AI in Fulfilment as a Competitive Edge
Article published in St. Galler Tagblatt, December 9th, 2022
by Stefan Borkert
Artificial intelligence gives Swiss based MS Direct AG and its customers a competitive edge. Mainly, the company is concentrating on the use of AI in its warehouses.
Digitalisation has already arrived at St. Gallen-based MS Direct AG. The head of operations, COO Fabrizio Anner, says that artificial intelligence applications have been used at MS Direct since 2019. "We have found our first use case in the customs clearance of e-commerce shipments. We use self-learning algorithms to translate EU tariff numbers into the Swiss customs format." This application was developed in a project with the University of St. Gallen.
In the meantime, 95 per cent of the tariff numbers can be translated automatically. In addition, MS-Direct has been testing a self-learning algorithm in returns processing for several months, which automatically recognises and classifies defects and stains on garments.
"With the help of this application, we can process textiles in the returns area faster and more uniformly and support employees in complex cases."
He sees the greatest potential of artificial intelligence applications at MS Direct in the areas of data processing, such as customs clearance, in the planning and optimisation of supply chains and storage capacities such as inventory, as well as in the automation of warehouse processes through the introduction of self-driving and -acting robots.
The digitisation of processes has always proved valuable so far, he continues. However, the right conditions must be in place, such as accessible, structured data. Likewise, a critical mass of movements is needed for the use of robotics. The use of AI is particularly suitable for use cases with large volumes, recurring patterns and less complex questions. In borderline cases, humans are the better option.
The competitive advantage also speaks for the use of AI. "We can work faster and more cost-effectively with AI applications." Customers are also increasingly demanding automated and speedy processes. "In this way, we also help them to gain a competitive advantage," says Anner.
Automated small parts warehouse coming 2023
At MS Direct, automation would initially focus on processes in warehouses. This year, for example, a packaging machine was installed that cuts cartons to size and thus requires little carton waste and filling material. "At the beginning of next year, we are setting up an automated small parts warehouse that uses robots to automatically pick the items, i.e. make them ready for packaging." In addition, he said, MS Direct would be carrying out further pilot projects with self-driving robots that would transport parcels and pallets through the warehouses.
To the article in the St. Galler Tagblatt:
Roboter im Einsatz bei der MS Direct AG in St.Gallen (tagblatt.ch)