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Having the magic touch with AI and the final mile at Connections 2023

The second day of Connections 2023 opened with Mike Horvath, the EVP, CMO, and co-founder of Revenova, a CRM-based TMS company, identifying several trends that he saw shaping shipping and logistics, as well as certain risks that might be upcoming in the industry. 

Horvath spoke about the buzz around artificial intelligence (AI), and how uncertain economic conditions are prompting business leaders to search for any way possible to cut costs and improve efficiency. He noted AI’s ability to dynamically optimize route planning as one area of great potential. 

“As things change, you get breakdowns on the road, you get new orders that come in, you have drivers that are slip seating—you have all kinds of things happening on fleet,” said Horvath.

“And if you have a powerful engine that could look at all that and make very near real-time decisions on how to do things and adjust in real-time—I think AI has a ton of potential for that.”

TMS shifting to the cloud, rather than on-premise, was another trend Horvath discussed. 

“Transportation is all about interconnectivity, and having everything in the cloud gives you the ability to connect with your trading partners, your customers, your partners, your employees—no matter where they work,” said Horvath. 

Another panel gathered CIOs to discuss how to build cultures of change and innovation within a company. A major challenge the panelists shared was balancing tech solutions that are fit for a specific purpose but can be integrated coherently with the rest of a company’s tech portfolio.

“If you think about what we see with the carriers, they’re building APIs for dispatch and tracking, and new things that are coming down the line—pre-pickup visibility, for example,” said David Knight, CIO for SMC3. “And it’s really about being able to pull that whole ecosystem of information together to provide value to the end customer.” 

The panelists also raised AI as having important functionalities to leverage greater productivity within an organization. 

Dana Davis, CIO for Daylight Transport, stated that AI has helped their programming group with a tool that converts the bill of lading image with a higher degree of accuracy than OCR. 

“I’m seeing AI as an enabler there… it can take all these different formats of the bill of lading and transpose them into one data stream that we can then plug right into our system.” 

“All these tools—they’re not the be-all, end-all,” said Jay Tomasello, CIO for Forward. “But they allow us to manage by exception, automate, say, 80 percent of the workstream, and focus the human aspect on the harder, complex problems.” 

The day’s final discussion centered on managing the “final mile,” and the heavy expectations that the rise in e-commerce has placed on this crucial final stage of delivery. 

“What we’ve learned to understand and embrace is that the final mile has the greatest impact on customer satisfaction,” explained Donna Kintop, SVP of client experience for DDC FPO. “If it’s not done in a speedy way, in a timely way, if those appointments aren’t kept, if there’s traffic, if there’s weather, if a customer is just simply not home for delivery—it requires a lot of interaction.”

Panelists discussed the potential of automating aspects of the shipping process, which can solve the various inefficiencies that keep companies from meeting the intense demands for immediacy from customers. On the other hand, automating aspects of customer service can frustrate those who are not tech-literate or simply want more of a “human touch.” 

“It’s a matter of balancing the technology with the people that are available to assist your customers,” said Kintop. 

The experts also touched on the complexities of reverse logistics, which is another important touchpoint for customer satisfaction. 

“Think about packaged merchandise when it leaves the factory,” said TJ O’Connor, CEO of FragilePAK. “It’s in engineered packaging that’s designed to protect it. That’s all gone with reverse shipping. So, all of a sudden we have to pick up a naked piece of furniture and do the best we can to put it in a delivery truck and prevent it from being further damaged by other freight in the vehicle.”

​​SMC3 Connections is an annual three-day conference dedicated to sharing knowledge among supply and logistics professionals. It is the premier summer conference for carriers, shippers, logistics providers, and technology providers – by providing an optimal environment for meaningful networking within the industry and a learning site for industry insights from top-tier professionals. To learn more, visit

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Categories: 3PL, API, Carrier Relations, Data, Education, Freight, Logistics, Logistics Service Providers, LTL, Product, Supply Chain, Technology, Transportation, Truckload, Uncategorized