IBM recently released new offerings under its brand moniker Watson for several different sectors, including supply chain. Watson is IBM’s AI (artificial intelligence) platform for business to provide a sense of the evolution of AI’s advancement. According to IBM, it combines AI and sophisticated analytical software for optimal performance as a “question answering” machine. 

Commentary by Jeff Berman, Group News Editor · October 1, 2018

Watson is IBM’s AI (artificial intelligence) platform for business to provide a sense of the evolution of AI’s advancement. According to IBM, it combines AI and sophisticated analytical software for optimal performance as a “question answering” machine.   This new offering, entitled Watson Supply Chain Insights, monitors various aspects of a shipper’s supply chain operations, and IBM said that Watson is able to incorporate weather data, traffic reports, and regulatory reports to offer up a complete outlook for global supply chain issues.

In a blog posting, Jeanette Barlow, IBM Supply Chain Solutions vice president, Strategy and Offering Management, wrote that according to IBM’s Institute of Business Value Global Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) Study, 84% of chief supply chain officers say that the lack of data visibility stands as a top concern.

And this, she wrote, is where Watson comes into play, as it is able to help shippers cut through data overload for increased visibility through the entire supply chain. This is done through Watson Supply Chain Insights’ advanced AI capabilities that are designed to provider greater visibility and insights, with shippers able to “combine and correlate the vast swathes of data they possess with Supply Chain Insights and Watson to better see the impact of external events like weather and traffic.

In an interview, Barlow explained that the three biggest benefits of Watson Supply Chain Insights for shippers are: avoiding costly reactions to disruptions to having the headlights into possible disruptions, and being able to have end-to-end visibility and insights from the right data across many systems and partnerships; the ability to act more quickly to disruptions – whether it’s negative or positive – to deliver optimal customer outcomes and increase brand loyalty; and having an effective supply chain organization overall, which leads to better decision making by using the platform to democratize the tribal knowledge that sits with most experienced practitioners.

When asked how IBM previously provided the types of services Watson Supply Chain Insights offers, she said that as a company that IBM operates a very large and complex supply chain, years ago IBM realized that it needed to not only drive more operational efficiency but also build a smarter supply chain as a competitive differentiation for our business.

“Along our journey, we won awards and received industry recognition, which made other companies eager to understand how they could also use AI to improve their supply chains,” she said. “From our own testing, we saw significant early outcomes, including 90% faster data retrieval time, disruptions management down from 18+ days to just hours, 52% reduction in expedite costs, 18% reduction in inventory levels, and late orders reduced by 75%. Recognizing the interest in the concept, we decided to commercialize it in a secure, SaaS platform that is now Supply Chain Insights.”

Barlow cited a number of competitive advantages Watson Supply Chain Insights provides including:

  • Better decision making and advanced AI capability through Watson. Watson AI can process both structured and unstructured data, and correlate data at incredible scale and speed to provide predictive insights and facilitate decision-making;
  • A solution for end-to-end visibility. Many vendors offer siloed solutions to address parts of the supply chain visibility need. SCI connect various data sources and provide end-to-end visibility into supply chain – from sourcing to customer delivery;
  • The ability to consume knowledge and capability of 3rd party solutions through an open platform for strong ecosystem growth. Through Supply Chain Insights, supply chain will be easy to expand with additional value-added capabilities. SCI is not about being a visibility layer to a single backend.
  • Rapid return for investment. The solution allows for rapid integration of planning, sourcing, production, warehouse, transport and other systems and sources of data. The client can maximize the value of existing systems and achieve rapid ROI by getting started quickly in the cloud; and
  • Fast Start program.  In an agile workshop engagement, IBM experts will use client’s own data to deliver a proof of concept that jump start client’s journey to a transparent, intelligent, and predictive supply chain

When asked to provide an example of how a shipper can use Watson Supply Chain Insights, she noted that it can be used in many industries and processes across supply chain execution functions to provide visibility and optimize decision making.

“As an example, for a manufacturer, lack of visibility into inbound supply deliveries and delays have made it difficult to effectively manage complex outbound orders and meet customer shipping and bundling preferences,” she said. “The supply chain team could use Supply Chain Insights to consolidate visibility on multi-component orders, which would allow external event monitoring to better understand and act on supply changes that may lead to manufacturing delays, the operations room to alert late-delivery for any parts
in a bundled order, and Watson-assisted resolution rooms to quickly assess financial risk and order status to resolve any issues before they impact customer delivery.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics ManagementModern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

Source: Logistics Management