Supply chain management is set to be rescued from chain disruption by AI in 2022
Artificial Intelligence (AI), especially the automation of in-store operations is increasingly being regarded as a possible solution to the problems of retail businesses. The varying problems constitute quite a long list. They include many general ones regarding planning, logistics, and distribution, marketing and sales, procurement, as well as several daily botherations that specifically apply to retail business such as high operational expenses, crowding of staff assisting customers, long queues for cash payment, slow replenishment of stocks and so forth. AI’s power of automation is relied upon to reduce the number of sales personnel by providing useful digital displays and guiding clues, to reduce long queues by way of cashier-less payment, and to ensure appropriate real-time stock monitoring. But there is yet another issue that plagues many retail businesses and comes in the way of their smooth operation in supply chain management. It is the supply chain disruption. The issue has been existing for some time but in the last few years, it has become more important in the realm of retail businesses. With the generally positive perception of AI’s all-around ability, the question that looms large is, is artificial intelligence good enough to provide adequate protection to retail businesses from such disruptive processes in supply chain management.
There is no doubt that AI is perceived to be a powerful force that can reshuffle, if not restructure, the hitherto existing supply-chain management solutions. AI is known for developing an integrated end-to-end approach covering not only the various stages of the projects it takes up but also weighing the associated opportunities and constraints involved therein, which includes a complex eco-system of owners-partners, suppliers, and customers in retail businesses. Artificial intelligence has grown more and more sophisticated in analyzing incredible volumes of data, identifying and addressing relationships, generating operational transparency (end-to-end visibility), and building up intelligent and responsive decision-making processes. In the process AI also comes up with solutions that utilize high-end technology but does not remain confined to technology only. No wonder then the retail businesses will look up to AI to minimize the problems faced them.
Some people predict a supply chain disaster for the world in general and retail businesses in particular. They go beyond the ‘crisis thesis’ in explaining how an acute situation has arisen both in terms of material resources and in terms of human resources. The COVID-19 pandemic is cited by them as one of the major factors which will precipitate such a disastrous situation. Incidentally, the Institute of Supply Chain Management has made known that three-fourths of companies around the world have faced issues and there is every reason to think that the retail businesses have been hard hit. True, the pandemic has caused severe chain disruption. But AI experts are confident that they can not only avert the disaster/crisis but can also lend a new face to it by scaling new heights. In support of their contention they mention, apart from the items mentioned above, the AI-guided domains like shock absorption, risk reduction, accurate inventory and demand management, warehouse efficiency, enhanced safety, and timely delivery.
There are certain systemic challenges to the effectiveness of AI-sourced help to retail businesses. They concern huge investment, clear understanding of the task between the retail companies and artificial intelligence service producers, provision of effective bandwidth and specific hardware, and availability of trained personnel. Not that all these requirements are available in plenty.
Still, if AI prowess can save supply chain management by way of multiple optimizations it is good for the struggle that marks retail businesses in the post-pandemic times.