Transport giant picks up Google Cloud AI to aid package delivery, tracking

When an exec asked for help tackling supply-chain woes, were they told to 'just Google it' or what?

Even in the waning days of the pandemic, extended lead times and delayed packages are an inescapable reality. Logistics giant XPO this week picked Google Cloud to try to change that.

XPO is among the largest freight-transport brokers with more than 42,000 employees operating in 731 global locations. In a collaborative effort with Google, the company plans to deploy workloads on Google Cloud Platforms’s (GCP) AI/ML and data analytics platforms to mitigate supply-chain disruptions and improve package delivery and tracking services.

“We’re bringing out innovative AI/ML and data analytics solutions to XPO to help it transform supply chain management, ensure its deliveries are on time, and give its customers an accurate, up-to-date view on the location of their freight," Hans Thalbauer, managing director for global supply chain logistics at Google Cloud, said in a statement Monday.

Supply chain challenges are by no means unique to XPO. In the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns — yes, those are still a thing — and more recently the war in Ukraine, supply chains for everything from raw materials and high-tech components to global shipping has been thrown out of whack.

XPO hopes to sidestep many of these challenges using several GCP services, including its Vertex AI Workbench.

Introduced late last year, the platform provides a single dashboard for data scientists to deploy machine learning models, ingest data, and analyze the results. XPO plans to use the service to develop new algorithms to optimize its supply chain, while also improving its existing load-matching and pricing models.

In addition to Vertex AI, the company also plans to deploy workloads on GCP’s BigQuery data warehousing and Looker data analytics platforms to improve network planning, tracking, and to identify potential disruptions that would otherwise result in delays.

Collectively, the company says these developments help it optimize route, lane assignments, and reduce the number of empty miles driven by its trucking and delivery fleet.

In addition to modernizing its supply chain software tools, XPO also touts the deal as a means to reduce its not inconsiderable carbon footprint.

As part of Google’s lofty sustainability goals, the cloud provider offsets 100 percent of the electricity consumed by its datacenters with carbon-free energy. By moving its workloads from on-prem datacenters and colocation facilities, XPO says it’s actively reducing its impact on the climate. ®

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