Data And AI Set To Transform Retail Supply Chains

shutterstock_535399816 (3)

Guest Blog: Craig Sears-Black, Chief Executive of EV Cargo Technology

It once belonged in the realms of science fiction, but today artificial intelligence (AI) plays such an integral role in our daily lives that most of us don’t even notice it’s there, while all the time generating vast quantities of data.

In recent years AI systems have been developed to utilise this data in increasingly sophisticated ways, none more so than in the field of retail. As more of us shop online, so AI is used to transform our experience with personalisation, automation and increased efficiency.

But advanced technologies now also play a pivotal role in the operation of the modern retail supply chain, helping dictate how goods reach retailers. Although AI was identified as being a game-changer more than ten years ago, its limitations had not then been fully grasped and the industry wasn’t aware of the large amounts of quality data required for it to be effective. It’s only when industry-wide data can be combined that technologies such as machine learning and neural networks can be applied effectively.

However, after a huge amount of groundwork, the foundations have now been built to obtain the volume and quality of data required to support the development of AI in supply chains.

“Businesses have recognised the value of their data and its potential to solve the complexities of running a global logistics network,” says Craig Sears-Black, chief executive of EV Cargo Technology. “They have become considerably better at accessing data and now better understand how to incorporate AI into everyday work tasks to augment human decision-making.

“This next decade will be about harnessing AI and placing our trust in technology to make the correct decisions. This will evolve over the next decade, gradually moving from a recommendation that requires human sign-off, to limited automation if certain conditions are met. As the tech proves itself over time, it will take on more and more automated decisions.

EV Cargo Technology has been providing supply chain software solutions for more than 25 years and is used by many of today’s leading global and high street retailers.

“As an example, AI can use shipping data, combine it with predicted volumes, weather forecasts and emerging disruptive events and recommend that the shipment should be re-routed via an alternative port, saving significant transit time and costs,” explains Craig. “Initially, someone will review and approve this recommendation but eventually AI will make greater decisions on the retailer’s behalf.

“That extends to re-routing and re-prioritising shipments based on changing stock position or trends. If a retailer’s forecasting system says they’ll sell more stock, AI will be able to suggest and decide on changes to the transport mode and route, taking demand and costs fully into consideration.”

“Technology will also find greater applications within product sourcing. Considering information stored about factories, supplier reliability in terms of on-time and quality, cost price and time taken to market, AI can weigh all those elements and recommend the best supplier for that particular product.

“It will never fully replace the buyer but, for basic products with consistent sales, AI could monitor stock and sales and re-order automatically. Or with access to sales and inventory information, re-prioritise shipments of product to ensure optimum stock levels.”

Improving visibility, reducing friction, encouraging collaboration and promoting compliance are just some of the ways EV Cargo Technology has helped clients transform their supply chains. The benefits are both tangible and significant: increased sales through improved availability, an increase in profitability and reductions in inventory, logistics and overall operating costs.

“Technology is ramping up efficiencies in network planning and predictive demand, allowing retailers to become more proactive,” added Craig. “Advances in AI and analytics will enhance the ability of the technology to predict outcomes and mitigate potential impacts.”

So is full automation just around the corner? Not in the next ten years, according to Craig, who says that issues over trust in the technology and decision-making mean human input will remain, at least for now.

He adds: “Data is one of a company’s most valuable assets and there’s no doubt that AI-supported analytics is set to take a huge leap forward over the next ten years in helping unlock the true potential of that data – interpreting it and intuitively directing attention to where it is most needed.”

EV Cargo Technology works with retailers to monitor their supply chain networks and design, build, test, and deploy optimum supply chain management systems for each organisation’s individual needs. They  work to improve business processes through connecting the entire trading community, giving a platform to thrive by efficiently collaborating with external partners, and managing the complete supply chain with full transparency, efficiency and cost effectiveness

With over 25 years’ experience in delivering supply chain intelligence, EV Cargo Technology has a global client base spanning across America, Europe, South Africa, and Australasia. For more information, visit: www.evcargotech.com