How To Overcome Supply Chain Obstacles With AI

Jul 28, 2021 8:15:00 AM / by ThinkIQ

Humans have been imagining the future in a variety of ways for quite some time now. We’ve dreamed everything up, from flying cars to funky clothes to space travel. Another trope is artificial intelligence (AI). For centuries, we’ve imagined coexisting with independently functional machines, automatons, and robots. Published more than 130 years ago, The Adventures of Pinocchio places sentience and mischief into a wooden marionette boy. Robotic characters have appeared in film and television since their inception. Flash Gordon had its mechanized robot guards. Lost In Space had its Robot. Soon, dreams turned to nightmares as the AI of our imagination became too smart for its own good, from 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL 9000 to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic Terminator. More recently, AI finally caught on with the mainstream in the form of Apple’s disembodied Siri voice assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana. Hollywood quickly dreamed up a new AI-gone-wrong scenario with the Samantha AI from the 2013 film Her.

Fantasy aside, AI today is very much real and far from traveling back in time to terminate Sarah Conner. And rather than taking the form of a robot servant or your spaceship’s sassy computer, Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing AI is pushing supply chain management forward. This is no fluke — the number of AI projects in supply chain processes are expected to double in the next five years, with worldwide revenues for the AI market expected to exceed $500 billion by 2024. But how does AI specifically help companies overcome their supply chain obstacles?

Demand Prediction 

Just a year-and-a-half into the 2020s, you wouldn’t be wrong to label it as the decade of unpredictability. COVID-19 threw the world the ultimate screwball. Aside from the obvious threat to human life, the virus’s spread and subsequent mismanagement changed the way people work, likely decided elections, and threw the supply chain into what may feel like an unpredictable mess. And in a world conditioned by Amazon Prime expectations, there is no room for anything less than full real-time visibility throughout the supply chain.

Demand-forecasting models based off end-to-end transparency help bring order to the chaos. Prediction models illuminate cause and effect. AI-enabled supply chain management improves logistics costs by 15 percent, inventory levels by 35 percent, and service levels by 65 percent.

ThinkIQ’s Digital Manufacturing Transformation SaaS, for example, uses AI to improve product quality and safety, increase yield and profitability, and enhance sustainability. The process begins with data collection across the entire value chain from existing internet of things (IoT) sensors and business systems. We then use AIML to identify material movements, correlations, and root causes. From there, new, trustable fact-based provenance data is produced to deliver actionable insights and decisioning. It would be impossible to manage the immense amount of data being collected throughout the value chain — from farm to fork — without AI.

AI in the form of machine learning (ML) serves to predict supply and demand to make greater workflow automation possible. For an already taxed workforce, AI helps us wrap our arms around mountains of data from a multitude of sources in real time so we are more informed, engaged, and better able to make the best decisions. The rough waters of unpredictability become more navigable with AI in your toolbelt.


Customer support departments utilize AI to help reduce the monumental burden of delivering the excellent service that is vital to a brand’s survival. By filtering initial support queries through a chatbot, far fewer calls end up needing the full attention and TLC a finite amount of human resources can handle. In fact, 80 percent of all customer interactions can be managed by bots. Not too shabby for Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Samantha.

Granular Understanding 

With access to all supply chain data come continuous intelligence. Continuous intelligence leads to smarter purchasing that is mapped to inventory needs. Procurement can see both how its suppliers are performing and its own impact on production.

At the end of the day, smart companies deploy AI to contextualize data from disparate silos into game-changing insights. ThinkIQ’s easily accessible dashboards display material flow analytics — the brains to your supply chain brawn. This unprecedented traceability and end-to-end real-time material movement tracking can you’re your manufacturing flow into a futuristic reality today.

If you’d like to gain maximum value from all the supply chain data at your disposal, contact one of our experts today for a consultation.  We also have a new selection guide eBook to help you better understand the questions you should be asking. Download your copy today.


ThinkIQ Guide to Smart Manufacturing

Tags: Supply Chain Optimization, Industry 4.0, Supply Chain Management


Written by ThinkIQ

Think IQ

The Industry 4.0 Data Revolution

Proven to improve manufacturing yield, safety, quality, and compliance by making sense of your data.

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