For years, people have feared artificial intelligence (AI) developing a “mind of its own” and causing Matrix-levels of chaos. Here's the good news: After a few minutes of research, I’ve confirmed that the laws of thermodynamics disprove the concept of using humans as a power source. However, AI does cause some very real concerns, primarily related to fairness. AI tools are modeled on often inadequate and inherently biased datasets, which lead to problems such as financial risk assessments that are based on documented societal prejudices; resumes screened to predict job performance using unethical selection patterns; and deepfake videos and bots disseminating propaganda and fake news — the list goes on.
But when used responsibly, AI presents amazing possibilities, especially in supply chain. For instance, I've written about AI for improved planning, customer order management and inventory tracking; to address the labor shortage; for creating digital twins that reflect physical objects; and the rise of AI-powered procurement.
These and other AI applications have already proven invaluable. Case in point: During winter storms, UPS uses AI-powered network planning tools to reroute packages to facilities with the most capacity. And third-party logistics provider The ILS Company uses AI in warehousing to make demand predictions, modify orders and reroute products in transit. Still, using AI to make sense of masses of data is extremely challenging. This is why being able to interpret data in real time and take meaningful action is the next frontier in an AI-powered supply chain.
To that end, Microsoft has announced its new AI feature Dynamics 365 Copilot, which is designed to help supply chain managers sort through all that data, identify risk and propose mitigation plans. According to Supply Chain Dive, Microsoft’s algorithm scans news articles and takes other steps to spot potential problems. Then, it drafts a message asking whether users expect any disruption, and the user responds. All of this can happen in a fraction of the amount of time it would take humans to interpret the data, make a judgement about likely impacts, contact partners for local updates and record any necessary changes.
Take it from the bot
You didn’t think I was going to sign off before mentioning ChatGPT, did you? This AI-powered chatbot has become quite famous of late — for everything from debugging computer code to diagnosing medical conditions to writing college term papers.
I decided it would be fun to ask it why supply chain professionals should learn about AI. “AI is important in supply chain management for several reasons,” ChatGPT began its reply. Then it offered numerous examples:
- Real-time tracking for enhanced visibility and agility
- Predictive analytics to optimize inventory levels and supply chain operations
- Automated decision-making for fewer errors, greater efficiency, reduced bottlenecks, shorter lead times and lower costs
- Risk identification and mitigation
- Enhanced customer experience through prompt deliveries, personalized recommendations, predicting preferences and handling inquiries efficiently
- Competitive advantage by reacting quickly to changing market trends
- Futureproofing via new knowledge and expertise to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world
Next, I asked, “Can education from ASCM help me learn about AI in supply chain?” And I have to say, this bot is pretty smart:
“Yes, ASCM education can certainly help you learn about AI in supply chain management. ASCM offers a variety of learning opportunities, including those that cover AI and other emerging technologies.
“For example, ASCM's Certified Supply Chain Professional program covers topics such as big data analytics and the internet of things, investigates how technology is changing supply chain management, and explores how professionals can adapt to these changes. ASCM's Supply Chain Operations Reference-Digital Standard helps organizations leverage AI and machine learning to advance predictive analytics, demand forecasting and inventory optimization.
“In addition to formal courses, ASCM events can help you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in AI and supply chain management, including the upcoming ASCM Supply Chain Tour. The tour gives attendees the opportunity to hear from industry experts on the most current supply chain trends. Whether you are a seasoned supply chain professional or just starting out, the ASCM Supply Chain Tour is a must-attend event for anyone looking to stay ahead in this rapidly evolving field.”
I couldn’t agree more.