5 Ways to Introduce Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) into Supply Chain Initiatives
While the number and complexity of supply chain initiatives seem to grow season after season, a few remain on the top of such initiatives. A combined study of supply chain leaders completed by Bain & Company and Microsoft identified digital agility and resilience as top priorities in their choice of supply chain software. The study also indicated that many supply chain senior executives, who once viewed their supply chain as a “cost center,” now see them as a “strategic capability.”
What the study appears to indicate are a number of strategic areas for future-proof investment, the ability to generate granular data sets to enable in-depth visibility and provide actionable insights, and of course, an omnichannel strategy that ensures consistent customer experiences across websites, mobile apps, social media accounts, and brick-and-mortar stores.
Intelligent Technologies to Drive Smart Supply Chains
Granular data, in-depth visibility, and actionable insights naturally come together conversationally when we begin to reconstruct business strategies, post COVID-19. Solutions that store transactional details provide granular data sets, which then provide much needed visibility that generates insights across partners, customers, and channels.
When an omnichannel strategy exists, the combined insight provided by solutions that store transactional details allows for advanced customer segmentation, empowering companies to build more detailed, customized experiences based on the needs of the partner, customer, or channel populations and experiences. No wonder then that the most successful brands are looking to harness intelligent technologies to adapt to fast-evolving consumer demands and market challenges.
While some may believe a lack of resources or investment opportunities are inhibiting the next steps, supply chain leaders have begun to realize they need to proactively seek resources or opportunities, anticipate supply-side change, and be somewhat agile themselves in order to make decisions that increase sales avenues and address customer needs.
Why Customer Insight?
The market is full of options and today’s customers have an abundance of choices, many of which are just a few clicks away. Working from home has greatly reduced travel times to and from work. It follows that the general population can spend more time on experiences that engage them personally and, according to a recent survey, 75% of millennials value experiences over things.
Experience, or more specifically, a positive experience, is derived from the utility offered and a utility that offers easy access to goods and services is more preferable to price. The outcome of this level of business-critical thinking suggests that it has become imperative that brands begin to understand evolving customer desires and delivery experiences that delight, which brings us back to strategic areas for future-proof investment.
Combining strategy and future-proof investment together ensures that the customer is at the center of supply chain planning. Only those organizations that have an in-depth connection with their customers can monitor their behavior, analyze trends, and select the right channel to maximize customer reach and engagement. Sellers must ensure that products and services are available to their targeted buyers and on all channels.
Businesses with an omnichannel presence enjoy 90% higher customer retention over those that do not. Adding availability and convenience by way of an omnichannel strategy ensures consumers can switch between devices and screens to complete a task. Creating digital for targeted buyers on all channels, generating granular data sets to enable in-depth visibility, and providing actionable insights brings it all together.
Integrated Platforms for Data-Driven Supply Chain Transformation
Cross-channel insight is not likely to be found across multiple integrations or within a
“black box” infrastructure that is several decades old. Modern organizations need modern integrated platforms that work with smart solutions and intelligent interfaces. Many modern organizations are now enhancing their processes with intelligent autonomous systems powered by digital innovations like the Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to design a truly customer-centric supply chain.
Modern integrated platforms are AI/ML-enabled, can gather data from touchpoints across channels and partners, and deploy advanced data analytics that help analyze the information to find inefficiencies and potential ways of improvement. Such data-driven approaches help supply chain leaders forecast demand, get real-time updates across the network, and track product movement from factories to the shopping floor.
How AI Enables Channel Discovery and Optimized Delivery
Using the business needs and supply chain challenges described in this paper, we have identified five ways to introduce IoT, AI, and ML into supply chain initiatives to help companies select the most optimized integration channel and ensure uninterrupted delivery to maximize revenue generation:
- Streamline partner onboarding: AI can automate and streamline the complex processes associated with managing channel partners, particularly if there are a lot of trading partners, a number of repeatable processes, or a large number of paper-based documents. AI helps identify repeatable processes based on a partner’s system configuration and data formats to speed up the partner onboarding process and ensure faster channel deployment.
- Use business insights to pick the right channel: Manufacturers use a range of channels to sell products and, as those channels increase in number and in complexity, manufacturers need data to maximize the revenue produced through each channel. Solutions, which store transactional details and provide granular data sets, can be leveraged to deliver visibility. Visibility generates insights across partners, customers, and channels, and contributes to better decisions. Solutions that leverage real-time data from the live environment, and then use AI and advanced analytics, can help pick the right channels in which to invest. At this point, we can probably agree that better decisions lead to better outcomes.
- Customize customer journeys: The world’s most recognizable and successful brands harness intelligent technologies to adapt to fast-evolving consumer demands, market conditions, and market challenges. IoT, AI, ML, big data, and easy-to-use analytics can be used to create in-depth customer profiles based on external data such as demographic models and purchasing behavior. Solutions that store transactional details allow for advanced customer segmentation, empowering companies to build more detailed, customized experiences based on the needs of the partner, customer, or channel population, where delivering a consistent brand experience facilitates customer engagement at the right moment and in the right channel.
- Empower channel partners: Maximizing channel revenue also depends on how effectively supply chain partners like dealers, retailers, and distributors can attract new customers and deliver products via a compelling customer experience. A supply chain platform that provides seamless and timely integration with intelligent technologies will provide partners better tools along with the ability to deliver at the customer touchpoint. Selecting smart solutions with intelligent interfaces empowers channel partners.
- Measure performance: Leveraging access to data across channels and partners, modern organizations can effectively measure not only partner performance but their own performance in terms of sales, reach, engagement, and the depths of those engagements. Translate those processes into the selection of a new partner. Compare a partner who can process orders and invoices against a partner who can process orders and invoices, contracts, and chargebacks, and also maintain inventories; it’s a new game and works very similarly in the freight and logistics space just as well. For instance, say, you have two transportation service and logistics providers (TSLs) pitted against each other. While the first one can process shipments and invoices, the other can process shipments and invoices plus offer warehouse services such as the ability to pick, pack, and ship automatically, based on your need to supplement your business where and when needed. Selecting solutions with built-in reporting empowers your business by delivering the capacity to measure and display your own performance.
Toward an Automated Channel Discovery Process
Market research has shown that digital tools can automate 80-90% of supply chain planning, and digital technologies such as AI can reduce inventory by up to 75%. In order to achieve a fully AI-powered supply chain, they will need a holistic view of all operations including application integration, along with an understanding of their business goals.
Smart solutions with intelligent interfaces deliver granular data and AI-powered platforms close the gap between channel performance and desired business outcomes. An optimized solution, one without human intervention, produces a self-driving supply chain. Such a supply chain reduces delays, costs, and losses in revenue, and delivers precision to a well-defined channel strategy.
About PartnerLinQ: Enterprise Connectivity at the Speed of Business
PartnerLinQ is an innovative, process-centric, easy-to-use integration platform that enables API-led, cloud-native integrations. It easily handles both standard and proprietary file-based formats, including custom integrations. The solution is well suited for retail, e-commerce, wholesale, transportation, 3PL, as well as distribution, digital, and analog partner ecosystems. It helps your team achieve operational efficiency and gain real-time visibility.
PartnerLinQ was designed and developed by a team with more than 25 years of deep integration experience. The PartnerLinQ team has been providing industry-focused leadership in technology and consulting and in the development of innovative solutions that drive global supply chain transformation from the factory floor to the consumer’s doorstep. PartnerLinQ integrates natively with Microsoft Dynamics 365, while also providing robust support for more than 70 ERP systems and ecommerce platforms. PartnerLinQ is a completely integrated solution that consigns big VAN and iPaaS solutions to the past. PartnerLinQ is a modern platform with the technology of tomorrow, providing enterprise connectivity at the speed of business today.