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In the past decade, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come out as something that people use almost every day without even realizing it. Apart from powering a huge number of applications and other digital devices, this technology stands to benefit all industries including supply chain. In fact, many companies have already started benefiting from investing in AI. A report by State of Artificial Intelligence for Enterprises shows that supply chain is one of those areas which will significantly benefit from AI. On the other hand, PwC states that AI could inject up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

If correctly implemented, artificial intelligence can allow impeccable agility and precision in the supply chain in any industry. It also has a potential of enhancing efficiency while reducing costs since repetitive tasks can be automated. Many applications of AI in supply chain management such as automated-guided vehicles, driverless carts and AI robots ease delivery of services surpassing the capacity of humans in handling huge workloads. And large volumes of data generated in the supply chain can be handled with the help of AI bots. This technology through machine learning can be used in the analysis and tracking of data, detecting anomalies, cleaning data and making predictions. Interactive chatbots can also be deployed to interact with people therefore significantly reducing the cost of operations. Natural Language Processing (NLP) reduces the impact of language barriers which enhances customer relations allowing seamless interaction between customer and the supplier.

AI allows advanced intelligence offering knowledge needed to reduce costs of operations and inventory. It also enhances how companies respond to clients. For instance, the adoption of machine learning and other AI technologies enhances intelligence gathering, logistics management and collaboration as well as supply chain management. Other technologies that can benefit include intelligent robotic sorting which eases sorting of shipments, and AI-powered inspectors that visually inspect cargo by taking pictures to identify damages and recommend corrective actions.

AI offers unmatched insights of performance of supply chain management. This helps to determine the factors that inhibit performance. It combines a range of powerful capabilities that include supervised, reinforced and unsupervised learning which are useful in identifying problems that affect the performance of the supply chain. For instance, supervised learning can help companies detect and identify fraud by making accurate predictions. On the other hand, reinforcement learning facilitates real-time decision making by supplying the necessary data.

For every supply chain professional, collection and analysis of data is one big challenge which can be riddled with uncertainty. Without the right tools for collection and analysis of data, forecasting would be hectic and so will decision making. AI can help because results can be improved with the help of accurate tracking and measuring of factors which are required for the improvement of forecasting. With real-time sales forecasting, warehouse management can be  enhanced which leads to better results from quality decisions. Similarly, supplier selection is a challenging area which can significantly affect the reputation of a company. However, AI aided analysis of supplier-related data such as timely delivery performance and credit score among others improves selection decisions and customer service. Lastly, the relationships between logistics providers and customers are enhanced by AI which personalizes their interaction. For instance, AI powered systems such as Alexa can be queried to find out the exact location of a shipment or ask for customer assistance from the company in case of a problem.

The future is bright for supply chain managers and companies that are willing to invest in AI. With the right artificial intelligence solutions in place, a company can outpace its competitors and reap rewards.

Last modified on Tuesday, 02 April 2019
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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

Find his portfolio here and his personal bio here

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