How AI Is Poised to Transform Every Element of the End-to-End Supply Chain

It’s a safe bet that AI will be tightly intertwined with virtually all supply chain operations in the coming years.

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IT professionals involved in shaping, implementing, and managing their organization’s supply chain operations are counting on artificial intelligence (AI) to help make those operations more efficient and effective. Just how much they’re expecting from AI became evident in a recent IDG survey of 150 IT professionals across the U.S.

AI clearly topped all emerging technologies: 57% of the respondents said AI would have the greatest impact on their supply chain in the coming two years. That put AI well ahead of data analytics and visualization tools (47%) and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors (46%).

In practice, of course, AI technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, and pattern recognition will often work hand-in-hand with data analytics, IoT, and other technologies. For example, AI is already helping data analytics systems identify trends and other valuable information—information that often is buried in massive volumes of data that comes from many diverse sources, IoT sensors included.

The intersection of AI and the supply chain will be multifaceted and wide-ranging. AI will help manufacturers automate their factories and warehouses by powering robots, managing inventories, and identifying process inefficiencies. It will transform logistics and transportation operations by guiding self-driving vehicles and mapping the least congested, most direct routes. And it will provide critical insights to aid in everything from product demand forecasting to supplier relationship management.

Procurement is among the many supply chain functions in which AI is already having an impact. In a report exploring “intelligent procurement,” Ardent Partners found that AI would likely deliver “game-changing value” across several procurement tasks such as spend analyses, supplier optimization, predictive purchasing, and supply risk management.

In the risk management area, for example, Ardent Partners noted that AI-based programs could automatically collect and analyze internal and external data streams to provide instant “in-context” alerting, reporting, and recommendations for risk avoidance or mitigation. Users could also configure the programs to take precautionary actions such as calling up second- or third-tier suppliers, suggesting alternative transportation routes, or assessing expected market conditions to inform predictive purchasing models.

In a separate in-depth analysis of how AI will impact procurement and the broader supply chain, GEP explains how AI—along with I0T, big data analytics, and other technology advances—are playing central roles in the emergence of “Industry 4.0,” the latest stage in the evolution of digital supply chains.

A large majority of companies—represented by 89% of the IDG survey respondents—have already established supply chain digitization strategies or are in the process of doing so. Given the variety of technologies maturing under the AI umbrella and the collective power and functionality of those technologies, it’s a safe bet that AI will be tightly intertwined with virtually all supply chain operations in the coming years.

Learn how GEP can help you leverage AI and other emerging technologies to digitally transform your procurement and supply chain operations. Visit www.gep.com.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.