You may not think of yourself as a supply chain expert, but you manage a lot of the critical B2B systems that support your organization’s supply chain. I’m referring to transportation management systems, ERP and warehouse management systems, the B2B Value Added Network, and more. Your ability to keep these systems up and running, address problems when they occur, and answer business users’ questions is integral to the success of your organization’s supply chain and business.
So, when companies start to look at adding AI-powered solutions to their B2B integration architecture, it’s only natural to wonder what that means for you. Here are four key things you should know about AI and its impact.
- The role of AI with B2B integration and supply chain systems
AI is about improving how humans and machines work together. You know first-hand that B2B Integration is complex, made up of multiple, siloed systems that make it difficult and time consuming to get the information you need and reconcile differences or gaps in information. When something goes wrong, for example a shipment is delayed, it can take hours or days to get a complete picture of the situation. Business users have to go into each system to manually pull information and cross reference it with data from other systems. Often this requires technical expertise they don’t have so they turn to you for answers.
AI-powered solutions function as a layer on top of these silos, connecting systems and data from procurement to customer fulfillment to provide one true view across the supply chain. A single interface makes it easier to see and understand what is happening with a B2B transaction or document and why. Because AI incorporates natural language processing, business users can simply type something like “show me all the shipments for this order” and get an answer. They don’t need to know a lot of technical information that isn’t part of their job, and you don’t need to get bogged down in business data you shouldn’t have to worry about.
- How AI can help you in your job
AI allows you to stay focused on your real job – maintaining systems, monitoring system performance and deploying new technologies. In addition to empowering business users with one true view across the supply chain and natural language search capabilities to find the information they need, AI-powered solutions can also do the time consuming and tedious work of enabling these systems to talk to each other, so you don’t have to spend your time mapping data and piecing together answers for the business. For example, procurement systems talk about supply order numbers while production systems consider work order numbers. This is often a roadblock for business users trying to understand discrepancies between production and procurement systems. AI ensures the information in these systems maps correctly which greatly reduces the time it takes to investigate the status of an order.
- The impact of machine learning
There can be a lot of confusion between AI and machine learning. AI simulates human intelligence, while machine learning is a subset of AI. It uses algorithms for pattern recognition based on data inputs without explicit programming. Machine learning can be supervised or unsupervised and becomes more accurate over time with more data. In our blog about Anomaly Detection
we talked about how this new capability in Business Transaction Intelligence (BTI) will automatically adjust for seasonal variations. This is where machine learning comes in, detecting changes and automatically adjusting “standard” ranges as needed. With multiple years of data, the system learns about seasonality without programming, so you don’t have to reset ranges manually.
- How to prepare for AI
As a technologist, you know that you can’t fight the future; you need to prepare so you can move with the trend. Here’s how:
- First, take the time to understand how AI will help you in your daily job. Jump on opportunities to learn about AI, machine learning and natural language search. The sooner you start working with these systems to build new skills, the more value you’ll bring to the business. In the process, you’ll advance your career and make your job more interesting.
- Second, while business users may be driving the adoption of AI, they don’t understand the technical implications. They need your expertise with respect to implementation and the impact on existing infrastructure and architecture. You can help business users overcome these challenges and provide recommendations so that they maximize the return on their AI investment.
- Finally, the sooner you start the learning process, the further ahead you’ll be compared to your competitors. The learning process doesn’t just apply to you and your team, but to the technology as well. As I mentioned above, AI-powered solutions get smarter over time with more data. Take advantage of the window that is open now to help your business move faster than the competition.
This is an exciting time from a technology and business perspective. You have the chance to not only get an early lead on adopting AI in the supply chain, but you can also help to steer AI in the right direction. We encourage you to work with us to help shape smarter offerings that solve real business challenges, make your jobs easier, and enable you to do things that weren’t possible before.
Let us know what you think about AI in the supply chain. Feel free to ask questions or provide feedback in the discussion forum and I’ll reply as quickly as possible.