Ep 18: What Happens When AI and Supply Chains Collide?


Episode Categories:


Are humanoid robots coming for us to do our work? That's one of the things that we're going to be talking about today. Today on Everyday AI, the live stream podcast and daily newsletter where we help everyday people like you and me not just understand what's going on in the world of AI, but how to actually use it. Today very special guest, we have Jim Shaw, the president and co founder of Zion Solutions Group. Jim, thank you for joining us.

Jim [00:00:48]:

Thanks for having me, Jordan. Appreciate it, looking forward to it. Absolutely.

Jordan [00:00:52]:

I can't wait to talk about humanoid robots. Are they coming for us? But first, we wanted to run down just some of the biggest news that's happening today in AI. As a reminder, you can go to your Everydayai.com, sign up for the newsletter. We're going to have all the things we're talking about with Jim in there, as well as a ton of other news that we don't have time to get to. But first, Metai kind of announced that they're going fully open source with some of their AI technology. So here's what that means. A lot of companies, Google, Microsoft, they keep their AI closed and in house because they say it can be dangerous if you open it up to everyone. So Meta is opening it up to everyone. Jim, what do you think? Is this going to have an impact or is it not really going to kind of affect our day to day lives, do you think?

Tech Giants' Strategies: Open vs Closed Source

Jim [00:01:38]:

I think it's too early to tell, and I'm certainly not a coder, so I probably share that with other people. But I think back to when Microsoft, you can go in and develop and yet you think Apple has always been closed source in how they handled their operating, their OS software. Maybe Mark thinks it's going to give him an advantage because he's late to the game. I don't know, but I'm not educated enough to give anything more than it's interesting. And I would say there's some business going on behind it for it.

Jordan [00:02:13]:

Especially when you say, oh, we're going open, it sounds like, oh, it's for the people. But it's like, you're right, Jim. There's money there somewhere. There always is, right?

Harnessing AI's Power for Human Advancement

So the second one, I think there's a lot of applications for this, but a new study showed that AI is able to better predict and sooner predict signs of pancreatic cancer. So a new study analyzed medical records of 9 million people, and what it showed was this kind of AI technology was able to identify risks up to three years before diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Jim, what are your thoughts on this?

Jim [00:02:52]:

I think this is one of the beauties of how do you harness the power of AI and what can it do good for humans in the human race? And just this is a little near and dear. I was telling you my grandmother passed away several years ago and she had pancreatic cancer. Could it have helped? But as a human race, this is one of the great benefits that we can harness and use. And how do you put AI to good use? Yeah, so I think that's absolutely amazing because we've got a lot of disease and cancer is one. It's astounding to me that we still have not figured it out. And you wonder why that is. Is it because we can't? Or is it back to another business question? But if it saves one human, then, hey, AI is worth it, right? Sure. I think that's awesome.

Jordan [00:03:41]:

Sure. I think, yeah. So much of the attention with AI is over optimizing our business and getting squeezing even more dollars out of the bottom line. But there is so much hope in this technology for applications in medical and education and so many other things. So it's always exciting to see when that's happening.

Surprising Revelation: Company Fully Integrates AI Technology

So one other thing, speaking of keeping up with what's happening, a new fully AI PR firm is now officially launched. It's called easy news wire. So we'll see how that goes. So it's a PR tech company that they're just using AI to write price releases. So I'm guessing it's going to be putting out kind of press PR news out in bulk, but they're trying to make it simpler and just cheaper with kind of breakthrough technology. Jim, do you think this is a good thing, a bad thing or something that is not really going to affect most of us?

Jim [00:04:39]:

I don't know. I'm kind of surprised that they're the first one or are they just the first one to say to give a press release, not to play on the pun, but are they the first press release to say that they're doing that and the others are already doing it in some capacity? But I would think that's a natural fit. As we get into later. One of the things I think marketing and AI, when it first hit back last year, that was what all the work everybody got worried about, okay, is this going to eliminate marketing? Is this going to reduce people's jobs? It seems like a natural fit to take and digest large amounts of data and volume and information and then use it that way. So, yeah, I'm not surprised that it seems like to be a natural fit. I'm surprised it's the first one that said they're actually fully AI.

Jordan [00:05:29]:

Yeah. And we've talked about this on the show a couple of times. Kind of started with BuzzFeed laying off their entire news staff. We talked about CNET wanting to unionize because of AI. So I do think yeah, a lot of whether you're talking about journalism, news media, I do think that we're going to continue to see a lot of this, just more AI and maybe fewer humans. But we'll see.

Robotics and Humanoids: The Future of Warehouses

Speaking of AI and humans, humanoids robots coming to everywhere near us. Jim, this gets into your background. So very interested to hear your thoughts on this. So there's a couple of different companies that are working on some of these kind of humanoid robots to kind of assist in the workplace, whatever that means. The newest one that was kind of unveiled kind of in the last 24 hours here. So a Vancouver based robotics company called Sanctuary AI unveiled their Phoenix robot. We will link the video in the newsletter today. If you haven't seen any of these robots like the Tesla robot, there's plenty of others. It is wild. Boston Dynamics is another one. It's wild to watch them, but they're hoping to usher in what they call labor as a service. Jim, what's your thought on not just this Phoenix robot unveiling, but just this kind of robotics as a service kind of wave that may or may not be coming?

Jim [00:06:59]:

Well, I think since the Pandemic, so this is near and dear to what I do every single day. We build systems. I know we'll probably get to this, but we build systems, material handling systems for companies and customers. And today that system is conveyor. Sometimes it's racking, sometimes it's storage platforms. And that's really where the industry was for several, let's call it, decades. There's been advancements, there's been speed. But with the Pandemic, you saw this transition to robotics and technologies. And so it's robotics as a service. And I absolutely think humanoids are going to be part of our warehouses in the future.

As a matter of fact, one of the things that we do is I partner with other companies and I distribute their products. And so we put together solutions, creative solutions for customers. And so I use other people's products to do that. I don't manufacturing things, so I get the best of class and everything. I can go out and be partnered within reason with several different partners, overusing partners there. But we actually are already investigating. I've been in the room with two of these companies. They're calling them general purpose robots. We're trying to solve what problems do they solve. And there's a hardware piece to them that's an extremely complex problem. But these companies have some of the brightest people that you can imagine from some of the companies that I won't name drop.

But when I heard one of the companies I was in the room with out in Silicon Valley not too long ago, and the team that they've assembled, it's like the Who's Who of tech. And they've got some really intelligent people solving the mechanical problem that ultimately will solve software and how much AI is in this robot, in this general purpose robot. But they're going to be in the warehouse there's already.

We have our major trade show for most people probably don't know, but for material handling industry, one of the major trade shows is a show called ProMat. It's in Chicago. It alternates with Modex, which is in Atlanta. But they had their largest crowd ever this year, and a company was there that is a humanoid. And I'm going to not drop names because I got a couple of partners here, but they had a humanoid that was working, that was live, that had in their booth. It was moving totes off of a storage device onto a material handling piece of conveyor.

So it's coming. And it's not an easy problem to hear these people talk and to ask, how are you going to solve this? So it's complex, but they're coming now, how far, how close they are. I think everybody's trying to get first in saying, watch my robot walk, watch my video, watch my render. And I think that's what Sanctuary had. It was a really neat video if you watch it. But I'm going to get super excited when I see it in the warehouse. Jordan and I see it actually doing something outside of a sterile test case to where everything's in a controlled environment, I guess, is a better way to put it.

Jordan [00:10:02]:

Yeah, sure, yeah. And you talked about ProMat. I actually have a good friend who was at that conference. I saw the video. We'll link it in the newsletter as well. But how long do you think it is until kind of what you said, yeah, we've seen these videos. It's a lot of promotion and marketing. But how long until we go from that to your everyday, whether it's logistics, supply chain, how long until it's commonplace? I mean, are we talking months, years?

The Rise of General Purpose Robots in Warehousing

Jim [00:10:36]:

I think it's hard to say. I think you will see them in the warehouses in the next, let's call it, there's aspirations to be in the warehouses in 2024. There's some that are already in warehousing, doing proof of concepts. I think by the 30s there is an aspiration to be these on a larger mass scale. And I was talking with one of the guys at one of these companies, actually, earlier this week, and the conversation was it's interesting. If you ever look up, look at the history when the steamship was invented and look at the time it took for it to replace all the traditional selling vessels. And there's a whole lot of dynamics that have to go in place.

It's similar to Tesla and the electric vehicles right now. There's a whole infrastructure that has to be built. There's whole software. I think you're going to start small, and I think we'll see that over the balance of this decade. But I think in the 30s you're going to see if we can solve the problem and if we can work together and if it's handled ethically and morally and responsibly. I think you'll see these in places that humans just a lot of chatter.

Jordan I know, I'm talking a lot about this, but passionate about this one is a lot of chatters. Like these robots are coming to take human jobs. And that's certainly not the case of the partners that I'm working with. These robots are there to fill voids. They're there to complement jobs that as one guy in the industry, his name is Aaron Prater. He's kind of a voice of AI and robotics and technology there to do jobs that are dull, dangerous and dirty. So there's jobs that humans are really good at.

And I've got a little blurb on this. I had wrote down free show to think on my thought so I could talk intelligently about it. But you want people where people are making decisions. You want people where they're using our best asset. We can learn and adapt so quick. Robots don't do that well. And as AI comes on, that capacity is going to speed up, but it's not there yet.

And you want humans doing jobs that they have to think strategically and they have to learn and just you want more of the general purpose robots doing jobs that just aren't fun. Unloading a truck. Who wants to sit in a truck in July in the south, which is where I'm from because you can tell my accent at 100 degrees outside, 90% humidity and unload 1000 boxes. And then your reward for doing that, you got four of those trucks a day you got to unload. So if you can solve that problem and put a human in a better environment that's doing more strategic thinking, using our best asset, which is learning and adapting, that's where it's at. Sure.

Jordan [00:13:16]:

So when you think of even what Amazon has done in terms of AI and optimizing kind of their logistics and warehousing supply chain, when you combine that with kind of what we're talking about here, these humanoid robots doing the doll dirty and dangerous, when we look 510 years into the future again, I never ask guests to look into their crystal ball. But I mean, what does this mean, do you think, for your industry and related industries in general, are there going to be fewer jobs there or are there just going to be more jobs kind of more on the tech side to supplement and complement kind of where the industry may be going?

Robotics to Supplement Labor: Exploring the Benefits

Jim [00:14:04]:

Yeah, I'm a person that looks at the positive and the optimistic side of life. So my viewpoint, the lens that I look at it from is that this is just going to supplement labor. And we know there's I think there's a stat, somebody can correct me if I'm wrong, but there's a job shortfall expected and forecast like 10 million people. And some of these companies, you can't get the people in to do the jobs. That's why this technology is taking so long to get to us.

But I don't feel like I think you're going to see them in hospitality I think you're going to see them in healthcare and Senior services. I know you're going to see them in the warehouses. It's just a matter of how advanced do they get beyond general? And I don't know that answer sitting here today.

 I had chosen one of the things I've asked Jordan, I think I told you this is so I go and talk to high school students, and one of the things I try to explain what we do to the everyday person, like your show is like, what do you do? And I said, Well, I build stuff. I'm like a general contractor of a warehouse. We get a set of Legos. All of us had the same set of Legos, but I build cooler, Lego designs and some other companies. And that's what we do. It's creativity, how we put the Legos together. But we all had the same component, so that's what we do. And I've asked these students, when I tell them about humanoids and where the robots and technology are going, I'm like, does it freak you out a little bit?

Because it freaks me out a little bit. But I choose to be part of solving the problem instead of sitting back and watching other people solve the problem. So I'm optimistic that it's going to be good. I'm optimistic that it's going to help us.

Jordan [00:15:39]:

That's good. I think we need a balance, right? We need the people who are pushing it and not necessarily being pessimistic, but we need people who are pushing the innovation, but then we also need a healthy dose of optimism. So thanks for that. So, real quick, Jim, as we kind of wrap up on the show, we kind of talked about humanoids and robots in kind of the industry supply chain, logistics warehousing, but outside of kind of the humanoid warehousing. Real quick, where do you see or how do you see AI impacting your industry?

AI's Role in Marketing and Business Development

Jim [00:16:15]:

Yeah, I think we're going to see it in marketing. I think you're going to see it in how we're looking at competitor analysis, business development, certainly large language models. I think that's right, if I got that right, LLMs are going to help with data. We have huge amounts of data that we have to distill and analyze and ultimately turn into solutions and designs.

And then there's predictive ability outside of it. So predictive analysis, you think we do simulations, we do CAD drawings. We do a bunch of contract work and terms and conditions and functional design documents for software implementation schedules. We do testing on everything once we built it, user acceptance testing. So all those areas are places that I think as AI advances, that we're going to be able to use it. And I had somebody say this the other day, I'll end with this on how we're looking at it.

Jordan, certainly we're moving towards AI. We're looking at it because we're kind of a future. We are always looking ahead. That's part of what Zion does, is we're looking ahead, what's 3510 years down the road look like? How do we best serve our customers? But I think a lot in our industry are moving towards AI and exploring it, researching it, but it's not a stampede. We're not rushing into it. We're cautiously walking into it and saying, well, where can it help? And let's try it out.

So I'm excited about it. It's a little overwhelming. I'm sure other people like, every day you see something like, here's the 100 greatest AI plugins, and last night I saw Chat GPT did a bunch of plugins and they're going to change our life. And I'm like, it's just too much. It's overload. Sometimes.

Jordan [00:17:57]:

That's really why this kind of show even exists, right? Because, like what you said, Jim, every day there's so many new breakthroughs that can actually change how you do business, but you do have to take it slowly, cautiously and optimistically.

So, Jim, thank you again for bringing that optimism and looking into the future and helping us. I've personally just been wanting to talk to someone who can tell me more about these humanoid robots. So thank you for doing that. And thank you so much for joining the show today.

Jim [00:18:24]:

Yeah, you're welcome. Thanks for having me. All right. Perfect.

Jordan [00:18:27]:

So thank you for tuning in. Whether you watch live, listening to the podcast, or signed up for the newsletter, please check out your everyday Ai.com. We're going to have a lot more from the conversation that we talked with Jim about in the newsletter. So we hope to see you tomorrow and every day at Everyday AI. Thanks.

Gain Extra Insights With Our Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter to get more in-depth content on AI