Automating Transport & Logistics:

500+ Tasks to Streamline Operations

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Automating Transport & Logistics:
500+ Tasks to Streamline Operations
The transport and logistics industry faces immense pressure to move goods quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. Automation presents a major opportunity for companies to improve productivity, reduce costs, enhance accuracy and keep pace with consumer demands.
This comprehensive guide examines over 500 tasks across transport and logistics that can be automated or optimized using technology. The tasks are organized into key categories reflecting the end-to-end operations of the industry.
For each category, the guide provides an overview of the automation potential, top use cases and real-world examples of companies already leveraging technology to transform traditional processes. Key benefits, implementation considerations and leading solutions are also discussed to help logistics leaders evaluate automation opportunities across their organizations.
Warehouse Automation
Warehouses are prime targets for automation, with abundant repetitive and predictable tasks that are perfect for optimization. Key areas to automate warehouse tasks include:
Picking & Palletizing
  • Robotic pickers: Automated robots can rapidly pick and palletize inventory for order fulfillment. This improves speed and accuracy over manual picking.
  • Pick-to-light systems: Direct pickers to the right inventory by lighting up shelving. This reduces errors.
  • Automated palletizers: Robotically build pallets at far faster speeds than human workers.
Example: Ocado uses over 1,000 robots in its warehouses to automatically pick groceries for orders.
Inventory Management
  • Replenishment algorithms: Software can automatically trigger orders and shipments to refill inventory as products are sold.
  • Inventory tracking: Automatically scan shelf inventory with cameras and sensors instead of manual, human-driven counts. Provides real-time visibility.
  • Expiration date tracking: Software can monitor expiration dates and automatically remove perishable goods from available inventory after they expire.
Example: Amazon Go stores automatically detect when products are taken off shelves and add them to virtual carts to streamline inventory tracking.
Storage & Retrieval
  • Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS): Computer-controlled systems can automatically place and retrieve goods in optimal storage locations without human intervention.
  • Mobile robots: Automated guided vehicles can move inventory or pallets within warehouses. This accelerates transport between picking, storage and staging areas.
Example: ODW Logistics uses ASRS technologies in its warehouses to achieve faster, error-free inventory management.
Benefits of Warehouse Automation
  • Increased productivity & throughput
  • Improved inventory accuracy
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Smaller footprint – can optimize vertical space
  • Safer work environment
Key Considerations
  • Upfront investment required
  • Integration with existing warehouse management system
  • Change management and training for employees
  • Maintenance of automation systems
Leading Vendors
Locus Robotics, Fetch Robotics, 6 River Systems, AB&R, Honeywell Intelligrated, OPEX, Daifuku, KNAPP, Dematic, Zebra Technologies, SIPL, Swisslog
Fleet Management & Tracking
Fleet automation leverages telematics and IoT devices to provide real-time visibility and control over vehicles and drivers. This creates data-driven efficiencies in routing, maintenance and performance.
Route Optimization
  • Dynamic routing algorithms: Software can automatically optimize delivery routes based on real-time traffic, weather conditions and new orders. This reduces mileage and driver hours.
  • Fuel usage tracking: Sensor data can identify fuel waste and inefficient driving behaviors. Managers can coach drivers to maximize MPG.
  • Geofencing: Set virtual boundaries and get alerts when a vehicle enters/exits specific geographic areas. Useful for security and confirming deliveries.
Example: Ryder uses route optimization algorithms to reduce mileage by up to 10% per year for its fleet.
Driver Behavior Monitoring
  • Acceleration/braking tracking: Onboard sensors can identify harsh acceleration and braking habits that lead to higher fuel costs and safety risks.
  • Hours of service compliance: Electronic logs automatically track driver hours on the road to comply with federal regulations.
  • Driver scoring: Assess drivers on key metrics like fuel usage, idling time and unsafe behaviors to identify training needs.
Example: KeepTruckin provides ELDs and driver scorecards to improve fleet safety and compliance monitoring.
Maintenance & Uptime
  • Predictive maintenance: Machine learning algorithms can analyze engine data to predict mechanical failures before they occur and prompt proactive repairs.
  • Real-time tracking of vehicle issues: Onboard diagnostics from connected vehicles allow remote visibility into emerging issues.
  • Automated parts reordering: Software can automatically reorder required parts for preventive maintenance and repairs to avoid downtime.
Example: Daimler Trucks uses connected vehicle data to enhance proactive maintenance and cut unplanned downtime.
Benefits of Fleet Automation
  • Reduced fuel consumption and costs
  • Improved driver safety and regulatory compliance
  • Enhanced vehicle uptime and availability
  • Increased delivery productivity and consistency
Key Considerations
  • Upfront hardware and software costs
  • Integration with transport management systems
  • Driver acceptance and training on new technologies
  • Cybersecurity risks from connected vehicles
Leading Vendors
Samsara, Geotab, Trimble Transportation, Fleet Complete, KeepTruckin, Azuga, Vector
Last Mile Delivery Optimization
The complex last mile of deliveries offers opportunities to automate planning through advanced algorithms and streamline operations with autonomous robots and drones.
Delivery Planning & Routing
  • Dynamic optimization: Software can automatically sequence and route last mile deliveries based on real-time traffic, parking availability and new orders.
  • Predictive ETAs: Machine learning can analyze historical routes and conditions to provide accurate delivery ETAs. This allows proactive customer communication.
  • Driver assistance: Apps can guide drivers through the best route turn-by-turn to each stop.
Example: Onfleet combines optimization algorithms with a driver app to improve last mile delivery productivity and accuracy.
Autonomous Vehicles
  • Self-driving delivery vans & trucks: Enable deliveries 24/7 by removing the need for a human driver. Particularly useful for repetitive routes and time-sensitive nighttime deliveries.
  • Last mile robots: Small autonomous robots like those from Starship or Robomart can handle local deliveries from a centralized hub along optimized routes.
  • Autonomous sidewalk robots: Companies like Marble and Kiwibot provide mini delivery bots that navigate sidewalks and road crossings for hyper-local delivery.
Example: Amazon Scout robots are completing autonomous last mile deliveries in some neighborhoods.
Delivery Drones
  • Parcel delivery: Long-range drones like those from Zipline can airlift parcels between fulfillment centers and final destinations.
  • Medical supply delivery: Drones can provide critical speed advantages in deliveries of medical supplies like blood and vaccines to hospitals or clinics.
  • Food/beverage delivery: Short distance drones may someday transform delivery of foods and beverages from local restaurants and convenience stores.
Example: Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet, has partnered with Walgreens to pilot an on-demand drone delivery service.
Benefits of Last Mile Automation
  • Faster delivery times and greater reliability
  • Lower last mile costs
  • Increased capacity to handle more delivery volume
  • Ability to offer new delivery windows and service levels
  • Safer operations and reduced driver fatigue
Key Considerations
  • High upfront costs of emerging technologies
  • Navigation limitations in some environments
  • Regulatory hurdles around autonomous and drone operations
  • Public acceptance and trust
  • Cybersecurity risks from data sharing
Leading Vendors
Onfleet, Bringg, Beam, Waycare, Nuro, Udelv, Starship, Marble, Kiwibot, Zipline, Wing
Order Management Automation
Order intake and processing represents a major opportunity to leverage automation to accelerate fulfillment cycles, reduce errors and streamline customer interactions.
Order Taking & Processing
  • Webstore integration: Integrate ecommerce platforms with order management to automatically intake orders and minimize manual data entry.
  • EDI/API integration: Automate B2B order intakes via electronic data interchange and application programming interfaces with major retailers.
  • Machine learning classification: Automatically classify and categorize orders based on analysis of past patterns to speed processing.
Example: FarEye’s driver app provides turn-by-turn guidance and real-time order information to streamline deliveries.
Payment Processing
  • ACH payment processing: Automate creation and transmission of ACH files to client banks to accelerate payments.
  • Payment gateway integration: Tighten integration between payment gateways like Stripe and order management systems to simplify payment processing.
  • Smart payment reconciliation: Algorithmically match invoices, orders and payments across systems to simplify reconciliation.
Example: MercuryGate offers an automated payment module to simplify freight bill processing and settlement.
Order Tracking & Visibility
  • Real-time tracking updates: Integrate IoT sensors from trucks or drones to provide live delivery status updates to customers.
  • Automated status alerts: Configure rules to automatically notify customers via SMS, email or voice calls when orders reach key milestones.
  • Self-service order tracking: Enable customers to independently track orders in real-time through a branded web or mobile interface.
Example: FourKites provides real-time freight tracking across transport modes and automated status notifications.
Benefits of Order Management Automation
  • Faster order-to-cash cycles
  • Reduced order processing costs
  • Minimized manual errors in order entry and payment processing
  • Enhanced customer experience and visibility
Key Considerations
  • Integration with existing transportation management systems
  • Changes to workflows and retraining of staff
  • Upgrading legacy order management systems
  • Managing periodic testing and troubleshooting
Leading Vendors
MercuryGate TMS, FarEye, FourKites, Shipwell, Blue Yonder, SAP, Oracle
Supplier & Vendor Management
Streamlining inbound supply chain operations from suppliers and vendors can yield major efficiencies through automation.
Supplier Onboarding
  • Digital vendor portals: Provide suppliers a self-service portal to upload required documents and forms to automate onboarding.
  • Automated validation checks: Software can automatically validate required documents, forms, licenses and certificates when onboarding new suppliers.
  • Digital contract execution: Enable digital signing of contracts and forms to accelerate supplier onboarding versus manual paper-based processes.
Example: Optimor eliminates manual supplier paperwork with automated onboarding and document management.
Ordering & Procurement
  • Electronic orders: Enable electronic order placement for MRO, spare parts and supplies to eliminate manual purchase orders.
  • Automated reordering: Configure systems to automatically generate orders based on inventories, lead times or usage patterns.
  • Integrated procurement: Tightly integrate procurement systems and workflows across requisition, PO, invoice and payment.
Example: Waybuy leverages machine learning to optimize procurement workflows.
Invoice Processing & Payments
  • eInvoicing: Transition suppliers to electronic invoicing versus traditional paper invoices. This accelerates processing.
  • Automated data capture: Use OCR and data extraction to pull key details from paper and PDF invoices without manual data entry.
  • Digital payments: Pay suppliers faster by automating digital payments to supplier bank accounts versus paper checks.
Example: Tipalti provides touchless supplier payments with support for 95% of global payment methods.
Benefits of Supplier Management Automation
  • Reduced supplier onboarding costs and delays
  • Lower procurement costs
  • Faster invoice processing time
  • Fewer errors and exceptions in source-to-pay processes
  • Increased spend under management
  • Tighter compliance controls
Key Considerations
  • Integration with existing ERP and financial systems
  • Adoption across diverse supplier network
  • Regional electronic invoicing regulations
  • Data security risks from digitized documents
Leading Vendors
Tipalti, Waybuy, Jaggaer, C2FO, Ariba, Zycus, Ivalua, Wax Digital
Customer Service Automation
Customer service presents automation opportunities to enhance satisfaction through streamlined interactions and improved issue resolution.
Customer Communications
  • Chatbots: Use AI-powered bots to handle common customer inquiries around order status, tracking, product details and more.
  • Smart routing: Leverage interactive voice response with natural language processing to understand customer needs and automatically route calls.
  • Customer profiling: Create unified customer profiles by aggregating data from CRM, support interactions and other sources to enable personalized service.
Example: DDC FPO uses chatbots to respond to 80% of customer delivery inquiries without human agents.
Case & Issue Management
  • Machine learning for automated tagging: Automatically assign tags and categories to cases to enable smarter assignment and faster resolution.
  • Automated case creation: Use natural language processing to extract case details from customer communications and automatically log cases.
  • Knowledge base recommendation: Analyze case details and match to knowledge base articles to recommend potential solutions to agents.
Example: Salesforce Einstein automates case creation and management powered by AI capabilities.
Contracts & Claims
  • Automated validation: Use rules-based algorithms or AI to validate contracts or claims against required parameters and existing agreements.
  • Risk analysis: Identify high risk claims and contracts requiring greater scrutiny through predictive analytics.
  • Payment automation: Automate creation and transmission of payments related to contracts or claims to accelerate settlement.
Example: EY and Microsoft provide AI solutions for managing contracts and claims for insurers.
Benefits of Customer Service Automation
  • Improved customer satisfaction from faster resolution
  • Increased service efficiency with lower costs
  • More consistent customer experiences
  • Enhanced ability to manage customer data and analytics
  • Prioritized high-value activities for human agents
Key Considerations
  • Integration with existing CRM and ticketing systems
  • Natural language processing capabilities
  • Cybersecurity and data privacy controls
  • Governance around automating transactions
Leading Vendors
Salesforce, IBM, Oracle, SAP, Zendesk, ServiceNow, Pegasystems, Freshdesk, Next IT
Traffic Control & Regulation Compliance
Automated traffic management and compliance capabilities offer new mechanisms to optimize safety, congestion and regulatory oversight across transportation networks.
Traffic Optimization & Planning
  • Traffic simulation: Leverage digital twins and simulations to model traffic patterns and optimize signaling, infrastructure improvements and traffic plans.
  • Predictive traffic analytics: Apply machine learning algorithms to historical and real-time data to deliver accurate traffic forecasts. Allows better planning and proactive management.
  • Dynamic speed limits: Automatically adjust speed limits based on traffic, weather conditions and other variables to improve safety and traffic flow.
Example: Los Angeles uses traffic simulation software to optimize its traffic management center operations.
Commercial Vehicle Enforcement
  • Connected vehicle inspection: Automated safety inspections at weigh stations using real-time sensor data from vehicles to check compliance.
  • Automated HOV/HOT enforcement: Use cameras, sensors and AI to identify vehicles violating high-occupancy or high-occupancy toll lane policies.
  • E-screening: Allow enforcement officers to digitally screen passing vehicles and automatically flag those requiring inspections versus manual visual assessment.
Example: Colorado DOT has deployed wireless inspection technologies to accelerate commercial vehicle screening.
Traffic Incident Management
  • Automated incident detection: Use data from connected vehicles and cameras along with AI to instantly detect crashes or stalled vehicles. Allows faster response.
  • Predictive incident modeling: Forecast the impacts of incidents on traffic (lane closures, etc.) to proactively inform responses.
  • Automated traffic alerts: Instantly trigger digital alerts and signage downstream of incidents to mitigate congestion impacts.
Example: Waycare uses AI and big data analytics to enhance real-time management of traffic incidents.
Benefits of Traffic Automation
  • Improved safety from faster incident response
  • Reduced traffic congestion
  • More productive use of infrastructure
  • Tighter regulatory compliance and audit controls
  • Fairer enforcement not susceptible to human bias
Key Considerations
  • Substantial sensor costs along transportation network
  • Large volumes of multisource data required
  • Public acceptance of automated enforcement
  • Cyberecurity risks from connected infrastructure
Leading Vendors
Waycare, Sensity Systems, Accenture, Siemens, LG CNS, Cubic Transportation, Conduent Transportation
Yard Management Automation
Automating yard management generates significant efficiencies in asset utilization, driver time and load planning.
Dock Scheduling & Trailer Tracking
  • Appointment scheduling algorithms: Software can automatically sequence and optimize dock schedules as trucks arrive.
  • Real-time yard visibility: Sensors and cameras track trailer locations in yards to enable easy monitoring and retrieval.
  • Automated check-in: Use RFID, OCR or biometrics to automatically validate driver and vehicle details during check-in vs. manual processes.
Example: Penske uses real-time visibility software to optimize yard management across 350+ locations.
Loading & Load Planning
  • Dynamic loading algorithms: Software can automatically assign optimal trucks and sequence deliveries based on loads, traffic patterns, vehicle capacity and more.
  • 3D load planning: Simulate loading configurations in 3D using product dimensions and restrictions to optimize fit and balance.
  • Robotic loading & unloading: Automated machines can accelerate loading of standardized pallets, reducing physical strain on workers.
Example: Wise Systems uses AI-driven algorithms to optimize truck loading and delivery routing.
Billing & Yard Management Systems
  • Automated yard activity tracking: Use cameras, sensors and gates to automatically log activities like parking times and trailer movements, feeding into billing systems.
  • Digital freight matching: Connect carriers and shippers through real-time apps and portals to automate booking and tracking.