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05/01/2020

CSA Exclusive: Smart supply chains offer retailers true visibility

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture
Kamal Anand
Kamal Anand

By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) technology, retailers can prepare for disruptions and ensure sustainability.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Kamal Anand, CTO of Bamboo Rose, about how retailers can transform their supply chain management strategy with AI. Bamboo Rose is an online marketplace that enables retailers to shop for products from virtual supplier showrooms in the same way consumers shop e-commerce marketplaces.

What are the key benefits of implementing AI-based supply chain management operations?
AI-based supply chain operations hold the power to change the retail industry’s perspective on how supply chains can be managed to reach exponential results and efficiency. Commerce companies that adopt AI-based supply chain management platforms within their operations will have clarity in the management and distribution of their projects and products. 

Once utilized, retailers witness cost savings associated with material/component efficiencies as well as observe improvements in their time to market. Additionally, AI-based supply chain management operations improve employee experiences by leveraging automation to complete administrative work and tasks and allowing them to drive innovation and ideas within the organization. 

An AI-based supply chain removes the back-and-forth many in the industry are accustomed to. It promotes proactivity and simulates scenarios before they can actually happen, equipping users with knowledge of how to handle disruption. 

How will digitization help support sustainable supply chain practices?
The digitalization of the supply chain promotes efficiency and helps companies reduce their carbon footprint. Retailers are given visibility into key metrics, enabling them to follow their environmental, social, and ethical impact. For instance, digitizing transactions gives retailers visibility into the location of goods, but combined with Internet of Things (IoT), it can go further. Retailers can also confirm if the temperature of said goods was maintained throughout the journey, or if the scheduled inspections were completed on time. 

AI-enabled supply chains further retailers’ sustainability efforts because they provide an in-depth view of their operations – from raw materials to finished goods and everything in between. It allows retailers to analyze and adjust the sustainability of their supply chain at a deeper level. 

Do you foresee a larger adoption of AI-based supply chain operations in light of recent world events and geographical challenges?
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain digitization was a priority for retailers who were looking to execute on their digital transformation initiatives. Looking-forward to a post-COVID-19 world, decision-makers will eagerly pick up where they left off. Many will leverage their experiences and handlings and see the ROI of a digital platform. 

Once adopted, retailers will have a holistic view of their supply chains and will be empowered to make accurate assertions and informed decisions. Additionally, retailers’ sustainability initiatives will gain a competitive advantage, as they will be able to lean on tangible proof to validate their efforts.

What other AI-related trends do you see emerging in the retail supply chain space?
We’re seeing an uptick of IoT usage in predictive maintenance and product testing. Retailers will harness the power of IoT technology to bolster end-to-end visibility into their supply chains. Secondly, we’ll see the adoption of blockchain as it renders traceability and transparency -- two things consumers and the market always demand. 

“Lastly, 3D design and printing will gain popularity. We’re witnessing many 3D printing firms receiving funding to build masks. The conversation about the democratization of manufacturing will arise as 3D printing introduces opportunities for the personalization and customization of products.
 
What other supply chain challenges can retailers resolve with AI?
End-to-end visibility and insight into all the facets of the supply chain remain a challenge for many retailers and their partners. Currently, gaps exist when goods are being imported and exported. True end-to-end supply chain visibility will address and guarantee traceability for when goods or raw materials are in transit and help manage unforeseen supply chain disruption. Technology will enable retailer flexibility in response to these disruptions.

AI-enabled supply chain platforms will also allow support for customer-facing innovation initiatives. Without end-to-end visibility – it is difficult to support new customer experiences like curbside pickup or delivery in hours not days.