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By: RETHINK Retail

Superpowering Your Supply Chains with Modern AI Solutions

The retail industry is turning toward automation and AI technologies to address the demand for rapid digital transformation, but for complex areas like supply chain management, retailers must be especially tactful to meet consumer expectations. 

According to a recent study of North American retail customers, “products not available on the store shelf led consumers to shop elsewhere, producing a sales loss of 71.4 billion U.S. dollars for the retailer.” This significant loss underscores the importance of shelf availability in retaining customers and maintaining sales revenue. Retailers must invest in advanced inventory management and replenishment systems to ensure that popular products are always in stock and visible on shelves, thereby minimizing the risk of customers turning to competitors.

Critical areas of improvement like these are drawing attention to retailers’ desire for supply chains of the future. Retailers need the best tools—and partners—available to them to ensure that what they need is provided for, that their supply relationships are properly navigated, and that they are as prepared as possible for the next potential shock via AI-powered functions such as advanced demand forecasting.

Fundamentally, impactful supply chain management solutions help you as retail managers to ensure you have the products your customers want when they want them so you can avoid the next out-of-stock that could dissuade repeat visits from a consumer-public defined by impatience and less inherent loyalty.

Although numerous external factors may contribute to supply bottlenecks, customers primarily notice when the products they seek are unavailable. It’s crucial for retailers to proactively manage their inventory to ensure they consistently meet consumer demand and maintain a competitive edge.

Advanced Technologies for Complex Problems

Today, AI and automation have a greater role in managing these complex systems than was ever possible before. That’s because these long-developing technologies are “ready for the stage,” both affordable and capable enough to be deployed on a large scale to act as key drivers in the ongoing industry-wide effort to achieve lasting, productive digital transformations.

They are also positioned to help address many of the key problems modern supply chains face: according to a recent IDC report, the IDC 2023 Supply Chain Survey found that poor collaboration with suppliers and/or customers, lack of supply chain visibility (and subsequently poor response times), and poor data analytics and intelligence were leading gaps that CPG professionals found “the most problematic if not addressed” both in the near-and-long-term.

Notes the report, “The role of technology has become inexorably intertwined with supply chain success in the consumer products industry,” arguing that in another study examining the relationship between digital transformation maturity and performance, “companies more advanced in their transformation journey outperformed their less advanced brethren by two times for revenue and three times for profits.”

Continues the report, “For those of us who have worked in and around the industry for many decades, the transition from things that were aspirational for consumer products companies 20 years ago to being practical/attainable today means finally solving persistent challenges and addressing business problems.”

When IDC’s survey asked what benefits CPG professionals have seen in implementing AI into their supply chains, the spread was relatively even, with wide improvements from improved service levels to faster time to market to improved productivity. Yet, two benefits stood out at over 40% of all respondents: reduced costs, and improved business planning.

In other words, the benefits of AI technologies at a time when costs are at all-time highs and business planning is more important than ever for maintaining consistent, competitive services all but speak for themselves.

“There is little doubt that the future of the consumer products supply chain resides in an automated facility that meets future needs for speed, resiliency, and efficiency,” argues the IDC analysis.

Now is the Time to Transform Your Supply Chain

No matter the partners and no matter how you choose to tackle your supply chain challenges, AI and advanced cloud technologies equipped to grapple with, collate, and analyze the vast reams of data produced by modern supply chains are necessary innovations to stay competitive in 2024 and beyond is firmly beyond doubt. 

Blue Yonder and Microsoft are teamed up to help bring together two key components to enable superpowered supply chains —AI and the unified cloud. By combining their experience in supply chain management and fulfillment, Blue Yonder and Microsoft leverage leading supply chain technologies to create those superpowered supply chains offering the intelligence, resilience, and sustainability now demanded not only by competitive businesses but consumers themselves. 
Interested in learning how to supercharge your supply chain? Sign up for Blue Yonder’s 2024 ICON Event from May 13 – 16 in Dallas.