Adopting AI at scale key to supply chain success - Accenture

Accenture report says that adopting AI at scale & making data central to supply chain operations is the route to resilient value chains in time of chaos

A new Accenture report details how companies that can put data at the core of their supply chain and apply AI at scale can create “a connected and truly intelligent supply chain network”.

The report is co-authored by Jaime Lagunas, Supply Chain & Operations Global Lead, and Patricia Riedl, MD Supply Chain & Operations Strategy.

The authors say an intelligent supply chain network can help businesses:

  • Gain visibility to late-breaking supply disruptions or demand blips, providing the information needed to resolve issues in near real time.
  • Deliver unique customer requirements with speed, specificity, and scale.
  • Reduce carbon footprint and overall sustainability risk.

Roadmap key to adopting supply chain AI at scale 

“The success of such efforts hinges on putting data at the core of the supply chain and applying AI to it at scale, to create a connected and truly intelligent supply chain,” says Lagunas. “An AI strategy and roadmap, cloud, and the right talent are keys to overcoming the obstacles to scaling AI so it can deliver genuine business value.”

Riedl added: “Most existing supply chains were built for a different time, when scale was achieved by delivering truckloads of goods en masse to warehouses and then big-box stores. 

“This model relied on a high level of demand predictability, meaning visibility was less important, and it valued efficiency over resiliency. But with supply chain disruption everywhere, this model must change.”

Accenture says data and AI are “uniquely positioned” to provide the insights, agility, and speed companies need to build a completely new supply chain “fit for today, tomorrow, and years to come”.

The co-authors say that, despite recognising the power and value of data and AI, companies are likely to find it difficult to leverage their investments more broadly. According to another Accenture report, 79% of COOs acknowledge they know how to pilot AI but struggle to scale it across the business.

Common roadblocks to AI adoption at scale 

Accenture cites three things that can minimise roadblocks and allow AI to flourish across an enterprise:

Strategy and road map.  “AI can’t be limited to one function, department, or business unit, as this is the antithesis of scaling,” the report says. Cloud.  The more data sources there are, the more computational power and server capacity will be needed. “With the cloud, a company can create a single and trusted source of truth. The cloud also enables organisations to tap into new data sources to extend and enhance visibility and, thus, create greater opportunities for AI to deliver value.”

Talent.  “Many companies find they don’t have the right talent in place to successfully scale the use of AI in supply chain. Thus, upskilling or reskilling people to be proficient in applying AI to specific use cases that generate significant value is absolutely vital to the scaling of AI.”

Accenture also says ecosystem partners such as technology vendors and consulting firms also can be great sources of important skills, supplying talent who can augment a company’s existing employees where needed. 

“Such companies have already gone through the steep learning curve required to scale AI and learned the lessons,” the report points out. “Their insights and guidance can be extremely valuable in helping companies through what’s often a difficult and complex undertaking.”

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