For people who haven’t thought much about AI and its buzz, the ongoing writer’s strike underscores how serious of a disruptor many smart people believe technology might become. “In May, 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike, demanding fair wages; better residuals, which have shriveled in the streaming era; and assurance that AI would not take their place as screenwriters in the future,” Ko Bragg wrote this week in The Markup.

According to experts, few technological advancements hold as much promise as Artificial Intelligence (AI) In the ever-evolving landscape of industry and commerce. With its ability to revolutionize various sectors, AI’s potential to transform the supply chain and packaging industries is extraordinary.

And it is already happening.  “In terms of AI, it’s easy to forget that AI is already here to some extent and most of us don’t even realize we’re using it,” Yossi Sheffi, MIT professor, author, and supply chain thought leader, recently told Modern Materials Handling. “Think of the customer service function of a company: We used to press one if you wanted this or that, and now you just speak it. That’s AI on the other side that picks up what you’re saying.”

As businesses seek to optimize efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance sustainability, AI offers a game-changing solution. From streamlining logistics and inventory management to revolutionizing packaging design and waste reduction, the integration of AI into these critical sectors is poised to reshape traditional practices, ushering in a new era of smart, agile, and environmentally conscious supply chains and packaging solutions.

Embracing this disruptive force promises not only increased profitability for businesses but also a brighter and more sustainable future for our planet. However, as reflected in the Writers Guild strike, there are also concerns about what could result.


What is AI, and how does it work? 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a field of computer science that focuses on creating intelligent systems that can perform tasks typically requiring human intelligence. It involves developing algorithms and models to enable computers to learn from data, reason, and make decisions like humans.


How computers do it 

Computers achieve artificial intelligence through various techniques, the most prominent being machine learning. In machine learning, computers are fed large amounts of data and are trained to recognize patterns and relationships within that data. This training enables them to make predictions, identify objects, understand natural language, and even solve complex problems.

Another approach is rule-based AI, where computers follow predefined rules and logical statements to make decisions and perform tasks. Additionally, there are techniques like neural networks that mimic the structure and functioning of the human brain, allowing computers to process information in a more interconnected and parallel manner.

Here are a few ways that AI is or will soon be transforming supply chain operations, including the world of pallets.


AI in the supply chain

AI is already making significant inroads in supply chain operations. From warehouse robots to inventory management and risk management to route optimization, AI is becoming a common denominator.

AI is playing a pivotal role in revolutionizing supply chain optimization by providing businesses with intelligent tools and advanced analytics. Today, AI is being extensively employed to enhance every aspect of the supply chain process. Machine learning algorithms are used to predict demand patterns more accurately, helping companies optimize their inventory levels and reduce carrying costs while ensuring adequate stock availability. AI-driven systems analyze real-time data from various sources, such as weather forecasts and traffic information, to optimize logistics and transportation routes, minimizing delivery times and costs.

Moreover, AI-powered predictive maintenance models help prevent equipment failures, reducing downtime and ensuring smooth operations. By leveraging AI for supply chain optimization, organizations can gain a competitive edge, streamline operations, and respond swiftly to market changes and customer demands.


What about in the world of pallets?

One area of AI for pallets has been in pallet inspection. For example, PRS Group’s AI pallet inspection system, developed in collaboration with Universal Logic, represents a significant advancement in the pallet sector. Building on Universal Logic’s extensive experience in AI applications, the Neocortex Pallet Sorter and Neocortex Inspection System bring cutting-edge technology to pallet sortation and inspection. Major pallet users and pallet providers, including Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. and 48forty Solutions, have already embraced this innovative system. PRS Group also offers an AI nail inspection system called Neocortex Pallet Sorter.

Equipped with Universal’s AI brain, combined with sensors and robotic hardware, the system can handle various types of pallets in diverse conditions, including those with broken boards, debris, and slip sheets. The capability to sort and stack up to 400 pallets per hour with virtually unlimited sorting options, depending on the system layout, makes it a game-changer in the industry. Notably, the AI-driven software can assess multiple parameters, such as defect, quality, color, shape, and size, ensuring precise and tailored sorting solutions.

One of the most significant advantages of the Neocortex system is its consistent decision-making, surpassing that of human operators. Operating at the same speed as a human, but with greater accuracy and consistency, the AI software ensures reliable and error-free performance even during multiple shifts. Additionally, the system collects immediate and superior data, enabling enhanced insights that surpass human capabilities.


 AI and Pallet Design

White & Company, a leading player in pallet design software, is eagerly exploring the possibilities of incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their future endeavors. Although the research is still ongoing and the technology is not yet fully ready, Dr. Marshall White, company founder and president, recently told Pallet Enterprise that he is enthusiastic about the potential AI holds for revolutionizing pallet design.

In  initial experiments, White & Company tested two popular AI tools but found that their databases were lacking in terms of logistics information. To effectively leverage AI, Dr. White emphasizes the need for training the AI models with relevant data. Fortunately, Virginia Tech has a substantial database that can be used to educate the AI.

The immediate plan for utilizing AI in pallet design is to assist customers in interpreting the software’s output. This interpretive aspect can be achieved with a relatively small database, making it an accessible and valuable addition to their software.

However, the real excitement lies in the future potential of AI for optimization. Currently, pallet design is an iterative process, with designers making educated guesses and running alternative designs to improve efficiency. Dr. White’s ambition is to take pallet design to a new level of automation, where AI-driven optimization can revolutionize the entire process. By leveraging AI’s capabilities, White & Company aims to help their customers optimize their pallet designs more efficiently and effectively.

AI seems poised to significantly improve supply chain operations, including pallet company processes. There are concerns about job security, as expressed by the Writers Guild, but in the world of supply chain and pallets, it seems there is an ongoing shortfall that AI might help mitigate. Experts caution that companies that fail to embrace AI will fall behind.

At FALM, we are already using AI for several aspects of the business, and, in fact, this article was written in part by AI. Contact us today to find out how we can help your pallet program optimize your supply chain.