In the last few years, artificial intelligence (AI) has played an important role in reshaping supply chain norms and standards. Soon, businesses will be required to implement machine learning technologies if they want to remain competitive. At the turn of the century, when machine learning first entered the business world, very few organizations were able to integrate AI into their processes. Even today, it is less common than one may think; only a fifth of organizations have implemented AI into two or more practice areas of the business. But AI trends show that they will play even bigger roles in future years. When we consider the supply chain, there are five specific areas in which AI has made its mark.
Forecasting customer needs and supplier shortages is easily done with machine learning. By collecting and manipulating large swaths of data, AI can – in real time – optimize ordering. Instead of reviewing consumer demand every month or every quarter and adjusting the ordering algorithms manually, AI can review trends every single day. It can even collate the information by region or by point-of-sale to truly understand demand.
Warehouse robots are beginning to replace low-skilled labor positions, which saves warehouses time and money and improves safety records. AI can also inform management when equipment needs to be repaired, and it can schedule routine maintenance during a machine’s low-capacity hours. As all parts of the supply chain adopt AI technologies, the need for supply chain managers will increase, but their jobs will shift. Instead of managing human workers, they will be tasked with managing AI systems.
AI technologies can improve client-supplier relationships by keeping all parties in constant communication. The entire supply chain, from supplier to purchaser, will always know where the product is. Delays can be communicated instantly, and delivery estimates can be updated as new information surfaces. The supplier-consumer relationship will also improve as ordering becomes more efficient. If inventory drops below a certain level, AI can automatically order more from the supplier. AI can also help select the supplier with the cheapest offerings, strongest credit rating, fastest shipping, most reliable delivery, or whatever other factors the purchaser cares about.
Driverless car technology is improving every single day, and once it is perfected, shipping will become much more efficient. Shipping times will decrease without the need for driving time limits, and businesses will save money on background checks and health check-ups on their drivers. Even without driverless technology, the shipping process benefits from machine learning technologies. AI can take weather and road conditions into account to better estimate shipping. It can also optimize delivery schedules. Our technology can tell us what products are best shipped together and what the optimal delivery route should be.
If used correctly, AI will not degrade the human connection between customers and suppliers; it will enhance it. AI can provide customers with a more enjoyable purchasing experience. It may be able to:
- Offer on-demand tracking by integrating voice-based services like Alexa or Siri;
- Provide quick redirects to a customer service agent when there is an issue; or,
- Use chatbots to improve the customer experience while on hold.
It’s true that many human functions will be replaced by machines, but old-fashioned human connections will persist.
Artificial intelligence opens the door to new opportunities to improve service, enhance revenue and create a better customer experience. When implementing AI into the process there is an increased need for data security and IT protections. If you have questions about the impact that AI is having on the supply chain or need assistance with a tax or audit issue, Barnes Dennig can help! For additional information call us at 513-241-8313 or click here to contact us. We look forward to speaking with you soon.