MM Insights: Unleashing the Power of AI: Transforming the Supply Chain Industry

September 2023

Recently we held our first ‘MM Insights’ with industry expert Neil McDonald, formerly VP Technical and Supply Chain for Coca Cola. Neil’s extensive international business experience and proven track record of delivering business performance improvement and innovative solutions across all business disciplines both operationally and through major cross functional projects made him the ideal choice of expert to discuss the impact AI is having on Procurement and Supply Chain industry.

We delved into several questions over the course of the interview and have broken these down into short videos that will be shared across our socials in the coming weeks. This blog highlights some of the key insights covered by Neil.

The subject of the interview was Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the impact on the supply chain industry. AI refers to the development and use of computer systems that can perform tasks and make decisions that would typically require human intelligence. In simple terms, AI takes data and turns it into information, this is then turned into insights and the insight are used to mimic human decision making.

One of the first things we discussed with Neil was whether we should be afraid of AI. While some have expressed concerns about the potential negative impacts of AI, such as job loss and ethical considerations, it is important to recognise the potential benefits that AI can bring to the supply chain industry.

Neil identified that AI can bring efficiency and cost savings to the supply chain, helping a company to make good database decisions that will in turn improve processes. The technology has become much more accessible in recent times, making it more available and easier to implement. However, it is important to understand what you and your organisation can gain from the technology before you deploy it.

As with any new technology, there are always going to be challenges. Neil identified that lack of knowledge around its capabilities can be a downfall. In addition, the sensationalised media coverage surrounding generative AI can influence people’s perceptions. Neil advises to ‘Stop, think and understand’ before implementing.

There are numerous benefits to using this technology effectively, the most pertinent from a supply chain perspective being forecasting. AI looks at multiple sources and databases and runs algorithms to build a forecasting model that is more substantial than the one you may currently be working with. While it might not be perfect from the offset, over time this can be altered to create an extremely effective forecasting model, in turn allowing for better certainty, improved planning and meeting demand.

One of the biggest fear factors from the candidate market when it comes to AI is that a robot will take over their job. Neil advised that the need for human involvement remains as strong as ever, maintaining the need to keep it personal to avoid disenfranchised staff. There needs to be an understanding about how to take the expertise of the technology and use it to the organisation’s advantage, which can only be done if you have the skills and knowledge about the industry and a complete understanding on how this will work in your organisation. Neil makes the point clear – you need people with experience to compliment what you can bring with AI.

Neil touched on sustainability as a hot topic, explaining that the 3 key challenges in supply chain have always been cost, quality and quantity. Now the added factor of sustainability through managing carbon gives another challenge making the process even more complicated. One of the benefits that AI can bring to the table is that the data can help you understand your own carbon footprint as well as the wider supply chain and gives you the opportunity to use it to share best practises.

Thank you to Neil for joining us to provide his invaluable insights on this topic. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and were able to take some key nuggets of information to help with the ever-changing world that is AI.

For the full interview, click here.

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