How AI will revolutionize inventory management

AI is already optimizing every stage of inventory management and supply chains for early adopters. Here’s how your organization can get started.

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Walmart watches the weather to decide what food is going to sell better. Predictions powered an 18 percent increase in sales by having more steaks in stock when it’s warm, dry, cloudy and windy, and beefing up burgers when it’s hotter and less windy. High temperatures with a light breeze sell more salads; clear sunny days sell more berries. But you don’t have to be a retail giant to use AI to improve your supply chain.

Predictive analytics and remote sensors tell distributors when a fridge needs restocking with soda or a coffee vending machine needs topping up (avoiding the fine that Mars Drinks levies when a product is out of stock). Lakeba’s Shelfie robots will soon cruise the aisle at UK supermarket Co-op using image recognition to detect when products are sold out or shelved in the wrong place.

An online fashion retailer who deals with hundreds of suppliers uses image recognition apps on smartphones to check exactly which style of blue dress arrived in a shipment so they know what’s in stock.

On the other hand, Jet.com is very keen to know what’s not in stock, Director of Engineering Scott Havens told CIO.com. “Suppliers might say they have ten items in stock but they only have eight,” which leads to unhappy customers who can’t place an order when they expected to, he says. If an item isn’t in stock, Havens doesn’t want the site to even show up in a search. “In terms of customer experience, not talking to a customer is better than talking to them and disappointing them.”

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