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AI & Robotics are automating many large scale and complicated operations at e-commerce warehouses, logistics hubs, fulfillment centers: Venkat Rao, Pitney Bowes

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With the integration of modern systems and digitally assisted technology, logistics and supply chain industry has seen a significant resurgence. Venkat Rao, Vice President & Country Head, Sending Technology Solutions, ANZ, India & ASEAN at Pitney Bowes, shares his perspectives on how the incorporation of artificial intelligence and robotics is allowing warehousing firms to become agile and market-oriented and the role of smart technologies in embracing greener and sustainable logistics ecosystems.

Some edited excerpts:

How are emerging technologies enabling warehousing firms to become agile and market oriented?
The ecommerce and logistics industry in India continues to experience significant growth and emerging technologies like AI & Robotics are creating an impact in automating many large scale and complicated operations at ecommerce warehouses, logistics hubs, fulfillment centers and so on. The warehouse automation using AI can enhance, conveyor operations, storage utilization, inventory management, data collection & analytics, basically end-to-end logistics management.
Robotic solution implementation has led to shifting the monotonous or repetitive workload from workers to help them focus on strategic or priority tasks. Robots are now moving materials, parcel sorting and packaging at faster pace than usual operations environment. The AI-powered robotics helps speed parcel sortation to last-mile delivery providers, while improving productivity, accuracy, predictability, and worker safety with the growing volumes.

In the era of digital disruption, what can organizations do to embrace greener and sustainable logistics eco-systems?
Pitney Bowes is helping its retail partners meet their sustainability goals by meeting our own high standards. We have pledged to be carbon neutral by 2040 through efficient use of energy in our sites and throughout our transportation fleet, increased use of renewable energy, responsible packaging and more.

We are working towards creating a sustainable future by taking a hard look at how we impact the environment today. We consider the actual and potential effects of our operations on the environment, with a particular focus on climate-related risks and sustainability. We are mindful of these factors as we develop, modify, and deliver our products and services building a sustainable ecosystem. We are guided with our core value statement – “We do the right thing the right way”, in our partnerships with our clients, business partners, employees, and communities.

How has the National Logistics Policy 2022 helped the logistics sector recover from the pandemic? How is Pitney Bowes combating global supply chain issues?

National Logistics Policy 2022 was launched with an objective to build a cohesive, integrated, technology-abled, steady yet agile ecosystem that works together to get logistics costs down in comparison to global standards by 2030. I believe with all the stakeholders working together with government agencies will enable addressing challenges quicker that will help us reduce our logistics costs as an industry. In post pandemic recovery, the ecommerce industry is experiencing enormous growth and will continue to grow; the policy will only accelerate the growth initiatives and create a conducive ecosystem in a highly fragmented industry.

At Pitney Bowes, we believe businesses are more resilient because of the supply chain disruptions like digitization of processes, holding extra inventory, finding alternative suppliers, or arranging for alternate modes of transportation should be more of a proactive measure rather than a reactive one. As we grow our data-driven approach is constantly reminding us of who our clients are and not lose our empathy for them.

How is Pitney Bowes contributing towards improving the shipping logistics technology for the large e-commerce industry?

Pitney Bowes is working with some of the most innovative companies in the industry to configure new solutions that complement our service offerings and make B2C ecommerce logistics easier for our large ecommerce clients. Pitney Bowes has implemented Ambi Robotics, the leader in robotic sorting system for supply chain operations that resulted in nearly doubling the throughput for parcel sortation to local direct delivery units. In India too, we have implemented certain OEM partners solution to provide conveyor, parcel weighing solutions that integrate effortlessly into existing client’s operations creating flexible systems that can scale with demand.

We are working towards addressing and resolving e-commerce problems such as monotonous jobs, high turnover, growing warehouse management costs, and lack of data and its usage. We have built offerings that make e-commerce logistics easier enabling national, international, and regional shipping services that are seamless, modular, and purpose-built to each client’s needs and warehouse environment.

According to you, what kind of trends and predictions can we envision for the logistics and supply chain industry in 2023?
The pandemic has changed the market dynamics completely, and considering the changing customer expectations, I envision the following trends and prediction for logistics and supply chain industry, which are top on my mind.

1. Technology implementation is widespread. Adopting new technologies will streamline the supply chain and logistics operations that will allow efficient distribution, seamless sorting, labour assistance and end-to-end visibility. Increased adoption of AI, IoT, robotics, block chain and big data in is making the logistics and supply chain processes more resilient. Small to large businesses are investing in technologies depending on scale of operations – SaaS based, large scale implementations, etc and upskilling their teams to leverage insights led decision making.

2. Shippers working with multiple carriers. Shippers are not relying on one carrier or logistics partner; they are now working with multiple carriers including multi-carrier shipping platforms and third-party logistics (3PLs). The e-commerce logistics landscape is getting more complex, often retailers are choosing carriers who understand their business and are flexible enough to design services around specific needs and abilities.

3. Last mile customer experience. Early delivery, ease of return/exchange, real-time package tracking, efficient delivery are crucial factors that add up to the last mile of logistics that is a service differentiator for any shipper. With improved technology, online customer experience is critical for shippers to stand out among competition. In web development environment, tracking clients’ behavior and analyze where they are clicking and, more importantly, where they are not. At the core, shippers must understand how and what a new customer experience right from onboarding and getting them familiar with the product.

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