How can manufacturers revolutionise supply chain planning?

How can manufacturers revolutionise supply chain planning?

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Blue Yonder’s Puneet Saxena shares how innovations in technology such as artificial intelligence are allowing organisations to better prepare for supply chain disruptions 

Guest contributor |

Global supply chain disruptions and geopolitical developments have prompted manufacturers to re-evaluate their sourcing strategies and enhance resilience. Inflation is driving up the cost of manufacturing and impacting profit margins, the complexity of extended supply chain networks is increasing the need for better visibility and responsiveness, and talent shortages are driving the need for decision automation and autonomous planning solutions.  

The rapid evolution of technology, including the integration of Industry 4.0 concepts such as automation and AI, offer significant opportunities for manufacturers to create more agile and responsive supply chain planning operations. Notably, the increased adoption of automated scenario planning, predictive AI and generative AI has ushered in a new era of precision, adaptability and strategic foresight. 

Automated scenario planning: lasering in on optimised outcomes  

Traditionally, planners navigated uncertainties by relying on historical data and instinct. However, the complexity of today’s global supply chains demands a more sophisticated approach. Automated scenario planning has emerged as a game-changer and enables planners to simulate a myriad of potential futures and assess the impact of each scenario on supply chain dynamics. 

Whether manufacturers are facing a sudden spike in demand, supply chain disruptions or geopolitical shifts, automated scenario planning provides them with a proactive framework for decision-making. This level of preparedness not only minimises the impact of disruptions but also positions manufacturers to capitalise on emerging opportunities. 

Blue Yonder is applying advanced capabilities, like polytope analysis, to supercharge scenario planning. By leveraging the power of Blue Yonder’s Supply Chain Planning microservices, combined with the infinite scaling of Blue Yonder’s Luminate Cognitive Platform which runs on Microsoft Azure, scenario simulation takes minutes, rather than weeks, to perform. 

Shifting from reactive to proactive demand planning 

Predictive AI is a force that has propelled planning into a realm of unparalleled precision. Unlike traditional forecasting, predictive AI leverages advanced algorithms to analyse vast data sets, identify patterns, understand external factors and foresee future demand trends with remarkable accuracy. The algorithms continuously learn and evolve, enhancing their predictive capabilities with each new piece of information. This dynamic approach ensures that planners are equipped with the most up-to-date and accurate forecasts. 

As market dynamics shift, planners can rely on the foresight provided by predictive AI to make agile decisions in different areas including production schedules, resource allocation and distribution channel optimisation. For example, by anticipating demand fluctuations, predictive AI helps organisations to optimise inventory levels, preventing overstock or stockouts. This not only reduces carrying costs but also enhances customer satisfaction by ensuring timely product availability.  

Upleveling performance and unlocking productivity 

While predictive AI anticipates and refines, generative AI takes planning to the next level by actively contributing to the creative process. Generative AI can reveal context-aware, data-driven insights and explore innovative solutions to even the most complex challenges. By analysing vast data sets, interpreting connections and understanding the intricacies of the manufacturing landscape, generative AI doesn’t just provide answers, it asks questions and guides next steps. This innovation in productivity means tasks that used to take hours or days now only take minutes. 

The converging advancements in data availability, computational power and algorithmic innovation present an optimal stage for businesses to adopt AI today. Supply chains are, to a certain extent, well suited for generative AI, with a growing number of use cases being discovered, such as assisted decision-making and automating repetitive workflows.  

Blue Yonder’s latest AI-powered solution, Blue Yonder Orchestrator, combines the power of generative AI and large language models to provide dynamic decision-making at the user’s fingertips. The solution is integrated within the Luminate Cognitive Platform and allows users to query in everyday language, then pulls data from all relevant sources and serves up data-driven insights along with guided recommendations. Blue Yonder Orchestrator can then execute decisions across the breadth of Blue Yonder’s suite of solutions, meaning that team capacity is better utilised and more can be achieved.    

The synergy of technologies and the future of planning 

If demand and supply planning can become a dynamic and forward-looking process, this will lay the foundation for a resilient and innovative supply chain that is able to efficiently and successfully navigate the complexities of the modern industrial landscape.  

These emerging technologies position manufacturers to thrive in an era that has been defined by perpetual disruption. The integration of automated scenario planning, predictive AI and generative AI shifts the day-to-day lives of planners from a series of reactive responses into an orchestrated performance of proactive decision-making and continuous innovation.  

Puneet Saxena is corporate vice president of industry strategies for manufacturing at Blue Yonder 

This article was originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription. 

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