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Keynote speaker Sally Miller of DHL Supply Chain discusses artificial intelligence in supply chains at Fusion 2023, the Center for Supply Chain Innovation's annual symposium.
Understanding and leveraging automation, AI, electric vehicles and other emerging technologies was the focus of the Fusion 2023 symposium hosted May 4 by the Center for Supply Chain Innovation (CSCI), a highly regarded hub of collaboration between supply chain faculty, students and industry partners in the Harbert College of Business at Auburn University.
Keynote speaker Sally Miller, CIO and digital transformation officer at logistics provider DHL Supply Chain, described how her company is implementing robotics and autonomous vehicles in its operations.
“[This technology] is exciting, but to be successful in deploying these solutions you have to have a pre-defined use case,” Miller said. “[To achieve an ROI], you have to understand what activity you are doing today physically and what that solution will replace…so the solution is more effective, or at least as effective, as a human.”
Miller described how DHL partnered with Boston Dynamics to create Stretch, a newly deployed mobile robotic arm that can unload boxes from a truck trailer—a manually demanding job that had a high-turnover rate among DHL employees, Miller said.
DHL also utilizes cobots (collaborative robots) that work alongside human warehouse pickers in locating and packing items to fulfill orders. According to Miller, DHL uses about 4,000 co-bots in its global operations.
Miller also delved into a discussion about generative AI tools from OpenAI like ChatGPT and Dall•E2, which create new text or image content based on conversational commands.
“[The technology] can make you more efficient,” she said, but the challenge for companies is how they use it and how they protect their IP.
She gave the example of a well-intentioned business development employee asking ChatGPT for assistance with improving a response to an RFP that he or she wrote. That query could result in the company’s intellectual property being pulled into the public domain.
“ChatGPT and generative AI are going to change things very fast,” she said. “They won’t replace a person’s job, but someone who uses them will.”
The other keynote speaker, Paul Rosa, a senior VP of procurement and fleet planning with Penske Truck Leasing, addressed trends and emerging technologies in the trucking industry.
“There’s never been a time in our industry when we have so much coming at us and it’s so fast that it’s hard to process it all,” said Rosa, who has worked at Penske for 30 years. “It’s hard to predict what will happen.”
Rosa outlined several new federal and state environmental regulations that will impact the transportation of goods as the trucking industry transitions away from diesel vehicles. Among those regulations are new emission rules from the California Air Resource Board (CARB) and the federal EPA.
“This is the first time in transportation industry history that there’s a deviation between a state and the EPA,” he said, noting that the agencies’ carbon emission requirements are not the same, which will complicate fleet planning and operation costs.
Rosa also discussed various new truck technologies, including battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and hydrogen fuel cell trucks.
“Diesel has been the staple of the industry and everything else will be compared to it,” he said, predicting that current diesel trucks will be around for the next 20-30 years before being replaced by the new technologies.
Penske works with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the electric vehicle market to ensure that battery electric commercial trucks are on track to meet full-service truck leasing transportation requirements. In fact, Penske Truck Leasing has a fleet of electric vehicles it is evaluating for its customers, such as the Freightliner eCascadia (class 8), Freightliner eM2 (class 6 and 7), and Volvo VNR electric tractor (class 8), among others.
According to Rosa, more information about trucking technologies can be found in
(left to right) Auburn SCM Lecturer David Strickland with panelists Leifje Dighton, Lori Kent, and René Guermonprez.
In addition to the keynote addresses, the symposium featured several panel discussions:
Fusion 2023 closed with a networking reception and dinner for the 180 symposium participants. Marcia Gibson, professional experience program coordinator in Auburn’s Department of Supply Chain Management, was honored for her contributions in matching students with employers to fulfill the department’s internship requirement.
“Marcia has been instrumental in developing the first HOCB-required internship for the SCM program,” noted Brian Gibson, CSCI’s executive director. “As our professional experience coordinator, Marcia provided exceptional student support and forged long-lasting relationships with employers, donors, and alumni. Her efforts directly contributed to the SCM program’s top 5 Gartner ranking.”
In honor of these contributions, the Department of Supply Chain Management and CSCI have established the MARCIA GIBSON ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIP FOR SUPPLY CHAIN. The scholarship will help students with costs related to completing an internship. If you are interested in contributing toward Marcia’s legacy and SCM student success, please visit the giving page.
Fusion 2023 was sponsored by six of CSCI’s industry partners: Penske, iMotion Industries, DHL Supply Chain, Greenbush Logistics, McLeod Software and Buddy Moore Trucking. “We thank each of these great partners for their ongoing support,” said Gibson.