When we think of the future of the supply chain, we may picture autonomous 18-wheelers and other overt symbols of technological advancement. This could save companies money and provide unforeseen benefits to supply chain managers, but the future of supply chain management may be less obvious to the casual observer. How will a little-seen technology like AI, for example, shape the way we oversee the international supply chain?
These industry pros weighed in on this question. Here's what they said:
1. Dan Patt, CEO of Vecna Robotics
“AI is only going to become more and more advanced. AI is still in its infancy. AI will help supply chains become more flexible, easily adaptable and more efficient and productive”
2. Govin Ranganathan, Senior Manager of Logistics at NIO
“With supply chain, factory logistics, and finished goods delivery, technologies such as AI, machine learning and other new technologies could bring disruption & lead innovation. Areas that already have some partial implementation & others that are ripe for these applications include Transportation, Customer experience, Factory Scheduling, Production Planning, Just-in-time supply delivery patterns, big data use for route optimization, etc.”
3. Dr. Madhav Durbha, Group Vice President, Industry Strategy at LLamasoft Supply Chain Management Software
“I am very optimistic! “Citizen data scientists” building AI-powered apps on an enterprise-scale without having to be an expert, are emerging. They take advantage of highly visual digital platforms requiring no code, that tap into open-source algorithms and technology to build apps at an unprecedented speed and scale. Such platforms will reduce the dependency on expert level data scientists for less complex AI problems. As they enter the mainstream, technological barriers to adoption will come down. I am seeing some exciting use cases that one would not even have thought of just a year or two ago!”
4. Richard Lebovitz, President and CEO of LeanDNA
“The future is going to bring even more customization and complexity to the supply chain, accompanied by the need for even more automation and prioritization of information. An inventory action engine—a closed-loop system where inventory recommendations are fed back into ERP systems—is on the horizon. I don’t think the future of supply chain is 100% AI-run, however.
A mistake companies make when bringing AI into their workforce is thinking it will completely take over the work. In reality, AI frees up human brain power so teams can focus on innovating and navigating outlier problems. If AI can solve 80% of inventory issues, the user can navigate the other 20% to give the business a competitive advantage. Because of this, inventory standards will change and company growth will only get faster.”
5. Heather Gadonniex, the VP of Marketing at Samasource
“According to a 2018 branding survey from Edelman, 64 percent of consumers choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. More and more companies are working to ensure ethics and human rights are represented throughout the procurement process.
We’re also seeing international standards-setting bodies, such as ISO, develop criteria for the ‘sharing economy.’ However, it has yet to be determined if these standards will include criteria for those crowdsourcing training data. Additionally, groups like Partnership on AI are exploring conversations that include the Data Worker in discussions surrounding Ethics in AI. Lastly, organizations like the GISC (Global Impact Sourcing Coalition) are advocating for impact sourcing.”
6. Jake Rheude, VP of Marketing at Red Stag Fulfillment
“It's really hard for us to imagine our warehouses without people in them, especially for our niche in ecommerce (we do a lot of unique functions for our clients such as kitting, which I'm not sure can ever be done by a robot). But I think that we're already seeing autonomous vehicles slowly inching into the market, and the day will come when trucking is done by AI.”
7. Trevor Stansbury, founder and CEO of Supply Dynamics
“This who get their “house in order” early and establish a foundation for the application of AI will dominate. It will transform the competitive landscape in most industries.”
8. Oren Zaslansky, CEO of Flock Freight
“Autonomous will come, when is the question and what forms will it take. Closer term, very accurate predictive capability to release vehicle down steam with high confidence of what's ahead in the chain.”
9. Pervinder Johar, CEO of Blume Global
“The future of AI in supply chains is bright — full of potential and productivity. I expect the next phase of AI success will be domain-specific, matching technical capabilities with industry-specific expertise. For example, an effective AI solution for the supply chain would be equipped with extensive and highly-specific data plus highly-technical and specialized human insights. With this combination, AI can deliver recommendations to reduce delays, predict demand, plan capacity and cut costs, enabling companies to reach their goals.”
10. Rajeev Gollarahalli, CBO of 42Q
“The future of AI and supply chain management are going to be intertwined with the expectation that supply chains are completely agile and can move very quickly. A situation like a trade war is an event that organizations cannot control — and having the ability to shift the supply chain from one region to another is going to be critical. Any company that cannot adjust to this new environment is going to struggle. Only technologies like AI will help organizations in the supply chain continue to execute effectively.”
11. Anand Medepalli, Head of Product at Element AI
“Solving mundane problems – but by keeping the human in the loop. AI is seen as this magic bullet, but its benefits also really help in more mundane tasks. For example, on the accounts payable side, looking at invoices and validating against purchase orders and delivered goods is extremely time-consuming. Think about the benefits of using AI to automate all this manual work. By utilizing AI in this capacity, we can then allow the person originally in-charge of this task to create revenue generating work for the organization by automating the mundane tasks that occupied their time.
On the other end of the spectrum, businesses will increasingly rely on edge IoT devices such as cameras and robots to give an accurate real-time picture of inventory. These devices generate a lot of data, which if harnessed provides the right insights to the business, enables better planning but most importantly, manages disruptions during execution of the plans.”
12. William Crane, founder and CEO of IndustryStar
“As with any new technology in its early stages, there will continue to be a wide range of established and startup companies working to solve supply chain problems with AI. As more and more early adopters have success with pilot projects and AI solutions providers hone the right problems to solve for their applications we will experience an uptick in market acceptance.”
13. David Hogg, Vice President of Business Development at Logistyx Technologies
“The creation of supply chain bots continues to evolve beyond the current chatbots commonly used for answering customer service questions. Many AI chatbots have taken on the role of a virtual supply chain analyst/manager supporting the human supply chain team to take action and recommend reviews, a trend that will likely persist as machine learning capabilities continue to advance.”
14. Doug Surrett, Chief Product Strategist at BluJay Solutions
“Advances such as autonomous vehicles and delivery bots are just the beginning of the AI revolution, and we can expect the technology to gain traction across more areas of the supply chain. With time, AI will continue to evolve and eventually learn from human review, inputs and subsequent decisions, opening the door for a multitude of opportunities. Ultimately, the future of AI will help supply chains better streamline logistics creating a more frictionless supply chain that enables companies to better adapt to ever-changing customer needs.”
15. Rajesh Kalidindi, founder and CEO of LevaData
“As supply chain organizations gain confidence from their experiments in AI, we’ll see greater adoption lead to more transformational impacts – particularly around increased agility and sustainable cost or risk management. While a range of AI-enabled solutions may be adopted throughout the supply chain, we believe the biggest gains will be driven by cognitive technologies that improve human decision-making.
In addition to training and hiring enough skilled people to implement AI technologies, greater adoption will require solutions to the data-related issues. A partial solution to the data challenges will likely be a greater willingness among supply chains to share (aggregated and anonymized) data with competitors, creating data “lakes” that all parties can use to generate insights. Logistics has taken the lead in this approach, and its success will likely be a motivator to the broader supply chain.”
16. Paul Trudgian, Supply Chain and Logistics Consultant
“The future role of AI in supply chain management is secure and will deepen further, however, the role of people in the supply chain is less clear. In the future, supply chain professionals need to focus on the management of information flows between machines rather than managing people doing basic, repetitive tasks. There will be a greater requirement for specialist human resources such as data analysts and software engineers. Looking further ahead at operations and technology requires skills that aren’t easily available, and will necessitate a longer-term vision for the future of AI and people in the supply chain.”
17. Kamal Anand, Chief Technology Officer of Bamboo Rose
“In the future, AI will enable the supply chain to be agile. As we have seen in recent months, the industry changes very fast, such as when the tariffs went from 10% to 15% within hours. If a supply chain platform does not possess dynamic AI capabilities, it will not be able to respond to these disruptions in a timely manner.
The supply chain future is data and machine learning. It is easy to make a prediction based on insights garnered from intelligent technology. In the future, AI will synthesize data between all partners so efficiently that changes similar to what are happening now with the trade war will become simple problems to fix.”
18. Ed Clarke, co-founder and Managing Director of Yojee
“I think that we will see AI feed into many aspects of the sector, large and small. The more that IoT brings the billions of moving parts together (vehicles, packages, personnel etc.), and the more we have access to that data, the more that AI will be able to make use of these huge data sets and enable us to run smarter, more efficient businesses, and better anticipate the challenges of this highly complex industry.”
19. Emily Murphy, Editor of Supply Chain Brief
“The future of AI in supply chains means a lot of growth. Not on the part of these systems, but the human supply chain managers currently running the supply chain. The implementation of this technology is not only inevitable, but overall very beneficial to your supply chain. So, managers must adopt this technology and learn to work with it.”
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