Early investments in AI and robotics key to long-term survival, says Accenture

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A new report from managing consultancy Accenture says that investments made in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and augmented reality today, could determine the competitiveness of posts and delivery companies in the future.

The New Delivery Paradigm report examined business practices and the delivery and purchasing trends of 25 delivery companies across the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific. It found that investments in advanced digital technologies could help generate more than US$500m of value annually for an average post and parcel organization. The right digital strategy also could unlock the potential of 21st century and last-mile delivery systems and remain relevant in an industry facing not only declining mail volumes but also increased competition for hyper local delivery.

Brody Buhler, who leads Accenture’s global post and parcel practice, said, “In an era when customers are always connected and are becoming accustomed to a digital customer experience, high-performing posts and parcel organizations need to embrace digital to more fully unlock the dynamic potential in advanced technologies to drive every aspect of the business.”

According to the report, multiple options exist to become a digital business: digital marketing, sales transformation, chatbots for 24-hour customer service, and development of online loyalty programs. Among the new business models that could be developed are on-demand deliveries, drone deliveries, B2C subscriptions, sharing platforms, payment systems and digital identifications.

The report shows that AI and robotics are already enabling post and parcel organizations to create new opportunities across fundamental business practices. The US Postal Service (USPS) for example, is using AI to create post office collection points that weigh, price and collect mail and parcels

In the Netherlands, robots and guided vehicles are being used to pick up, place and move parcels through warehouse facilities. UPS and Amazon are leveraging AI through chatbots to create customer service assistants and increase self-serve and auto-serve options. And new delivery companies are testing self-driving vehicles, drones and self-driving parcel carriers to augment the delivery process.

According to Accenture, robots have the potential to transform delivery organizations’ warehouse operations, supporting peak demand and lowering costs. Using robotics to support human effort in repetitive tasks, like pulling packages, can improve productivity and reduce costs. Robots and guided vehicles accelerate the movement of product through warehouses while reducing a distribution center’s physical footprint. These actions can have a profound effect on revenue and cost savings.

The report also looked at the use of augmented reality, determining that AR and support applications are empowering the workforce in new ways. Pick-by-vision enables employees with real-tune information and guidance to improve productivity, reduce errors and minimize paperwork. Dynamic route planning information and parcel and customer information with AR overlays creates a more seamless experience for the delivery workforce.

“These technologies are changing every aspect of the post and parcel business,” added Buhler. “The cost savings and service offerings they enable will change the industry and unlock value for those organizations that have boldly invested. The time to prepare is now.”

To view the full report from Accenture, click here.

October 31, 2017

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Dan joined Postal and Parcel Technology International in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As assistant editor, he now produces daily content for the website and supports the editors with the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest logistics news, Dan can be found apprehensively planning his next DIY project for his new home.

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