Prepare for the Next Disruption Now
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for artificial intelligence (AI) across the consumer goods industry to ensure product is where it needs to be, when it needs to be there regardless of demand spikes.
Continued investment in the field of AI provides CGs real-time insight into supply and demand based on multiple internal and external data streams. In addition, that next-gen insight can be turned into automated action without human interaction, allowing technologists to focus on innovation instead of day-to-day operations.
To uncover how CGs can best leverage the game-changing power of artificial intelligence across the enterprise, Logility global vice president, innovation strategy Srini Muthusrinivasan, sat down with CGT for an exclusive Q&A on the topic.
CGT: What lessons can consumer goods companies learn from COVID-19 and how can artificial intelligence help?
Muthusrinivasan: Many consumer goods companies have focused considerable effort to bring new products to market that meet the unique needs of a demanding consumer. This came at the expense of cost optimization and limited supply chain resiliency. Consumer goods companies must turn the proliferation of data into an asset for resilience. Empirical knowledge and old-school regression models are being replaced with adaptive intelligence where AI plays a key role processing hyper-large volumes of data for demand sensing. This goes far beyond a focus on improving forecast accuracy. This data must be leveraged to get ahead of supply variances to better manage the entire planning process from product concept to customer availability.
CGT: How does AI allow CGs to maintain business continuity in times of disruption?
Muthusrinivasan: There are two levels of maturity to focus. First, AI can be utilized to enhance decision support by providing trusted demand and supply insights that are based on curated intelligence from multi-variate sources of data and influence such as demographic, channel, price, promotion, weather and social sentiment. The second level is the ability for CG companies to automate some of those recommendations where the AI becomes a decision-making system. Artificial intelligence plays a significant role in the supply chain team’s ability to accelerate decisions and execute the plan. With AI we can significantly reduce lead time latency through several factors including anomaly detection and the ability to quickly process large volumes of data.
CGT: How has AI helped advance the CG supply chain and where is it headed next?
Muthusrinivasan: Artificial intelligence along with deep-learning are becoming the de facto normal in supply chain excellence. Humans alone cannot process the vast amount of data available to drive quick decisions. Today AI can augment a supply chain planner’s workflow to deliver immediate insights, identify new opportunities and outline the best path forward during times of disruption. A living digital supply chain delivers a platform for CG companies to deliver more personalized services while still maintaining the resiliency required to adapt to changing markets. As AI continues to evolve, the ability to provide precise context to data and deliver recommendations to supply chain teams or automate processes will bring about a fundamental shift in how consumer goods companies go to market.
CGT: What are some key steps consumer goods companies must take to achieve functional-AI prowess?
Muthusrinivasan: The use of AI to augment supply chain talent expertise and automate the routine are foundational capabilities where CG companies should focus their efforts. To be successful, look to four key areas:
- Customers. Today’s emphasis is placed on point-of-sale (POS). Shift this thinking to focus on the point of consumption experience. The point of consumption influences a consumer’s satisfaction with the brand and willingness to come back.
- Technology. Data is a key constraint for the vast majority of consumer goods companies. It is vital to have the right platform that can harness data, accelerate innovation and collapse cycle time.
- Organization. It is important to empower the organization, continue to elevate the role of supply chain to the board room, and invest in people to drive success.
- Shared Metrics. Metrics are often confined to one group or department. Metrics should be shared across the entire organization, and a good place to start is the ability to collapse time to market. With velocity of data as the new oil, time is our digital currency.