Data And AI Set To Transform Retail Supply Chains

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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

 

 

 

Upskilling Supply Chain Professionals for a Sustainable Future

By ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE

This week, I attended the GreenBiz 20 conference, which enables sustainability-focused professionals to explore business trends and develop recommendations for better organizational accountability and reporting. Those of us who participated in the supply chain track identified a number of tactics for aligning sustainability goals with supply chain activities. Two key strategies were enhanced cross-training and ongoing professional development.

Indeed, as global supply chains contend with extreme social, economic and ecological change, investing in our people becomes ever-more crucial. As World Economic Forum (WEF) President Børge Brende writes, “Valuing human capital not only serves to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to respond to systemic shifts, it also empowers them to take part in creating a more equal, inclusive and sustainable world.”

According to the WEF’s Future of Jobs Report, 75 million jobs in 20 major economies will be displaced by 2022. Meanwhile, as many as 133 million new roles will emerge to meet the demands of this ongoing transformation.

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These points are underpinned by PwC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, which reveals the opinions of about 1,600 chief executives from 83 countries. Two central themes that surfaced from the research were upskilling and climate change.

According to the report, the key forces driving the upskilling imperative include automation, less availability of talent, reduced mobility of skilled labor and the aging workforce. “One reality is clear,” the report states, “increases in automation, changes in demographics and new regulations will make it much harder for organisations to attract and retain the skilled talent they need to keep pace with the speed of technological change. They will have to grow their own future workforce.”

Importantly, the CEOs who have embraced upskilling report benefits including stronger corporate culture and employee engagement, greater ability to attract and retain workers, heightened levels of innovation, and enhanced productivity.

“Our current approach can’t continue,” Siemens U.S. CEO Barbara Humpton told PwC. “We don’t have nearly enough qualified applicants to hire because of the technical knowledge required. So we’re going to be training a lot of non-engineers to do jobs engineers would have done in the past.”

The CEOs surveyed also recognize the risk and opportunity of climate change, noting that related initiatives can lead to significant new product and service opportunities, as well as reputational advantages and financial incentives. A recent CNN article validates these findings, reporting that asset-management superpower BlackRock is putting sustainability “at the center of its approach to investing.” The firm currently oversees $7 trillion in investments, but soon will abandon any holdings considered to be a sustainability risk.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” CEO Larry Fink stated in his January 2020 letter to CEOs.

The potential of our people

Today’s investments in talent set our supply chain organizations on an equal, inclusive and sustainable path to the future. At ASCM, we are here to support you in this effort, with a wide array of professional development programs, including APICS certifications and a body of knowledge that has been the global standard in supply chain learning and development for more than 60 years.

Companies around the world recognize the APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management; Certified Supply Chain Professional; and Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution designations. These credentials offer forward-looking, transformational education that will position your employees for ongoing success. Learn more about how you can cultivate and support your workforce with this essential learning and development.

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Seek Out These 10 Qualities for Ongoing Career Success

By ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE

Do you know which skills are most vital to your professional future? More importantly, do you possess them?

According to the new World Economic Forum (WEF) report, “The Future of Jobs,” the top 10 proficiencies and workforce strategies for 2020 and beyond are

  1. complex problem-solving
  2. critical thinking
  3. creativity
  4. people management
  5. coordinating with others
  6. emotional intelligence
  7. judgement and decision-making
  8. service orientation
  9. negotiation
  10. cognitive flexibility.

These findings were derived from chief human resources and strategy officers at leading global employers. The executives were asked about current shifts in business and what they mean for employment, skills and recruitment across industries and geographies.

“By 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have brought us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics,” says WEF senior writer Alex Gray. “These developments will transform the way we live and the way we work. Some jobs will disappear, others will grow, and jobs that don’t even exist today will become commonplace.”

Although AI tackles many challenges that people cannot, machines are less likely to decipher complicated puzzles that are not clearly defined or span multiple industries. This is why complex problem-solving tops the WEF list. Likewise, critical thinking is a strictly human capability that enables us to process, visualize and make connections in a world of ambiguity and nuance.

With the constant influx of new technologies, it’s no wonder that creativity is among the top three skills. “Robots may help us get to where we want to be faster, but they can’t be as creative as humans,” Gray explains, adding that negotiation and cognitive flexibility are at the bottom of the list because machines are increasingly making our decisions for us. In fact, 45% of WEF survey respondents believe AI will sit on company boards of directors by 2026.

“The future workforce will need to align its skillset to keep pace,” Gray writes. “Change won’t wait for us: Business leaders, educators and governments all need to be proactive in upskilling and retraining.”

The next five years

Something I found particularly interesting while reading the WEF report was the comparison between today’s top 10 and the list from just five years ago. While many skills were fairly comparable, others shifted dramatically (creativity). Some appeared for the first time (emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility), and some fell off the list altogether (quality control and active listening).

In ASCM’s 2019 Supply Chain Salary and Career Survey Report, 82% of respondents said they are likely to remain in the field for the next five years. As these people continue on their professional journeys, I can’t help but wonder what competences the supply chain careers of the future will demand of them. Indeed, our report revealed that job stability is strong — with about 75% of respondents either remaining in their current positions or being promoted last year — but what must supply chain professionals do to keep on this positive trajectory?

ASCM will explore these questions and many more with our 2020 Supply Chain Salary and Career Survey Report. Based on the findings, we will continue to revise and update our content to ensure you have all of the latest skills that employers are seeking. I invite you to add your perspectives as we collect this important data in order to better understand, inform and advance the global supply chain community. Take the survey here before January 31.

Abe Eshkenazi will give a keynote address at MEGATRANS, Melbourne on 1 April 2020 as a special host to ASCI. To register, visit: https://www.megatrans.com.au

Generate Worth from Waste

Extract from blog by ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE

Here in ASCM’s hometown of Chicago, about 55 million pounds of food is wasted each month, despite the fact that one in six Chicagoans suffers from food insecurity. Alan Reed, executive director of nonprofit Chicagoland Food & Beverage, says this regrettable fact is what compels his organisation to work with both industry and food banks “in order to find new and innovative ways to address these issues.”

Reed’s comments remind me of a recent Wall Street Journal article, which highlights why some food and beverage industry giants are starting to see their trash cans in a different way — as an exciting new value stream. Starbucks is reprocessing the outer layer of its coffee beans into a natural sweetener. Mondelez is making snacks from parts of the cacao plant unused during chocolate production. And Kellogg Co. is collaborating with a craft brewer to ferment discolored cereal that would normally become animal feed. The first runs of Cast Off Pale Ale (made from Rice Krispies) and Sling It Out Stout (made from Coco Pops) sold out in hours.

Some clothing manufacturers are even turning food waste into leather alternatives. “This is not just a solution to the problem of waste,” Carmen Hijosa, founder of Ananas Anam, told The Journal. “It also brings a new income stream.” Her a company works with pineapple farmers in the Philippines, who traditionally would have burned or left leaves to rot after harvesting. The resulting leather alternative, Piñatex, is now used by Hugo Boss to make shoes; for a sustainable-clothing line at H&M; and at Hilton Worldwide, which covers footstools with the material for what the company calls vegan hotel rooms.

Learn from the best

Five inspiring presentations are currently being shared on “Foodbytes,” the blog of food and agriculture financial services provider Rabobank. These food technology innovators discuss what they believe to be the most pressing industry challenges, as well as some exciting potential solutions. One of these involves packaging that can sense when a company’s distribution, handling and warehousing processes are increasing the risk of food spoilage. By pinpointing the problem area, this tool can bring about smarter supply chains.