Delivering the goods: How AI is helping take NZ products to the world

by Noted / 14 March, 2019
At New Zealand freight company Kotahi, artificial intelligence is helping fit more cargo into fewer ships.

At New Zealand freight company Kotahi, artificial intelligence is helping fit more cargo into fewer ships.

Artificial intelligence is helping take New Zealand products to the world.

Managing shipping container capacity is a huge logistical undertaking, but one that is getting easier thanks to the availability of new artificial intelligence (AI) and business analytics tools.

No one knows that better than Kotahi, an Auckland-based supply chain collaboration specialist that works with over 40 importers, exporters and logistics companies to ensure enough container capacity is available to accommodate billions of dollars of seaborne trade each year.

Precious cargo

Demand forecasting is crucial to the success of Kotahi’s business, particularly as over a third of exports are perishable – our primary sector products are sought after around the globe. But until recently, Kotahi’s forecasting systems for perishable goods were largely manual, revolving around Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and taking up four days or more of staff time each month to process.

A better solution, it turned out, was close at hand. Kotahi was already using the financial reporting tool Exceed Analytics for Microsoft Dynamics 365 from Kiwi tech firm UXC Eclipse. Kotahi’s management team was also familiar with Cortana Intelligence, Microsoft’s fully managed big-data and advanced analytics suite.

Data scientists from Microsoft and UXC Eclipse worked together to build automated demand-forecasting tools that would use Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning platform and operate in the cloud as a reasonably priced subscription service.

New insights

The new system analysed historical data to make predictions about future demand and container capacity requirements.

“Forecasting is a challenge for most primary industry exporters, impacted not only by changing markets but variables like climate and food system complexities. Being able to forecast at a weekly level, on their destination and container type, in order to secure the capacity on weekly service ships is not easy. This is where AI technology has a role to play,” says Kotahi’s Chief Executive Officer, David Ross.

scout

The results were nearly instant. The four days of employee time each month devoted to manual forecasts shrank to 30 minutes, with a much more straightforward workflow that uses Microsoft’s Power BI dashboards to more readily put business intelligence tools in the hands of decision makers.

Most importantly, the accuracy of Kotahi’s forecasts jumped from 80 per cent to over 90 per cent. The resulting supply chain efficiencies are now saving Kotahi and its clients more than $1million from detention cost minimisation, airfreight savings and improved capacity utilisation.

Shipping logistics is just one industry being transformed through the use of Microsoft’s cloud-based AI and analytics tools.

AI innovation

For Kotahi, its new AI-driven forecasting system is just the beginning.

Ross and his team are testing a prototype of a cargo tracking map based on a number of Microsoft products which will allow Kotahi and its clients to track and trace cargo movements around the world in real-time. AI isn’t a silver bullet for all business problems, but with the right approach, Microsoft’s offerings can help everyone achieve more.

See here to read other interesting stories from Microsoft partners in the world of AI.

Latest

How to enhance your dining experience – with water
103174 2019-03-22 00:00:00Z Dining

How to enhance your dining experience – with water…

by Metro

A stunning dining experience isn’t just about food and wine. Water plays a big part too.

Read more
Facebook won't give up its insidious practices without a fight
103856 2019-03-22 00:00:00Z Tech

Facebook won't give up its insidious practices wit…

by Peter Griffin

Facebook came under fire for its response to the live-streaming of the Christchurch terror attack, but it's digital nudging that's also concerning.

Read more
In photos: The world unites in solidarity with Christchurch
103800 2019-03-21 15:36:46Z World

In photos: The world unites in solidarity with Chr…

by Lauren Buckeridge

Countries around the world have put on a show of solidarity for the victims of the Christchurch terror attack.

Read more
The tangled path to terrorism
103777 2019-03-21 09:59:55Z Psychology

The tangled path to terrorism

by Marc Wilson

The path that leads people to commit atrocities such as that in Christchurch is twisting and unpredictable, but the journey often begins in childhood.

Read more
If 'This is not New Zealand', let us show it
103768 2019-03-21 09:31:27Z Social issues

If 'This is not New Zealand', let us show it

by The Listener

The little signs among the banks of flowers said, “This is not New Zealand.” They meant, “We thought we were better than this.” We were wrong.

Read more
Extremism is not a mental illness
103785 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Crime

Extremism is not a mental illness

by The Mental Health Foundation of NZ

Shooting people is not a symptom of a mental illness. White supremacy is not a mental illness.

Read more
PM announces ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles
103805 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Crime

PM announces ban on all military-style semi-automa…

by RNZ

Ms Ardern pledged the day after the terrorist massacre that "gun laws will change" and would be announced within 10 days of the attack.

Read more
No mention of right-wing extremist threats in 10 years of GCSB & SIS public docs
103770 2019-03-21 00:00:00Z Politics

No mention of right-wing extremist threats in 10 y…

by Jane Patterson

There is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of security agency documents.

Read more