How Artificial Intelligence Bolsters Global Supply Chains

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January 5, 2023 - The continued disruption of supply chains suggests that the challenges of the COVID-19 era have been more than a blip in an otherwise stable period of global business. Supply chain professionals must consider that this instead marks the beginning of a new era of continuous disruption, and it’s time to take proactive action to prepare.

Technology increasingly appears to offer promising answers to complex problems in business operations, and the supply chain is no different. Logistics professionals should explore integrating cutting-edge systems, particularly those centered around artificial intelligence, to fill gaps that the human workforce can’t effectively manage. By combining human oversight and experience with the AI tools described below, leaders can better protect supply chains against current and future global challenges.

Building a Digital Twin

A digital twin is a virtual replica of the supply chain that can include assets, warehouses, and materials. The advantage of a digital twin is it allows supply chain professionals to simulate the flow of materials, acting out a multitude of possible “what-if” scenarios.

For example, a digital twin could predict how a supply chain will be impacted if there is unrest in a location where warehouses are located, or if materials get lost due to extreme weather conditions. Creating potential scenarios and watching how each will impact the supply chain provides a unique vantage point to effectively judge risk and efficiency.

Harnessing the Internet of Things

The internet of things (IoT) is a system of self-reliant, internet-connected objects that can collect and transfer data over a network without the need for human intervention. IoT devices help monitor supply chains by gathering data needed to alert supply chain professionals when a machine needs maintenance or replacement.

Amid a massive heat wave, for example, IoT devices can monitor the internal temperature of precious cargo such as vaccines, which are sensitive to extreme temperature changes. Using IoT to monitor and flag temperature changes streamlines the transportation process and reduces risk by ensuring vaccines will be viable once delivered to their final destination.

The Power of Machine Learning

Machine learning is a system that is constantly learning from data in real-time, and alerting companies to potential supply chain impacts. The system can analyze copious amounts of data quickly, and recognize signals, patterns, and trends in the data, allowing for supply chain adjustments as needed.

AI can be extremely helpful in the supply chain, but companies shouldn’t rely on it alone. Human expertise is still essential, as technology comes with its own set of unique challenges.

Prior to the pandemic, supply chain disruptions were rare; they’re now the new normal. As we continue through the thick of the disruption learning curve, it’s evident that the implementation of advanced technology is a critical need for many businesses.

This article was originally published in by Supply Chain Brain on October 5, 2022 under the same title. The content has been modified and condensed for this blog. Refer to the full article for Craig Civil’s complete insights on this topic. For more BSI insights on other EHS and Digital Trust topics, visit our Experts Corner, and for real-time analysis on the latest and most relevant global supply chain trends, subscribe to BSI’s SCREEN tool.