For transportation practitioners who worry that advancements in TMS software will ultimately render their jobs obsolete, we offer the following bit of reassurance that this is simply not the case.
Recently, Google announced a surprising new offering. The new Google “Helpouts” product connects people with questions to real, live people with the expertise to answer the questions posed. You may ask, “Isn’t Google’s core search engine product supposed to deliver answers to any questions you may have?” In a report on this counterintuitive offering, the New York Times characterized this new release as “an acknowledgement by the company that its search engine misses a lot of information that people want.” CNBC also has an interesting article about the implications here. As Google tacitly admits with this new product, a powerful algorithm alone can only yield so much by way of results. It is the experience and perspective of the human mind that simply cannot be replaced by a computer, no matter how many millions of discrete calculations it may be able to perform per second.
When it comes to TMS software the human mind still beats a computer in routing. Organizations that believe they can fully automate the entirety of the transportation management process (and do away with transportation personnel) are bound to find the limitations of a machine-only approach. This concept undervalues real world transportation experience and knowledge of an organization’s unique transportation network and customers. Here are three examples of instances where the human mind cannot be easily replaced with an algorithm (but used together with a TMS, can provide superior results):
- Data Changes – Data at most companies are imperfect. Even the best companies have master data records that are in need of update such as product masters (dimensions and weights), customer delivery windows, etc. A human mind will realize that a particular data set is outdated and act accordingly. A computer will simply execute using what may well be bad data.
- Personal Relationship Management – Unlike their silicon counterparts, a human gets to know customers’ unique preferences, goals and needs. The knowledge gained from a one-on-one debriefing with a sales team after a customer visit can’t always be programmed into a database.
- Common Sense – Separating the practical from the impractical between planned versus actual movements almost always requires a human touch. It is for this same reason that self-driven or robotic OTR trucking isn’t a reality…yet (Google is rumored to be working on driverless vehicles as we speak). Yet, common sense plays a large role in rendering snap decisions that simply have not yet been successfully replicated by machines. Machines just can’t make judgment calls based on experience.
So clearly, the human mind and the computer brain both have their inherent strengths and weaknesses. Put them together and you get a supremely powerful result. A great routing tool can take a seasoned transportation employee and turn him or her into a routing and optimization superhero. Everyone has a finite amount of time each day. An optimizer’s speed and efficiency makes the most out of that time; allowing users to run and re-run the optimization, receive changes and re-optimize. Liberated by the newfound efficiency enabled by a TMS software solution, the transportation manager will have the time to do strategic modeling and to run “what-if” scenarios, looking for large savings in the network.
So don’t worry that technology is going to push you out of a job. Learn how to embrace it and leverage it to your maximum benefit!
The three above examples of jobs not easily automated just a few that came to mind quickly for us. Feel free to share in the comments any particular tasks or challenges you may find better addressed by the human mind.