For years, the terms “big data” and “artificial intelligence (AI)” in supply chains were just words. A few early adopters began exploring the potential of these technologies, but the majority of supply chain operations struggled to figure out how they could be applied to solve daily business challenges.
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic more than two years ago and the subsequent supply chain upheavals in our highly connected world. Shut-downs due to illness, labor scarcity, port congestion, increasing e-commerce demands, inventory and component shortages, limited commercial real estate, and other challenges too numerous to count continue to impact operations as the virus mutates and lingers.
Facing this new reality, companies quickly realized that commercialized applications of big data and AI in a multitude of forms could help leaders better manage and adapt to unforeseen disruptions. After all, as Sir Winston Churchill famously said during the darkest days of World War II: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Equipped with technologies and solutions that leverage these tools, such as robotics, simulation, control towers, automation, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connectivity, machine learning (ML) and many others, supply chain operations can now benefit from expanded analytics possibilities.
These include descriptive analytics (understanding what happened in the past), predictive analytics (assessing the likelihood of different future scenarios), and prescriptive analytics (allowing the technology to offer resolution options for leaders to choose among, or even to make the decision itself autonomously)—in real-time. Ultimately, these capabilities increase operational visibility and agility and, in turn, resilience.
MHI Solutions asked leaders of seven different MHI member companies to share their insights on this topic. They include:
- Kishore Boyalakuntla, Vice President of Products at Berkshire Grey
- Peter Chen, CEO of Covariant.ai
- John Dwinell, CEO of Siena Analytics
- Jeff Huerta, Senior Vice President of Sales at Vecna Robotics
- Kevin Reader, Director of Business Development and Marketing at KNAPP North America
- John Seidl, Partner at GreyOrange
- Marin Tchakarov, CEO of Kindred.ai
Each participant answered three key questions: To what extent are supply chains utilizing big data and AI? How do these technologies bolster resilience? What does the near future hold as far as their use in the field? Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Download the 2022 MHI Annual Industry Report: Evolution to Revolution at mhi.org/publications/report (available March 30).