How AI and automation will transform businesses and revolutionise operations


The air cargo sector is facing increasing resource challenges and is struggling with its day-to-day operations, such as unreported cargo volumes, available aircraft space, freight capacity, facility space, handling and delivery. However, AI and data-driven decision-making offer a solution to these challenges and are becoming increasingly critical components of the end-to-end handling process.

As cargo volumes continue to rise, sometimes reaching up to two million tonnes per year for logistics specialists, Menzies Aviation, there is a critical need for fast and efficient processes and accurate real-time data. The industry is estimated to be losing vast sums of money due to under-reported volumes and mis-declarations of air cargo caused by the human error associated with manual processes. Getting the data wrong results in incorrect storage charges, reduces loading efficiency and ultimately impacts profitability. To address these inefficiencies, air freight businesses need to blend their team’s expertise with real-time, data-driven intelligence. This improves the business’s freight management and productivity.

Automated, fully autonomous robotic inventory management systems easily prevent such issues by scanning and photographically capturing cargo leading to highly accurate, real-time data. Implementing this type of solution not only provides real-time access to highly accurate data but is a cost-effective alternative to refitting warehouses. Essentially, inbound and outbound loads are scanned quickly, allowing the warehouse bonded inventory checks to be completed efficiently and accurately with real-time comparisons made with the data contained in warehouse management systems (WMS).

An excellent illustration of how this works in practice is at Menzies Aviation’s cargo facility at Heathrow Airport, where BotsAndUs‘ fully autonomous mobile robot, Mimi, is making a real difference. By bringing in the BotsAndUs AI platform and Mimi, Menzies are easily able to track and find goods within the facility. Whilst mandatory bond checks are usually labour intensive and performed once to twice a week, Mimi ensures that there can be automated perpetual checks at no extra cost.

Read more: Era of sustainable aviation arrives

Autonomous robots can run nightly autonomous audits for inventory checking and generate exception reports highlighting UTLs (unable to locate pallets), misplaced goods and rack occupancy levels. Automating bond checks has augmented the work being undertaken on the warehouse floor by redeploying the tedious stock checking processes, enabling warehouse employees to concentrate on more complex and less repetitive tasks, which has led to saving tens of hours a week. As a result of this automation, bond checks can be run on an exception basis now as there is no need to then physically check this information, unless the location of pallets are not aligned to the warehouse management system.

Simultaneously, all of the data collected is sent to the BotsAndUs digital twin platform. This technology is the only platform powered by autonomous robots that delivers data and insights in real-time for inventory management. As a result, Menzies has been able to get more accurate space forecasting and maximise the volume of cargo processed through the warehouses. Furthermore, it can also lead to increased profitability by reducing the number of misplaced and non-compliant assets.

“In February this year, Menzies introduced the autonomous robot Mimi, which was developed with BotsAndUs. It was important for us to use the technology to add real-time value to the operation and not just have a gimmick. It is safe to say Mimi is delivering this, as on a daily basis we are scanning over 500 locations and achieving high accuracy levels in a fraction of the time it has historically taken to do it manually. In addition, if Mimi finds a pallet in a different location to that registered in the Warehouse Management System it has the capability to flag this. Previously, this pallet would go to a UTL status but it is now found before it is lost and can very quickly be adjusted either physically or in the Warehouse Management System. The team at BotsAndUs have been fantastic to work with and we have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline with them,” Rory Fidler, Vice President Cargo Technology, Menzies Aviation, said.

Read more: Tackling ‘tech lag’ in the air freight industry: Rising to the challenge of cyber attacks

“When automation and AI work together, they leverage the power of real-time data, which delivers benefits right from the beginning of the acceptance process. The air freight sector may be unable to control all the winds of change affecting its course. Now they can have control and manage the optimisation of their inventory operations,” Andrei Danescu, CEO BotsAndUs, explained.

BotsAndUs autonomous robotic and AI system has multiple benefits. It can be adapted to meet the dynamic market demands, providing photographic evidence to support insurance claims. It also saves thousands of pounds in work hours by automating stock-taking and inventory control, resulting in space optimisation and increased efficiency. This state-of-the-art technology not only eliminates errors and increases productivity but also creates more rewarding jobs by removing tedious and repetitive work. As the solution is designed for seamless integration with minimal disruption to existing workflows, there is no need for significant layout or warehouse infrastructure changes.

During a time when the industry is experiencing acute labour shortages, a growing volume of work and a need for speed, manual bond checking is an inefficient and time-consuming process. Fully autonomous mobile robots offer a solution that saves time, optimises space, performs more accurate space forecasting, and improves revenue. Ultimately, a company’s reputation can be enhanced by the adoption of innovative logistics solutions and its provision of complete visibility of inventory operations.