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February 2, 2018

Cognitive technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are thrilling solutions that will change the world of manufacturing, services, and retail. In supply chain, cognitive technologies can turbocharge your analytics to give them eyes, a brain, and a voice that lets them speak to you – wisely and intelligently. Doesn’t that get your heart racing?

Traditional supply chain analytics are time consuming, expensive, and tell you almost nothing. They’re only capable of providing information after-the-fact, as against cognitive-driven analytics (CDA) systems that can sense, interpret, and spill the beans on market trends and customer expectations well in advance. While the former simply helps you plan to do better in the future, the latter catapults your business into the super-leagues. With CDA, you will always have a finger on the pulse of the market, deliver on expectations, and win loyal customers and advocates every day.

As illustrated in Figure 1, when you apply cognitive technologies to supply chain analytics, you can transform your network design, forecasting, manufacturing, procurement, inventory, planning and scheduling, product proliferation, and logistics and fulfilment functions among other things. To learn why and how you can get future ready with CDA, read my whitepaper Rethinking Supply Chain Analytics with Cognitive Technology.

Figure 1: Cognitive Technologies Impact Functions Across the Supply Chain

SCM World in a recent article about the future of supply chains, cited three examples that are indicative of what tomorrow’s cognitive-driven supply chains could become. These are the IBM Watson Supply Chain, ToolsGroup’s supply chain optimization software, and TransVoyant. Collectively, they help manufacturers take their prediction and management skills to the next level by tapping into private and public data, and running intelligent algorithms to analyze them. These, in my opinion, are brilliant technologies that could be weaved into your existing systems with the help of a specialist integrator to conjure supply-chain magic.

Imagine a system that factors in everything about your products, your competitors’ products, your customer’s choice, tastes, preferences, and understands their usage pattern to gives you tangible insights. These insights could be like ‘the demand for each of the next 12 months will be a certain number’ and that ‘your prospective customers choose a substitute product because of X and Y factors, and this is what you can do to win their business’.

The CDA system then empowers you to make decisions about how you use such insights. It also tailors your logistics and fulfillment capabilities to make sure you’re stocked up when and where you need to be to make on-time deliveries and meet customer expectations.

New technologies in supply chain management, at their core, are centered on one thing – what the customer and the market want. Companies that are quick to embrace will lead in the digital age and be heralded as innovators who won by creating supply chains that read, think, and speak.

Piyush Kothari works as a Supply Chain Consultant with TCS' Consulting and Systems Integration Practice. He has over 11 years of diversified cross industry experience covering retail, CPG, telecom, life sciences, oil and gas, and manufacturing, in supply chain design, supply chain planning, and IT solution development.


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