You’ve heard about the AI revolution, but will it also impact the future of supply chains and WMS? Absolutely.
We recently attended a ‘Are your supply chains ready for AI?’ If there’s one thing that stood out, its that AI is a journey. It may be intimidating to even think about implementing AI solutions, but the upsides are tremendous. From optimizing inventory management and streamlining order fulfillment to automating tasks, for AI users, the future holds even greater efficiency, cost savings, and customer satisfaction.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized numerous industries, and one area where its impact is going to be particularly significant is in the warehousing space. With the ability to analyze vast amounts of data and make intelligent decisions in real-time, AI would transform the way distribution centers operate, leading to increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved customer satisfaction. In an attempt to keep up with the AI revolution, I attended a #SupplyChainTalk webinar featuring some of the industry's leaders.
Optimize Inventory Management
In the webinar, Emmanuel Langlois of Generix Group acknowledges that labor shortage is definitely a challenge, but also debunks a common myth by making a strong statement: “AI and humans will cohabitate!” Humans will use an AI platform to better plan and better orchestrate all the resources in a warehouse. For example, AI could be used to optimize inventory management. AI-powered systems can analyze historical data, current trends, and market demand to accurately forecast inventory needs. This enables warehouse managers to maintain optimal stock levels, avoiding stockouts and reducing excess inventory. By minimizing stock discrepancies, AI helps streamline the supply chain, reducing costs associated with holding excess inventory while ensuring products are readily available when customers need them.
Enhanced Order Fulfillment
Emmanuel further adds that AI will force warehouses to be “more proactive, than reactive”. A case in point would be how AI will play a role in enhancing order fulfillment processes. With the integration of AI-driven algorithms, distribution centers can optimize picking, packing, and shipping operations. AI systems can analyze order patterns, item locations, and traffic flow within the warehouse to create the most efficient picking routes for workers. This minimizes travel time and maximizes productivity, allowing distribution centers to process a higher volume of orders with fewer errors.
Robotics and Automation
Jonathan Cyr concurs that “robots are not replacing people, in fact we are lacking people.” Indeed, AI-powered robotics and automation have transformed repetitive and labor-intensive tasks in warehouses. The evolution of Autonomous Mobile Robots, equipped with AI algorithms, can navigate the warehouse floor, locating and retrieving items with precision and efficiency. They can also assist in inventory counting, restocking shelves, and even collaborate with human workers in a safe and synchronized manner.
Improve Worker Safety
Jonathan makes a compelling point that the “adoption and social acceptance of the robots in the warehouse is more and more common sense to people,” since the integration of AI and robotics not only increases productivity but also improves worker safety by eliminating the need for manual heavy lifting and reducing the risk of accidents. Further, by continuously monitoring equipment and machinery using sensors and AI algorithms, potential failures or maintenance needs can be detected in advance. This allows for proactive maintenance scheduling, reducing unplanned downtime and preventing costly disruptions to operations. By optimizing equipment maintenance, AI helps distribution centers achieve higher operational uptime and prolong the lifespan of critical assets.
While all the talk of AI and robotics may sound ‘cool’, it could be intimidating to take on such a project for an organization. Emmanuel compares this to the times when the internet first evolved: “just like a webmaster or an SEO specialist didn't exist in the 90s, same is the case with Data Architects with AI.” He recommends leverage help from outside and slowly build that expertise in your organization.” Pranav Bhardwaj goes a step further and recommends Blue Yonder as the ultimate answer and positions them as the leaders in the Supply Chain Software by comparing them to Google and Amazon. He further adds that “Blue Yonder brings the best of breed AI solutions, as they have been working on this for the last 5 or 6 years.”
The panel was unanimous in their recommended action items for Supply Chain professionals, but the most encompassing feedback came from Jose Saiz de Omeñaca Monzón when he said AI is a Journey, not a Project. Start little by little, engage more internal and external stakeholders, smart small and start quick!
The impact of AI in Supply Chain cannot be overstated. From optimizing inventory management and streamlining order fulfillment to automating tasks, AI has revolutionized warehouse operations. As technology continues to advance, we can expect further innovations in AI-driven systems, leading to even greater efficiency, cost savings, and customer satisfaction in distribution centers worldwide. Consider AI as a journey in your warehouse evolution, look for opportunities in your operations, smart small, but start now!
Originally posted on LinkedIn.