Tag Archives: visibility

Streamlining Your Supply Chain With AI

How can AI help supply chain professionals streamline their processes and improve visibility?

By Chakarin Wattanamongkol / Shutterstock

Did you ever manage to find out what happened when one of your shipping containers went missing? Are you able to recover your products in time?

Many global companies are struggling with this in an ever-changing, digitised world where there is an increasing demand for transparency and visibility. Consumer satisfaction is being tested by speed of delivery, and as a result, accuracy in your supply chain is essential. Supply chain professionals must find ways to deconstruct the barriers in their organisation’s communications, improving visibility, for example, between a supplier in the North and customers in the West.

AI (artificial or augmented intelligence) technology can keep a constant overwatch on your supply chain looking for signs of trouble and alerting you early granting extra time to solve the really damaging issues, such as an impending weather event likely to close a vital port.

In supply chain management, people often work in silos: detached, isolated, and often far removed from the decisions being made in the C-suite or within other functions of the business. This leads to an unnecessarily complex chain of communication that is difficult to untangle when something goes wrong. Imagine if, in the future, all the elements making up your supply chain could be connected into a fully transparent process where internal barriers are broken down.

When you improve visibility across your network you can gain wider insights into your customer demand and be better prepared if things fail to go to plan. For example, if the demand for your product is outselling your current supply you need to communicate with the supplier to increase the stock in order to maintain your profit margins. Instead of an arduous trawl through past invoices, imagine a service that simplifies this, increasing your customer satisfaction by offering accurate and guaranteed product and shipping information.

In addition, by using AI-enabled orchestration your analysis of total costs and value is more precise and time effective, allowing you more time to concentrate your energy on satisfying customer engagement. This ensures the greatest level of accuracy giving you an overview of your products’ end-to-end supply chain journey.  Supply chain professionals will be able to look beyond their network itself and review potential impacts from other areas, such as weather, news, and transport conditions. As your process evolves and becomes more efficient real-time product guarantees, such as same-day delivery, become the norm instead of an anomaly.

As your supply chain becomes more transparent, it furthers the opportunity to increase business results as the time previously spent on administrative tasks can be refocused.

A real-world example that could benefit from this style of operation is the supply chain in the run up to a major sporting event, such as the Rugby World Cup later this year. Supplier A of miniature replica rugby balls needs to ensure these products are well stocked in their customers’ stores two months prior to the start of the tournament. Unfortunately, due to the extreme weather conditions currently hitting America, Supplier A’s usual plastic provider cannot deliver on this order. By making the supply chain more transparent and with the help of AI, this blocker is flagged early in the system before any time delay arises and Supplier A opts for a European plastic provider instead. The issue is managed successfully and in good time. As a result, the quick response enables Supplier A to meet their quota with their retailers, guaranteeing delivery in time before the start of the event, at a lower cost than if they’d spotted the issue later. Supplier A and their retail customers will not be pipped-to-the-post by competitors.

Now let’s consider the situation when Supplier A’s sellers have spotted that the market for their miniature replica rugby balls is projected to be a lot smaller than at first thought. In many organisations, the supply chain team might go to extreme efforts to get the product’s problem sorted, while the sales department is shifting away from selling the product: an exemplar of common miscommunication resulting in delays and increased costs. Up-to-the-minute communication and feedback from the supply chain right the way through to the consumer provides the correct knowledge to facilitate informed decisions. This enables flagship products to be given first priority, as opposed to products that can get away with a delay of a few weeks.

The efficiency illustrated in the example above highlights how supply chain isolation no longer needs to have a detrimental effect on business results because the internal organisational silos have been broken down. Instead, a more transparent system acts as the catalyst for even greater customer satisfaction. Not only does this positively influence Supplier A and their retailers but, most importantly, the fans’ experience of the Rugby World Cup will be that little bit brighter.

In summary, by increasing visibility across communication channels it furthers delivery accuracy, time efficiency, and business results. All of which can contribute to providing your customer with the very best service you can offer.

IBM Watson are sponsoring Procurious’ London CPO roundtable on 13th February. To request an invitation contact Olga Luscombe. 

If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain needs.



A New Role Emerges: Supply Chain Scrutinisers

Any increase in transparency is good news for the supply management profession. That’s why the rise of the 3rd-party Supply Chain Analyst is a development that the profession should welcome, rather than fear.

How many articles have you read about Apple’s supply chain? Dozens, no doubt. Tesla’s is similarly scrutinised, along with McDonald’s, Walmart’s and a handful of other household names.

The reason for the growing popularity of this news is twofold.

Firstly, increased transparency in reporting means that researchers have a lot more to work with. For example, a recent Forbes article from Jonathan Webb reports that recent legal changes in Taiwanese corporate law means analysts can now take advantage of mandated monthly earning reports.

Secondly, corporate supply chains are finally being recognised as a key factor that contribute to commercial advantage – such as risk levels and speed-to-market – or commercial disadvantage. As such, top analyst firms such as Bloomberg now employ supply chain research experts whose insights can affect a companies’ share price just as dramatically as a surprising result in a quarterly earnings report.

What does the role look like?

Here’s an example of a supply chain analyst role currently being advertised with Bloomberg:

https://careers.bloomberg.com/job/detail/62154

The role calls for someone who is capable of “researching and analysing business relationships on over 23,000 companies globally, “providing a roadmap for clients to view supplier and customer relationship networks, helping them identify and manage supply chain risk and generate investment ideas”.

The researcher is expected to interact with analysts, fundamental and quantitative portfolio managers and news agencies. In other words, the data uncovered by a supply chain analyst is much-anticipated and eagerly consumed. Gartner’s annual Supply Chain Top 25 Rankings, for example, make a splash not just within the supply management profession but within investment circles too:

Cleaning up the supply chain

Valuation and investment insights aside, another major role of supply chain analysts is to uncover malpractice such as human rights abuses, corruption, and environmental breaches. The biography of the aforementioned Forbes contributor, Jonathan Webb, says it all:

“I’m focused here on the murky world of supply chain corruption, looking at commercial bribery, supplier compliance and other nefarious goings on in the supply chain.”

And this is where the really interesting part of the supply chain analyst’s role begins. Once the domain of investigative journalists, supply chain malpractice is now being uncovered by experts who travel to hotspots to reveal and report on issues ranging from conflict minerals in the Congo, sweatshops in Bangladesh, and toxic waste in China.

Again, the big-brand household names are those that come under the most scrutiny for supply chain sustainability and human rights abuses, with subsectors such as clothing manufacturers and chocolate makers receiving the highest level of focus. Reporters and political enemies of Ivanka Trump, for example, continue to probe her clothing brand’s supply chain as a likely area of weakness. In response, the company has apparently made public information harder to find than ever.

What does this mean for the next generation of procurement pros?

The emergence of the supply chain research analyst opens up a new career path for procurement and supply management professionals. If you’re currently working as a data analyst for a single organisation’s supply chain, in the future you may consider scaling up your role to pull trends and insights from the supply chains of tens of thousands of organisations.

In other procurement news this week…

Procurement Fraud Is Costing NHS

  • The NHS Counter Fraud Agency (NHSCFA), launched 1st November, has estimated all types of fraud cost the health service a total of £1.25bn, with procurement fraud the second largest contributor after patient fraud
  • One of its aims is to identify problem areas in preventing – and increasing reporting of – invoicing and procurement fraud
  • This is the first time the health service has released an official estimate of the cost of fraud to the NHS. The total figure is roughly 1 per cent of the NHS budget

Read more at Supply Management

Stephen Hawking’s warning on AI

  • Stephen Hawking is concerned that artificial intelligence could replace humans. The world-renowned physicist fears that somebody will create AI that will keep improving itself until it’s eventually superior to people
  • “If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that improves and replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that outperforms humans”

Read more on The Independent 

Weetabix sets out new supply chain vision

  • Milan Pankhania, who was appointed head of supply chain for operations at Weetabix, has just completed three months in the role and he has been identifying areas where the company could make efficiencies or cut waste
  • “My role is to help drive efficiencies across the supply chain process, while striving for excellent customer service,” he said.
  • “The focus for my strategy will absolutely include cost control and proactive risk management. It isn’t about cutting costs though, it’s about doing the right things to manage risk”

Read more at Supply Management