses is not new AI has taken it a step further with industry-specific programs being developed which are aimed at taking on particular tasks.

This isn’t like the introduction of email for example, which is largely a one-size-fits-most type of application, these are niche programs developed by people with lived experience of the shipping industry, who know how we function and what we need on a day-to-day basis.

It has the ability to fundamentally change the way we operate as an industry.

A recent survey carried out by booking and rate platform Freightos showed 96% of the 55 respondents believe they will leverage AI in the future, with more than half believing the expected impact of AI on logistics will be ‘major’.

While it can be used for many things, a key appeal of AI is taking over time-consuming admin such as;

  • Document Reading: AI programs are available that can read, search, and summarise lengthy industry-related reports and regulations within minutes.
  • Data Entry: Data-entry is often time consuming, and prone to human error. Having AI take over this task not only frees up valuable staff time, but also significantly reduces the risk of errors, some of which have the potential to result in significant financial penalties.
  • Document Cross-Checking: Each individual shipment generates several invoices, all of which need to be cross-checked to ensure details match up. AI can cross-check these details within moments, once again freeing up staff for other tasks.
  • Client Notification: AI programs can be implemented to send real-time alerts and updates to clients as their shipment progresses.

If implemented well, AI can provide businesses with the opportunity to grow and expand, with the free time created by not having to carry out various tasks now able to be used for staff development such as training and up-skilling.

While we recently introduced a four-day work week, we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we didn’t find ways to work more efficiently and automate some of our processes.

It’s important that we also acknowledge that some within our industry may be reluctant to adopt AI amid concerns about the potential impact on jobs or a reduction in human-to-human interaction, and while I accept they are valid concerns, I do think there are positives to found.

I don’t see AI taking human jobs, but rather I see it working in collaboration with existing roles, allowing people to work ‘smarter not harder’.

In the same way that we no longer employ ‘runners’ to physically take documents from one place to another, we now have dedicated roles in IT that didn’t exist decades ago.

As for human connection, I believe AI will allow for improved human interaction as we can commit more time to building relationships with clients, suppliers, and stakeholders.

Allowing AI to take on the more tedious aspects of my job so I can meet a client face-to-face, more often sounds like an ideal situation to me.