Millions of tons of cargo
When it comes to priority cargo, air is the fastest way to get items from point A to B. A group of Army specialists known as the Army Airlift Clearance Authority (AACA), helps determine whether and when shipping via air makes the most sense. AACA’s mission is to make sure the highest priority items, such as engines and transmissions, get sent via air efficiently and effectively.
If the cargo meets key business rules and criteria, AACA clears the cargo for air transportation. If not, AACA staff will challenge the air cargo request and contact the shipper or customer to determine urgency of need and required delivery date. If AACA determines that the cargo request does not meet the business rules, it will divert the cargo to less costly modes of transportation, such as truck or cargo vessel.
In 2016, AACA received approximately 260,000 requests for air travel, requiring substantial time and labor hours to evaluate and meet these high-priority demands. In addition, AACA didn’t receive about 55,000 additional requests that therefore did not get processed.
To help speed the AACA’s ability to process requests, the Army invested in a three-week pilot using IBM’s Watson AI services. AACA wanted to determine whether it could find less costly transportation--such as ground or sea--instead of costlier air transportation. The data was comprised mostly of structured data, such as Excel spreadsheets and tables, which meant very little time was spent preparing the data. The real challenge was developing an understanding of the AACA business process and replicating that process in IBM’s AI model. Once the model was constructed, testing data samples were applied to validate the model’s sequence and output.