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Intelligent Supply Chain Management: Why You Need It and How to Get There

The digital transformation of retail is impacting nearly every branch of that industry – production, transportation, customer service, even the shopping experience itself has been transformed by digital technologies. There are a multitude of business sectors that can reap the benefits of digital transformation, but let’s focus on one – supply chain management.

Intelligent supply chain management calls for the implementation and leveraging of modern technologies to optimize various facets of the supply chain. With an intelligent supply chain, companies can save on costs, earn more revenue, increase their speed to customer, and get ahead of their competition.

What Does Intelligent Supply Chain Management Look Like?

Intelligent supply chain management is possible when businesses take full advantage of the latest retail digital transformation technologies – artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), predictive analytics, unified commerce, and big data.

Artificial intelligence, which encompasses machine learning and predictive analytics, is helping to power supply chain business intelligence. These solutions utilize big data, customer behavior, and business trends to inform and optimize the entire digital supply chain. While aspects of the supply chain historically were manual and imperfect, intelligent supply chain management is greatly improving accuracy.

So, what does this all mean? Intelligent supply chain management means that the supply chain is no longer an independent entity of retail companies. Today, all areas of operation — your supply chain included — can be integrated and optimized using connected networks and troves of data to vastly improve forecasting, decision making, cost control and overall efficiency.

How to Move to Intelligent Supply Chain Management

  1. Implement IoT-linked systems and devices. IoT-based systems are essential to managing complex, omnichannel supply chains due to the worldwide nature of potential customers and shipments. These devices give AI, machine learning and predictive analytics the data they need to generate actionable insights.

Goods can be equipped with monitoring devices that allow retailers to track the products throughout the supply chain journey. From manufacturing, storage, transportation, and inventory to final sale, the data generated from goods will provide insight into cycles, how frequently retailers should restock, how much they should keep in stock, and how to forecast for the next purchasing cycle.

  1. Use big data and algorithms to identify inefficiencies. With IoT-enabled devices throughout the intelligent supply chain, retailers can now collect thousands of data points that can be utilized to improve each step of the supply chain process. Using AI, data science, and predictive analytics, retailers can quickly make improvements and identify inefficiencies that need to be addressed.

Predictive analytics and big data will empower retailers with insights to reduce downtime, optimize workflows, and keep operations running at their maximum efficiency. This information can also guide new optimization strategies that extend beyond the supply chain onto the store floor, field services, and even to customer service.

  1. Trust machine learning. Machine learning will self-optimize each step of the supply chain using the data and information generated from AI and predictive analytics. In turn, retailers can use this data to help identify new efficiencies, optimizations, and ultimately cut costs and increase revenue generation.
  2. AUTOMATE: Automation across the supply chain and the retail operation itself is a vital component of the intelligent supply chain. Automation first and foremost improves speed, the first and most important step in improving the supply chain. From there, automation can optimize other integral parts of the retail store and supplier workflows.

Retailers should look into automated solutions such as autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), picker robots, cobots, and automated conveyor systems. These autonomous solutions touch various aspects of the supply chain and can help human employees be more efficient and accurate in their tasks. The intelligent supply chain should ultimately strike a balance between intelligent solutions and trained supply chain professionals. Only then can optimal efficiency be reached, and the supply chain can operate at its peak performance.

The foundation of an intelligent supply chain system is a robust digital solution that touches every point of the retail operation. At Hitachi Solutions, we have been building custom solutions for retailers of all types and sizes who are looking transform their operations and maximize efficiencies. To start your digital transformation, contact our team today.

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